French Teaching: The How, What, and Why

french teaching Teaching French can give you a really rewarding career, tons of travel opportunities, and the rewards of expanding your student’s experiences of French culture though language. It’s actually not that difficult to teach, especially for native English speakers. Because at its core, the English language is heavily influenced by German and French.

Also, courtesy of modern media, most native English speakers already have exposure to the French language, from Moulin Rouge to Pepé Le Pew’s funny accent on Saturday morning cartoons.

One of the major dialects of the world and one of the five romance languages with an estimated 75 million native speakers, the “language of love” is also beautifully melodic. If you’re aspiring for a career teaching French, you’ll definitely find beautiful old world or exotic locations where your skills will be in demand!

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The Traditional Way

While there are many ways to become certified to teach French, all of them involve demonstrating both proficiency in the French language and teaching. It’s actually best and easiest if you’re a native speaker, but if not, you’ve got to obtain both accredited certification and experience.

The traditional way is to get a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree in French and Education, or even Linguistics. Then you’ve got to pass the necessary certification exams for French proficiency in the region you want to teach in, at the same time immersing yourself in French culture by spending time abroad in a French speaking country. The latter is usually a mandatory requirement of any French degree.

Prepare for your time abroad with this blog posts on interesting facts about France.

The Non-traditional Way

If you’re an aspiring French teacher without the 4 year degree for whatever reason, there are many non-traditional ways for you to get certified. If you’ve already got the French cultural background, or you live in a majority French speaking area, that’ll help you along with your certification quite a bit.

There are two general areas for certification, teaching French as a language and teaching English to French speakers. Both certifications go through a test of the four foundational aspects of language — reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Generally, you’ll have to pass intensive French proficiency tests, both oral and written, teacher’s exams to cover the basic subjects, and maybe spend a semester abroad in a majority French speaking region. These requirements vary depending on where you are or where you’d like to teach, so make sure you look into your regional certification requirements first.

Alliance Française and the Centre National D’enseignement à Distance are highly recognized institutions that help educate, prepare, and certify you when it comes to languages. The former is one of the premier schools for preparing you to get certified, and offers comprehensive preparatory courses. The latter offers correspondence courses as well, and both offer the exams. If you have a learning center near you, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Certification For Teaching French

Teaching French for those in the EU region can be obtained through the CIEP, which stands for Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques. This certification is recognized internationally and more specifically supported throughout the EU region.

They administer the DILF (Diplôme initial de langue française), the DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française), and the DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française), which let you bypass any language exam in entrance tests to French universities. Either exam you take will still intensively test your proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking French.

These proficiency tests are the counterpart of the English TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), but instead of taking a 4 hour test and getting a score, the French proficiency tests require you to go through multiple levels. You work towards acquiring one of 7 diplômes from the Ministère de l’Éducation nationale, de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche, the highest of which is the DALF C2, and the lowest of which is the DILF A1. We will discuss more on the certification rankings through the CEFR later on in the article.

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Certification for Teaching English to French Speakers

Teaching English to French speakers requires a high level of French proficiency too. You need the necessary certifications in CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages). You’ve got quite a number of options if you seek to teach English to French speakers. There are several institutions that provide programs to certify as well as to educate you in teaching French or English to French speakers.
You could go through a packaged program like the kind offered in ILSC, one of the more recognized certification programs specific to the French language. They provide TESOL/CELTA certification alongside some review or educational packages.

The CEFR

Regardless of your formal certification for teaching French, your proficiency in the language is usually ranked using the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) ranking. The CEFR is a an international standard that institutions use to rank people learning foreign languages.

We talked about the DILF/DELF/DALF offered by the CIEN earlier. Those groups of proficiency exams are one of the foremost basis of certification for CEFR ranks. The lowest rank is DILF A1, which is a beginner’s standing. You go through DELF A2, DELF B1, DELF B2, DALF C1, and finally, the highest rank that French teachers require is the DALF C2 level, or Master/Proficient level.

Once you have the necessary proficiency certifications, continually learning and honing your skills through more formal education or alternative programs is always a good idea to enhance your teaching skill. When looking into a program, it is best to, at a minimum, apply for a program which has experience abroad as part of the curriculum.

Where to teach?

If you’ve never stopped to think how far French’s reach actually is, you may be surprised. This language has got one of the largest non-native speaking populations and has widespread use all over the world. It’s an official language in 29 countries, ranging from European French speaking countries to almost half of Africa and areas of Central America.

In Europe, French is still the main second language taught in schools. For aspiring teachers who’ve already got their certifications down pat, areas like Canada, which is a French-English speaking country, have high demand for foreign language teachers, especially in their public high schools. The notable Universite Laval in Quebec, Universite Montreal in Montreal, and University of Ottawa in Ottawa are top picks for aspiring teachers or those looking to gain more experience in French background.

From a more traditional standpoint, aspiring French teachers may look for opportunities in Universities in Europe like the Sorbonne or Universite Jean Moulin in France, Universite de Lausanne in Switzerland, or the Universite Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

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Final Words

Regardless of your choice of location, teaching French is a long term commitment that requires passion and a strong dedication to the language, culture, and students that you teach. This course will give you even more info on teaching to anyone.

Keep in mind, most of your students will be from different backgrounds and cultures and may not necessarily have the same perspective. You’ll be one of the first and most critical experiences they will have with the language, so you’re responsible for providing them with good communication tools and a cognitive framework to understand French culture.

It might sound daunting, but the uniqueness of the language, the culture, and the opportunities it brings you make it a wonderful love affair. If you enjoy sharing your passion for French with others, traveling, and immersing yourself in French culture, then teaching French a great potential career move.