For most French teachers, the road to earning your certification to teach French starts with a four year degree in Education and French. There are also alternatives to becoming certified to teach French if you have a French background.
The Traditional Road to Earning Your Certification to Teach French
Most French teachers have earned their credentials traditionally. This means that they have a Bachelor's degree in French as well as education. (Note: Requirements do vary from state to state.) In general, if you want to teach French you'll be looking at doing the following:
- Passing teacher's exams in both the basics like reading, writing and math plus a proficiency test in French.
- Doing at least one semester abroad.
- Passing an oral proficiency test (for your French degree.)
For most perspective teachers, a course load will include some French pedagogy as well as courses in French culture, French literature, and conversational French. In addition, a teacher will generally need to do some sort of continuing education be it earning their Master's degree, or doing some study abroad to hone their skills.
The Non-Traditional Route
Again, specific requirements vary by state. However, if you discover that you have a passion for teaching and happen to be proficient in French, you can still become certified to teach French even if your Bachelor's degree is in something unrelated. Most states offer some means for teachers to become certified even if their original course of study wasn't in education. However, in order to teach French you will have to have a strong background in French and be able to pass proficiency exams, or you will have to earn your Bachelor's degree in French or a similarly related field. For more information on becoming certified, check out the National Center for Alternative Certification.
Honing Your Skills with Additional Credentials
If you're looking to hone your skills in French, there are a variety of study abroad experiences or immersion experiences in the states. Many schools offer programs specifically geared towards teachers. Because teachers are required to continue their education, completing one or some of these programs offer various certificates to participants.
The Language Schools at Middlebury College offer perhaps the best experience in improving your language skills. Each summer, students gather for language school and make what is known as the "language pledge". A commitment to speak only the target language for your stay. (That means, if your family doesn't speak your target language, you will not be speaking to your family that summer.) While the program is touted as the "Harvard" of foreign language study and it is noted as very difficult, a certificate from Middlebury College Language school is definitely the gold standard of teaching.
France Langue also offers a teacher training program designed for non-native speakers. The course runs over 26 weeks and highlights include themed modules, linguistic reinforcements, ideas for creating your own teaching materials, and guided tours. Class size is limited to 12 students.
The American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages is an excellent resources that teachers can use for their continuing education requirements. The ACTFL offers a variety of opportunities and workshops.
Another way to gain proficiency in your target language and help yourself earn some teaching experience is to teach English as a second language in a French speaking country. There are a variety of ESL teaching opportunities and often times, you do not need to be a certified teacher or the certification process is less stringent. Here are a few resources online to check out:
- Transitions Abroad offers numerous links to help you learn more about working in France as an English teacher.
- World Teach offers numerous ESL experiences, as well as school teaching experiences. Some of their placements are in French speaking Africa.
Getting Certified to Teach French
While there are many roads to earning certification, all of them will require that you demonstrate both a proficiency for the French language plus a proficiency in the knowledge of teaching. Many certified teachers actually become so during their undergraduate studies and then are required to participate in continuing education. However, you arrive at becoming certified, you can rest assured that you've chosen a career that will broaden your students' horizons.