Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.
— Rita Mae Brown
In 2020, Statista Research Department estimated there were nearly 2 million French expatriates living abroad. Of these, over 40,000 have made Australia their home — with a large number of people engaged in teaching French as a foreign language at some point.
For expats who are teaching French in Australia, they may find a job teaching French culture and language in a primary school, secondary school, college or university, or they may teach French classes in a private or community setting for immigrants, children or adults.
If this sounds interesting, you may still be wondering what the roles and responsibilities of a French teacher are.
Continue reading to find out what teaching French in Australia looks like — what teachers need to do, the skills and qualifications required for teaching, where you might find yourself teaching French classes and what the students will be like.
What Does 'Teaching French as a Foreign Language' Mean?
Essentially, the majority of French teachers work with students whose first language is not French. In Australia, unless you teach in a bilingual school, or teach students beyond an intermediate level, most of your instruction will be in English.
There is a considerable difference between teaching French as a foreign language, and teaching French lessons to native speakers. It's the same difference between learning English at school as a native speaker and learning English as an additional language.
The biggest difference is that first language learning starts from birth, whereas second, or foreign, language learning starts after the first language is acquired.
Remember back to your school days when you were learning other languages — maybe Indonesian, German or even Latin. Your language course would have included activities in the four communication skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening — and would probably have involved vocabulary lists, grammar worksheets and culture activities. It's much the same today, although the curriculum is based more around the acquisition of realistic communication skills and less about rote learning vocabulary lists.
If you are a native French speaker yourself, teaching your own language requires adaptation of your teaching strategies because you can't teach foreign language students using the same methodology you'd use for native speaking students.
In addition, French teachers will often need to adapt lessons to suit the needs of their students who may be in the same class but not all at the same level. In primary school, in particular, you may even discover you have native French speaking students in your class of foreign language learners.
Lessons in French Culture and French Language
You may have worked hard at university to get your French degree, and you may have lived in France and have a great understanding of French culture but if you don't have teaching qualifications, you won't be able to get a job teaching French in Australia in the formal education sector.
However, there is nothing to stop you from applying for a job as a French teacher overseas in the private sector where a Bachelor of Education is not necessarily required.
If you don't have an education degree and getting a job overseas is not an option, don't worry. You can still teach and share your knowledge about France and its language and culture through private lessons, a community college course, online as a tutor or at a languages institute.
The French Teacher's Role
Regardless of where you teach, as a French teacher, there are a few common jobs required of you.
- Write the course.
- Construct the lessons.
- Design activities to meet course objectives.
- Differentiate activities to cater for students at each level.
- Reinforce and practise grammar rules.
- Share culture knowledge.
- Encourage speaking and natural communication.
What Attributes are Needed by French Language Teachers?
The two P's of successful foreign language teaching are pedagogy and passion.
Pedagogy refers to the knowledge of practical teaching strategies to help students learn and attain objectives.
Listening and understanding are two skills required of every teacher — listening to what students are not understanding; and making an effort towards understanding the difficulties students are having.
Don't be hard on yourself as a teacher. Yes — you need to have a good level of proficiency in languages to teach them, but you don't need to know everything; nor are you required to. Part of good pedagogy is understanding you will not have all the answers, but ensuring you adopt a lifelong learning philosophy so you can work with students to discover new knowledge.
Passion can speak for itself. Essentially, as a teacher you need passion for two things:
- the culture and language of France
- teaching and helping students learn.
What are the Necessary Qualifications for Teaching French?
The first qualification required is obvious — to teach French it's essential to study it long term; preferably through secondary school and at university. In-country experience is not essential but certainly beneficial.
At university, you may study French on its own, as part of a modern languages degree or as your major in another discipline, such as arts or business. Later, if you decide you want to pursue teaching, you can always enrol in a postgraduate teaching course. This can be done through face-to-face classes, fully online or in a hybrid course format.
We recommend that you undertake a couple of units or classes in foreign languages teaching methodology and, when you do your practical placements, arrange to be placed with a French teacher at the school level of your choice.
If you are a French national, and you have the required educational qualifications, the Alliance Francaise, which has branches in all states of Australia and worldwide, may be hiring teachers.
To improve your conversation skills, or get some grammar or vocabulary revision, look for a French tutor through Superprof.
Where Can You Teach French?
Not all French teachers are based in primary or secondary school settings. When it comes to teaching French in Australia, there is a range of options open to teachers with the required qualifications. These include:
- helping students in younger years with their French, at university or senior secondary school
- teaching people who might be moving to a French-speaking country
- offering lessons to private companies or community groups
- working in language centres or cultural institutions.
All of these opportunities are also available overseas. And you could also work as a language assistant or co-teacher in a primary school or secondary school.
If your budget is an issue, you will want to have a clear understanding of pay rates in different countries, as well as contract conditions. Always check the paperwork before you commit.
What Sort of Students Do You Find in French Classes?
The answer to this question is dependent on the country you are in and the level of education you are dealing with. If, for example, you secure work overseas in a language school, your students may range from children as young as two, to 99-year-old people.
If you get a job in a secondary school, you may encounter students who are only in class because the study of languages is mandatory for students up to Year 8. This can be tough to deal with. On the other hand, community classes and evening courses tend to only attract people who are eager to learn.
On the whole, however, it's a personal choice. You may love working with teenagers, or you may not. Little kids might scare you. Adults might not be outgoing enough for your teaching activities.
Find your niche and hone your skills there.
What if you need more help to boost your speaking or reading skills before you can teach?
There's nothing shameful about admitting you need revision work — and Superprof is the place to go with experienced and understanding tutors who are ready to help you wherever needed.
There are three types of tutorials:
- private in-person tutorials
- group tutoring.
Whichever you choose, take the time to discuss with your tutor what your goals are and what is required from the lessons.
In-person tutorials and online sessions are both tailored perfectly to the needs of the student. Online tutorials are cheaper because there is no travel time or costs to factor in, but both in-person and online are best value because, although they are less expensive than a group lesson where the cost is shared between everyone, you don't have to share your tuition time with other students.
With Superprof, you also have that peace of mind because the first session of tutoring is generally free, allowing you to ascertain whether you and your tutor will be able to work together effectively.
Here's a thought ... you could even later apply to become a private French tutor!
The platform that connects tutors and students