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Becoming a foreign language assistant in France
Imagine yourself in a classroom, surrounded by a group of French-speaking teenagers. Imagine listening to 12 year-old Céline mispronouncing a word in your native tongue for the seventh time in an hour… This just doesn’t seem to give you the chills? Why don’t you gain worthwhile international work experience by becoming a foreign language assistant in France? The CIEP (Centre International d’Études Pédagogiques) administrates the language assistant programme which allows students from 51 countries to teach their native language in French schools. Are you between 20 and 35 years old and seeking a rewarding student job abroad ? Set off as a language assistant!
Spotlight on the language assistant position
Being a foreign language assistant in France means sharing your culture and language while improving your French.
Your tasks: more than just an assistant
You aren’t the same teacher the kids see every single day, you are young and from someplace else: for the pupils, you’re a new face! Your “outsider” position will probably facilitate bonding with the students. A language assistant is expected to get the conversation going and encourage pupils to practice speaking in the language they are learning. No need to perfectly master traditional teaching methods: language assistants are welcome to get off the beaten track. For instance, you might be asked to lead a language club, participate in various educational activities or be left completely free to suggest new projects and get them under way. Your energy and creativity are the keys to success.
Your working conditions
Whether you are teaching English, Spanish, German or any other language, working conditions are basically the same for all foreign language assistants in France. Your pupils’ age is really what can make one work experience so different from another. You may be assigned to either secondary or primary schools: you obviously won’t interest an 8-year-old using an approach geared to a 17-year-old. An assistant’s stay in France lasts 7 months, from October first until April 30th (assistants who teach German can also be offered a 6-month assignment). All assistants work 12 hours per week and get about two weeks off every two months or so. The monthly salary reaches approximately €794 after deductions.
Don’t expect to get a student job abroad without having a bit of money set aside in the first place. The language assistant will have to cope with travel and accommodation expenses on his own. Registration to the French Social Security scheme, which will cover part of your healthcare costs, is compulsory for language assistants. Do think to include the costs of an international student insurance in your budget: in this way, you will have access to full medical cover as well as repatriation and personal liability cover.
Who can apply to be a language assistant?
Countries involved in the programme
Even though dominant languages like English and Spanish are more prevalent, many different languages may be taught in French schools. Students from 51 countries may apply for a foreign language assistant position in France. Do be aware that the number of available positions per country varies every year and can be very different from one country to another.
- Is English your mother tongue? Students from South Africa, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, United States of America, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago can work in France as language assistants.
- Would you like to teach German? France welcomes assistants from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
- Eager to help children learn Spanish? If you’re from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay or Venezuela, you may become a language assistant in France.
- Do you speak Arabic, Portuguese or another language? The programme also is open to students from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Palestinian Autonomous Areas & East Jerusalem, Brazil, Portugal, China, Israel, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia, Taiwan and Turkey.
Requirements you must meet
Are you a citizen of one of the listed countries? Make sure you also meet the eligibility criteria. You can become a foreign language assistant in France if:
- you are aged between 20 and 35 years old (30 for some countries);
- you are enrolled in a university in your country at the time of application (UK students must be registered in a French university in order to apply to the CIEP);
- you have successfully completed studies equivalent to the second year of the French Licence;
- you already have a good knowledge of French (B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
Bear in mind some countries might also have some additional specific rules.
Steps to getting the job
Real work experience you’ll be proud to display on your resume, plenty of free time to make the most of your visit to France: language assistant just seems to be the perfect student job abroad. So how do you land the job?
Application process and deadlines can be slightly different from one country to another. How should you go about it?
- Complete the foreign language assistant in France application form (please note some countries have online application systems).
- Gather all the requested documents: a copy of your last grade sheet and its French translation, a medical report, two teacher appraisals, a copy of the identification pages of your passport, a copy of your birth certificate.
- Send in two copies of your application to the local education authority in your country.
- Your application will be forwarded to the CIEP.
- If your application has been accepted, you will receive a notice of appointment specifying where you have been appointed.
- If you are from a country outside the Schengen area, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa.
Becoming a foreign language assistant in France might take a while but you’ll forget all about the paperwork once you head back home fluent in French!
To find out more about this student job abroad:
Do you have the required competence in French? Take a look at the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) self assessment grid on Europass website.