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French is a Romance language, sharing many similarities with Latin, from which it derives, as well as with Spanish and Italian. With around 175 million people worldwide speaking French as their native language in countries as diverse as France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Haiti, Niger, Québec, Switzerland, and elsewhere, and the importance of French in diplomacy, it is not surprising that French is the second most sought-after language — after English — for instruction. With this kind of demand, it is important that those who wish to do so can understand how to become a French teacher.
Of course, a crucial element in teaching French is expert knowledge of and fluency in the language, but besides that shared criterion, the plan to become a French teacher can be carried out in a number of different ways, depending on whether one wishes to instruct native or non-native speakers and what age student one is looking for. For example, because French is used by international organizations, one could tutor people specifically in French for business or diplomacy, to enable them to do business with or work at an organization such as the World Trade Organization, Interpol, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Court of Justice, the International Secretariat for Water, etc.
If you wished to instruct native speaking students in their own country, requirements would be somewhat different, possibly requiring expert knowledge of dialect, and a focus on grammar, mechanics, syntax, and literature. To instruct non-native speakers, you would need to be bilingual, expert not only in French, but also in the native language of the students you planned to instruct. Teaching French as a foreign language is somewhat different from teaching French to native speakers, because in the first case, the students’ native language may often serve as a point of comparison or contrast.
The age of the non-native students you hope to teach will make a difference in the credentials required to become a French teacher. To teach at a college or university, for example, an advanced degree, such as a PhD may be required, and it may be desirable that it be from a French institution or one at which French is the first language. French instruction at this level is often offered from a Romance Languages Department, so fluency in one or more other romance languages may be helpful in securing a job as a French professor.
Public and private schools for students in kindergarten through high school or the equivalent may have both subject area criteria for French knowledge — generally demonstrated by at least a bachelor’s degree — as well as expectations for specific teacher education, and perhaps a degree. In the United States, the Department of Education in each state sets criteria for the public schools, while private or independent schools set their own standards. France and Australia have an exchange program whereby native French speakers studying English at a French university can spend a year assisting Australian teachers of French in one or more schools. In this situation, the schools benefit from the expertise of the native French speakers, who have many opportunities to develop their fluency in English.
Anyone who wishes to become a French teacher who tutors privately has more leeway when it comes to credentials and more freedom to organize one’s time and teach in ways that are experiential and develop approaches that suit your student, whether or not they would work with a whole class. Tutoring can also be done part-time, and undertaken anywhere in the world. In contrast, set programs like the College Board’s Advanced Placement French program have very specific approaches to language instruction, which one needs to be trained in in order to participate.
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