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Whether it is the truly great centre of culture and fashion to be found in Paris, or the verdant countryside in the Dordogne, France is a huge draw for tourists, people spending a year or two abroad, and expatriates who have decided to make France their home. As well as the world-renowned food and wine, it is good to remember that France is a country of seasons. Paris is particularly pleasant in the springtime, but in the hot summer Parisians make for the south or the Côte d'Azur, looking for a good tan and a little of the beach lifestyle. In the winter, skiing in the Pyrenees or the French Alps is very popular. Timing is also important since the large cities tend to empty a little between mid July and the end of August, when many take their annual five-week vacation. Not precisely the best time to arrive looking for a job!
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private school must expect to have a degree, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and a TESOL qualification. Two-years’ language teaching experience is usually a requisite for these sort of posts.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching business people, with one being regarded as a ‘trainer’ rather than a teacher. Enthusiasm for English is somewhat higher than it has been historically, though not as high, for example, as it is in Germany or Holland, meaning both the market is not as broad, and the motivation of those being taught is not quite as great.
Most English tuition in high schools is performed by French people, and increasingly institutes are calling for relevant qualifications, such as B.Ed, PGCE, CELTA, TESOL or DELTA. But anybody with an undergraduate degree, who looks at home in a business environment may well find work. It should also be noted that it is fashionable in certain circles to learn American English, so some unusual openings are here for those from the US of A.
In the main you will find yourself teaching students who have many years experience of English. Hence, expect intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students. Whilst it is exhilarating and rewarding to teach such students, it is important to prepare your classes well and make sure you are clear about the areas you are teaching - particularly with grammar. You don’t want to find yourself being corrected about tenses by your students!
Most state schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zeeland. Non-EU citizens should check with the Belgian consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange programme.
One of the complications is the reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU. High schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions, they are generally not willing to take on anybody who is ineligible.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’. Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organise a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.
Almost as legendary as French wine, is French bureaucracy and the prospective traveller must remember to pack not only their passport, but also an original copy of their birth certificate, a French translation, and original copies certificates and qualifications.
On arrival in France, it is necessary to register as an alien resident within three months of arrival, or as soon as you get a job. This application needs to be made at the local police station where you live. A social security number will be issued to you so that your employer can start making contributions on your behalf.
For non-EU nationals it is extremely difficult to get a work permit, and in no way follows automatically on getting a job offer. But this is not the final word. Many Americans, for example, do indeed teach in France. Often they are part of an exchange program, or they have student status. Some choose to teach ‘under the table’. These are angles to think about.
Paris is obviously a big draw, but comes with a great big price tag for accommodation. In the provinces it is hard not to simply stick a pin in a map and end up somewhere nice. It is important to remember that once outside of Paris and its metro, France is rather big, spread-out country. Hence, if you find yourself teaching freelance in the Dordogne you will most certainly need some form of transportation. But there’s plenty on offer in terms of countryside, seaside, big cities and big landscapes. Think carefully about what you like most, and you’re sure to find it on offer somewhere.
When trying to get work in advance it is useful to contact the British Council in Paris. They keep a list of language schools, both private and state. In addition to that the on-line Yellow Pages is a useful resource. The Dicoguide de la Formation, published by, Generation Formation (27 rue du Chemin Vert, 75011 Paris) is a directory of training organisations in France; however, it retails at E381, and is obviously best consulted in a library. The Franco-British Chamber of Commerce supports an association of TESOL teachers called the Language Network, (22 av. Pascal, 93330 Neuilly sur-Marne (1044648 223)). The Centre International d’Etudes Pedagogiques (1045 07 60 98) offers about 1500 assitantships a year. Undergraduates and graduates under the age of 30 can spend an academic year working as an assistant, which pays around E900 a month.
On the spot things become a little more tricky. In Paris there is a host of language schools around Gare St. Lazare, in addition to which there are a great number of expatriate grapevines in and around Paris. On the metro in Paris there are often language schools advertised, and at the British Institute there is a notice board that has the occasional ad for a teacher.
Further to this there is a network of contacts to be made centred around church communities, and this may be useful for some. Leafleting and carding institutes is always a good standby, and a professional CV and a covering letter in impeccable French may well bring its own reward.
It is common to find people swapping room and board for English tuition, so that is something to keep an eye out for.
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