How did you first get into English Language Teaching?
I have always loved exploring languages, first as a learner (having gone to France in high school) and then after college as a teacher. While I was working full-time as a cook in a classy French Restaurant, I would teach private one-on-one English and French lessons in the mornings. It was fun for the year I did it, but by the end I wanted to teach larger groups. Soon afterwards I took a job teaching groups of 6-12 international students in Los Angeles (all the while cooking full-time in a cool Organic Vegan restaurant). After a few months of that, I decided to leave the hot kitchen behind (though I loved it), and look for a full-time teaching position.
At that point, I applied for jobs abroad and found a great job in Jinan, China. For 3 years I taught Masters and Doctoral engineering students all the while learning Chinese on the side. It was heaven! Since then, I’ve moved back to France with my wife and I’ve been teaching at the university here as well. Wild to think how fast a decade can fly by teaching and learning languages!
In which countries have you taught English?
The US, China, France and a bit in Mexico as well.
Did your experience of teaching English vary to any great extent between those countries?
Absolutely. We say “teach” but really it’s such a dialogue and the way different cultures interact in a learning situation can vary extensively. I think China and France might be the most distinct classroom dialogues I’ve had. These are of course stereotypes, but they help to relate my overall experiences: I found the Chinese students very respectful and at times a bit shy, or less open to speak in a larger group. In contrast, the French students I’ve had can be much more independent in class, even to the extent of not participating (that’s been my biggest challenge yet)! Through such challenges, you learn quickly what engages certain students, and I’ve been impressed with how at times my French students are willing to “stick their head out” and express an opinion or make a mistake in a way that my former Chinese students might not have.
In both situations there were days when I’d love it, and then other days when I just wished that one culture might have a bit more of the other’s, or vice-versa… ah… the class is always greener, right? 🙂 (GRASS!)
How long have you been living in France?
Almost 4 years
Do you still teach English now?
Yes, though only a few classes a semester, and this semester I’ve had to take off as I had a 3-week consulting trip in China that kept me from signing on for the whole semester. BUMMER!
How did you land the job at Edulang?
Actually it was through my professional network. The job wasn’t advertised at all and at first the Edulang team and I had to see if I could fill the shoes of a “social media manager”. Whereas I knew quite a bit about teaching English, I had little knowledge of publishing and even less so of online ELT resource publishing. Beyond that, I had never “tweeted” before and thought social media was just for sharing pictures… oh lordy have I learned a lot since then. 😉
What do you do at Edulang?
I blog about ELT, language, Edulang‘s apps and much more.
I interact with the global ELT community via blogs (check out my blogroll!), Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and a few other sites.
I’m the bridge between the learners and teachers that are using Edulang‘s apps as well and actively collect feedback and see how we can improve and extend our learning materials.
Lastly, I translate all of the communications on our website into English as well as help with the translations in Chinese, and coordinate for those in Japanese.
Do many foreigners teach English in France? If so, are they mainly in the public or private sector?
There are a fair amount of foreign teachers in the public sector, but only at the collegiate level as primary and high school positions are reserved almost entirely for French citizens.
What qualifications and experience are required to teach English in France?
Really depends— for many positions, though, experience outweighs qualifications (where the latter might not even be required).
How did you get your work visa?
Obtaining a work visa in France and the EU in general can be a difficult process. Either you need to be sponsored by a company that then needs to prove how your qualifications/experience are superior (or not present at all) to anyone in France, or there is a “Skills and Talent” visa that you can apply for individually. Lastly, you can of course come in if you’re married to a European citizen or have some other family link. I was sponsored by a company unrelated to the teaching industry but related to my language skills.
Is it possible to arrive without a work visa and find work?
No. Not legally.
What is France like?
Wonderful. Delicious food. Interesting people. History, history, history. Love the language. France is also more relaxed than the US or China for me. 5 weeks of paid vacation. Social Security. All in all, it gets a major “thumbs up!”
What is your cost of living?
I live in Paris and it’s more expensive than elsewhere in France. Count on a rent around 600-1000 euros and you’ll be able to find the same type of a living space for half of that outside of the capital. Eating out is comparable to other European countries, though I’d say that travel is a bit more expensive— trains aren’t cheap unless you book well ahead.
Is it possible to save much money teaching English in France?
It really depends on what kind of position you can secure. There are good paying jobs, but they are not easy to get right when you arrive. It takes a bit of time and developing a network. Otherwise, I think that there are other countries where an English teacher can save more, and immediately, but they might not have all the perks that France has!
Are there opportunities to earn additional income?
Absolutely. You have to be entrepreneurial, but there are plenty of opportunities.
Do you recommend France as a place for English teachers?
I would recommend English teachers who are interested in France or French to consider it, and maybe take a trip here first. I love it and there’s lots to enjoy, but the barrier to entry is a bit higher than elsewhere so you really have to want to come and teach here. But France is wonderful 😉
Would you recommend a particular city to teach in?
Depends on what you’re looking for, but I love rural and non-capital cities in France. Paris is great but it’s expensive. So much out there and lots worth exploring. Maybe try Rennes, Aix-en-Provence or somewhere in the Alps if you weren’t interested in Paris.
What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English in France?
Come visit. Contact me. See what’s going on at Tesol-france.org. Join the discussion online and see what opportunities there are.
Can you please provide some links to online sites geared towards foreigners in France?
Developing a personal network is important and Tesol France is a great place to start. The also have almost daily job postings here and I’ve had a nice experience of finding jobs that way:
Edulang on Twittter
Edulang on Facebook