How to Become a French Teacher
If you have a love of the French language and would like to teach it to others, you may be considering becoming a French Teacher. If you need help figuring out what it is that a French Teacher really does, what requirements there are to securing this position and how much these professionals may earn, read this article.
What Does a French Teacher Do?
A French Teacher teaches the French language to students, both young and old. The main responsibilities of this educator are to teach others how to speak, read, write and comprehend this foreign language. French Teachers often work in public and private schools, colleges and universities, foreign language and online language schools.
French Teachers must be competent in the following areas to succeed in this role:
- Being fluent in French
- Applying teaching techniques to individual needs
- Designing lesson plans
- Motivating students to persist in their learning efforts
French Teacher Skills
To become a French Teacher, being fluent in French is not enough, as the individual must be able to teach this language to others. This requires teaching in individual and group settings, having leadership qualities and excellent communication skills. French Teachers must be patient, understanding, empathetic, yet motivating, strict and often tough.
Other key French Teacher skills include:
- Organization skills to develop lesson plans
- Leadership skills to lead classes and foreign language clubs
- Communication skills to interact with various types of people
- Disciplining skills to hold students accountable for their behavior
- Technical skills to use the Internet and other software
How Do You Become a French Teacher
Education and Training
In a review of French Teacher job openings across the United States, we have found that the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, a foreign language or a related field. In some cases, native fluency was accepted in lieu for this requirement; however, most employers sought applicants with a professional degree.
All public schools and some private K-12 schools required French Teachers to hold a teacher’s certification and licensure. Two-year colleges require these professionals to hold a master’s degree, while four-year colleges and universities sought candidates with doctorate degrees.
Individuals pursuing bachelor’s degrees to become French Teachers are often required by their college or university to live in France for at least one semester and pass an oral French proficiency test.
Finding a job
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 11 percent rise in demand for Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary, with 1,070 new job openings in the next eight years in the U.S. This growth is fueled by higher enrollment rates at schools and colleges and larger classrooms.
A professional French Teacher resume should highlight fluency in the foreign language as well as educational experience. In addition to a resume, a thought-out cover letter should express your interest in the position and state your skills and experience in the field.
Search for French Teacher job openings on JobHero, while also contacting members in your professional network and utilizing the help of groups on platforms such as LinkedIn with help in finding employment.
Insights from a French Teacher
To provide real world feedback on what it takes to become a French teacher, below is an interview with John Lader from City Speakeasy, an “Immersion-Based” Foreign Language School in NYC.
What is the common career path for French Teacher?
The most common career path is to major in French at the undergraduate level, followed by a Master’s program in education. The school that I went to actually allowed me to do both at the undergraduate level, though I didn’t actually receive a degree in education. My degree was in Romance Languages, with a concentration in secondary education. In my last year of college, I did one semester of observation at the high school level, and one semester of full-time student teaching at the middle school level. Before finding a full-time position, you might try tutoring, giving private lessons, or even teaching English in France (there is a French government sponsored program for recent American graduates).
What should someone consider before becoming a French Teacher?
The key to being successful as a teacher is to love what you’re doing, and to really care about making a difference in your students’ lives. If you ever have to show up to teach a class feeling like it’s “work,” then you’re probably not in the right field. Teacher’s salaries across the country range from below average to slightly above average, depending on the state that you live in, so your motivation for being a teacher shouldn’t be the salary. The job market for French teachers isn’t exactly booming, so I stress that you must really love what you’re doing.
What type of person excels in this job?
The greatest French teachers that I’ve had the pleasure to take courses with or to work alongside as colleagues were all a bit quirky, but in a good way. I think that you have to be a total Francophile to teach the language, that is someone who is a fanatic of all things France and French. You obviously have to be comfortable standing and speaking in front of a room full of people, but you also have to be adept at getting your students to start speaking. Regardless of motivation, most students of a second language are hesitant to try conversing in that language. It takes a real teacher to get past that natural hesitation. A French teacher is essentially an actor, a performer, a poet and sometimes even a signer or dancer.
What are some of the most important skills for a French Teacher to have?
You really have to be a people person. You have to know how to connect with people. Just speaking the language is only a small fraction of what is needed to be successful. You also need to be able to read your student’s receptiveness to what you’re teaching, constantly gauge their understanding and find ways to challenge them each and every day. If you’re teaching children, it helps to have an extra couple of sets of eyes. You also need to be quick on your feet. Lessons rarely go exactly as planned. It’s up to you to be able to adapt quickly so that your students can continue learning. It’s hard to learn these skills as a student. You learn them when you start teaching, and you enhance them with each new day.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a French Teacher?
I currently teach at City Speakeasy, a language center for adult learners in New York City. The classes are intense, 10 weeks of two-hour sessions. Everyone coming into the program has a specific reason for learning French, such as an upcoming wedding to someone French, a promotion that would require French fluency or even just an upcoming trip to a French speaking country. I like to take the time to learn these motivating factors, because at the end of the semester it feels so great to know that the student is ready to impress their new in-laws with their French, that they will do just fine working every day in the language, or that they are going to have no problem ordering a pain chocolat and a coffee in a Parisian café on their trip.
How Much Do French Teachers Get Paid?
Foreign Language and Literature Teachers make an median annual salary of $61,400. The lowest paid earn $34,000 while the highest paid make $118,500.
Top 10 States for a French Teacher’s Salary
Foreign Language and Literature Teachers in the following states make the highest median salary in the US.
- California – $76,500
- Maine – $76,300
- Utah – $75,600
- Florida – $75,000
- New Jersey – $70,700
- Massachusetts – $70,600
- New Mexico – $69,600
- Rhode Island – $69,100
- Vermont – $68,200
- Connecticut- $67,900
French Teacher Resources
For more information about becoming a French Teacher, check out these additional sources.
On the Web
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) – Offers professional services to help you build and manage your career for maximum potential for success.
Department of French and Italian at the University of Texas at Austin – Helpful advice on language instruction.
French Today – Help with mastering French.
The French Corner – A blog by a middle school French Teacher.
Le Français Langue Seconde: comment apprendre le français aux élèves nouvellement arrivés – Methods of teaching French as a foreign language to students at every level.
The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.