For a great many people, France is the ultimate destination. Whether it’s for travel, work, a year abroad in college, cities like Paris, Nantes, Bordeaux and the sprawling, beautiful countryside filled with fresh produce and vineyards all make France desirable as a place to visit, or make a home.
It’s no wonder. A world-famous epicenter of art (classic and modern), language, history, music, food, wine and so much more, France is alluring for so many reasons. It’s also a great place to teach English as a foreign language. With the French economy proving its worth as one of the strongest in Europe, and the lingua franca of business being English, it certainly doesn’t harm French business relations to have some English in their arsenal.
That said, France only ranks 34th out of 111 countries ranked for English proficiency. The French language, of course, has a unique and distinct flavour all of its own, and French students are rightly proud to speak it. Still, there’s substantial evidence that having a second or even third language is massively beneficial. It’s proven to improve memory, general communication skills and cultural awareness.
So, French students need English teachers and teaching assistants. Budding TEFL teachers need opportunities to work abroad, build up excellent career experience, and ignite their passion for teaching. Teaching English in France is, after all, very rewarding.
Luckily, these two ideas connect, through TAPIF. The most-recognized Teaching assistant program in France, wannabe TEFL teachers have been partaking in the scheme for years now, and it’s helping to carve many an excellent career, as well as a passion for learning languages amongst French school students.
What is the TAPIF assistant program then? How can you get involved, and what do you need to know? All these answers and more await!
What is the TAPIF program?
A very friendly acronym, we’re sure you’ll agree, TAPIF stands for The Teaching Assistant Program in France. Aimed specifically at American citizens, TAPIF has 1,500 slots for prospective teachers to “teach in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas departments of France such as French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion”.
These teaching slots are by no means identical. Successful TAPIF applicants will be teaching English to different age groups, across the proficiency spectrum, within the French public school system.
It’s a popular teaching assistant program for a reason. A lot of teachers who complete the TAPIF program go on to secure permanent work in France, or go on to complete a TEFL certification and get hired off the strength of their experience through completing the program. According to TAPIF, there are “over 27,000 TAPIF alumni across the U.S”.
Can you choose where in France you work?
In a sense, you can choose where in France you work, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Every applicant fills out three top choices for regions in France, and TAPIF will generally try to accommodate those choices, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.
The mission is to make sure that all of France and the assigned French territories are covered by a spread of teaching assistants, so if you’re applying, don’t necessarily expect to end up teaching English in Paris because you want to see the Eiffel Tower. Instead, it’s about being open to new locales and challenges, which could extend beyond mainland France.
Open your mind to the less-explored regions of France; Caen, Brittany, Limoges, Amien – while the likes of Paris and Lyon are extremely attractive destinations, it doesn’t mean that there’s not so much more to explore.
What are the working hours?
If you were keen to explore France – and your interest in TAPIF would dictate that yes, you are – you’ll be delighted by the working hours that the program has.
Generally, each teaching assistant will be expected to work 12 hours over a working week. That’s a lot of really great teaching experience, but it’s also very generous; you’ll have so much time to explore your new surroundings.
So, whether you’re posted to Brittany or Bordeaux, you’ll have ample opportunity to sample the culture, try the local food and wine and practice your French across different regions.
What are the requirements for the TAPIF program?
- TAPIF applicants must be native English speakers
- Applicants must be US citizens. US nationals with a green card can apply.
- Applicants must be ages 20-35
- Applicants must have French Language proficiency (B1 level or above, as we’ll explain)
- Applicants must have completed at least 3 years of college education
To get into the TAPIF teaching assistant program, you don’t necessarily need a TEFL/TESOL qualification. In fact, many study for their certificate over the course of their TAPIF experience in France. So, you don’t need a TEFL certificate, nor do you need a “relevant” degree to get involved. We would, however, advise having a solid bedrock of TEFL knowledge; the industry standard for TEFL teachers is 120 hours of quality coaching, and having a high-caliber TEFL certificate will only boost your chances when applying.
You will, though, need strong language skills, including proficiency in French. A B1 grade or above in the CEFR Test is a must. As the program puts it: “Assistants are required to do a number of tasks all in French, including completing immigration paperwork, opening a bank account, going to a medical visit, and working with French teaching colleagues on a daily basis.” For your application, you’ll need a French evaluation from an Alliance Française employee, or a French professor from a University.
So, knowing your “bien sûr” from your “bonjour” is vital. What else do you need?
Teaching experience is a major boost. From a French school’s perspective, it’d be useful if a teaching assistant has had some experience in schools, working for a language business, or even volunteering – say, with refugees on a local level, or with other schools in the past. Experience living abroad is also considered useful for an English language assistant, as that demonstrates you won’t be overawed by moving to a new country.
Experience working with children or young adults, even in a non-schooling environment, is also helpful for the TAPIF application. You’ll also need official documentation demonstrating the level of your university studies – only a transcript from the institution will do.
Other requirements are less about your work history, and more about official documentation. Of course, you’ll need to have a scan of your Passport, and Green Card if you’re a permanent US resident. Should you be accepted, a federal ID History Summary (a background check) will need to submitted, but that’s not to be added to your initial application.
Assistant Language Teacher Responsibilities
Being a language teaching assistant is no small task. They’re sometimes known as ELAs (English Learning Assistants) and are sought-after across the globe. While it means you aren’t necessarily the star of the show from a teaching perspective, the experience is vital, and these language assistants play a vital role in helping students to learn English.
To be a successful TAPIF applicant, you’ll need strong abilities in French. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be speaking English – far from it, as you’ll be relied upon to help students with particular quirks, grammar rules, cultural differences, and all sorts.
If a pupil needs direct help and a teacher is unavailable or preoccupied, an ELA provides vital assistance. Not only in the immediate sense, but a Language Assistant also plays a longer-term role, helping in the planning of classes and creating, or sourcing alternate resources, to enhance the student’s level of English. Think films, television, music, and games!
Perhaps most importantly, a teaching assistant in France will help students get a cultural sense of how English is used. Slang terms, dialects – these things matter and they provide a vital sense of context when learning a language.
TAPIF application process and training
So, now you know what’s required for TAPIF, what a teaching assistant does and where you might be going, let’s talk about the application.
As we’ve stated, you’ll need a lot of documentation handy, and the entry requirements are specific. However, getting the application done is no arduous task, and is much like a typical job application that you might complete online.
Let’s get into what your TAPIF application requires.
It’s important to get this out of the way first – your application needs to be in French, and reach approximately 500 words.
So, how do you utilize 500 words effectively? You’ve got to provide basic information about yourself, your experience teaching young people, or working with young people, any experienced you’ve had working or living abroad, your French language skills and your academic background.
Finally, you’ll need to explain why you want to be a teaching assistant in the TAPIF program. Motivation, work ethic – all of your positive personal traits need to be on show here to impress the panel.
Again; all in French. However, high proficiency in French is a must for the TAPIF program, either way. So, if you’re right for the task, writing an application in the French language shouldn’t be overly daunting.
You’ll also need to provide documentation: a scan of your university transcript, your passport, your green card (if applicable), and a language evaluation, as detailed in the entry requirements.
There is a $90 fee to apply for the TAPIF program.
The teaching contract for successful applicants begins on the 1st of October and lasts until the 30th of April each year. Applications become available every October, through TAPIF’s website, while applications close in the first two weeks of January.
The benefits of the TAPIF Program
So, beyond the teaching experience that TAPIF brings, what rewards and benefits are there for successful applicants?
After all, you’re going from the US to France – that’s a huge move. Anyone would need a bit of help, whether it’s salary, help moving, or even some local guidance. Luckily, joining up with a world-famous and well-renowned program makes things that bit easier.
So, what are the benefits of the TAPIF Program?
TAPIF program salary
Obviously, you get paid. You’re working, so it stands to reason. What kind of compensation can you expect from the TAPIF program, though?
There’s a stipend of €785 per month, for all successful applicants. For a teaching assistant, it’s not a bad salary, and it’s enough to live comfortably across the vast majority of France. Bear in mind, however, that if you’re sent to Paris, costs are considerably higher on a day-to-day basis, so your salary won’t have the same impact as it would in a rural area.
Assistants can apply for and receive housing subsidies from the Caisse d’Allocations Familiales (CAF), and while not all applications are successful, the vast majority are if there’s a good case for housing assistance. Our example of Paris sticks out here – rent can be expensive in the bigger cities, and the TAPIF program understands that it’s much harder to get by on €785 per month in some areas than in others.
Visa costs and travel are not covered by the program, so applicants are advised to save accordingly. According to the TAPIF website, most applicants put away $2,000 before heading over to France for initial start-up costs.
All successful applicants will be covered for healthcare by the Sécurité sociale, which covers 70% of medical costs, 35-65% of prescriptions, and 80% of hospitalization fees in France. It’s not quite entire universal healthcare, but almost.
Applicants are encouraged to seek travel health insurance, which will cover the remainder of any fees you incur for health care. Applicants will have to fill out forms for Sécurité sociale coverage, but travel health insurance can cover anything from the period before you’re fully enrolled in the French medical system.
TAPIF program: Pros and cons
If you want to be teaching English in France, then a teaching assistant program like TAPIF is ideal. You’ll help to strengthen English language instruction in mainland France or one of its overseas territories, gaining vital experience in classrooms, typically leading conversations about the English language and English-speaking culture, and earning a living at the same time.
Yes, the requirements are comparably strict. You need prior experience teaching English classes, only native speakers with skill in both English and French get in, experience using teaching materials, and preferably some expertise in French culture, amongst other notable requirements. However, if you want to experience French culture first-hand and get set up for your TEFL career, it’s hard to top TAPIF as a learning experience.
That said, there are drawbacks. As a teaching assistant, you will definitely gain useful experience, but it might be as prudent to apply for a teaching program where you’re actually leading the teaching, and gain valuable teaching experience through dictating classes, working with groups of students and, depending on the job or program, deciding on the curriculum or, at least, the materials being used in class.
It’s also expensive, and you need to have a decent financial situation to live comfortably. $2,000 is a lot of savings, but that’s what’s recommended. While €785 might be enough to live on, it doesn’t guarantee a comfortable experience in France, especially if you’re based in a sprawling metropolis like Marseille or Paris.
Equally, TAPIF requires three years of university experience and a solid grounding in the French language. A lot of people don’t have either of these – for those who seek a career change, it probably isn’t prudent to go back to university with the sole intention of doing the TAPIF program. That’s expensive for one thing, and it might be wiser to use your time in a different way if a TEFL teaching career is the ultimate goal.
If you have solid French, it’s financially viable, you’re US-based, have teaching experience and three years of college behind you, TAPIF is a great idea. However, it’s not for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the TAPIF program?
The TAPIF program is a teaching assistant program for US-based French speakers who want to teach English as a foreign language. The program lasts between October and April, with applications running between October and January.
Q. How competitive is the TAPIF program?
The TAPIF program sends around 1,500 Americans and permanent US citizens to France as language assistants. There’s a lot of competition for places, so it’s best to get your application done as soon as possible!
Q. How much do you get paid for TAPIF?
The monthly stipend for TAPIF language assistants is €785 per month.
Q. How long is the Tapif program?
The TAPIF program lasts between October and April each year.
Q. Do you have to know French for Tapif?
TAPIF applicants must have French Language proficiency (B1 level or above). Applicants must also have a language evaluation from a French language professor or an Alliance Française employee.
Q. Is there an age limit for TAPIF?
TAPIF applicants must be aged between 20 and 35.
Q. Can you choose your location with TAPIF?
No, you cannot choose your location with TAPIF. Assignments vary depending on the level of experience an applicant has, as well as their French proficiency.
Q. Do I need TEFL for TAPIF?
You do not need a TEFL certificate to be considered for the TAPIF program. However, you do need 3 years of university study, with official documentation of your time in higher education.
Unsurprisingly, for something as detailed as the TAPIF program and its application process, there are a smörgasbörd of questions about the most famous assistant program in France.
So, let’s answer them!