Published on November 13th, 2014 | by Molly Montgomery0
The Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF)
Would you like to spend a year living in France? Do you have a passion for teaching? Do you already know how to speak French? If so, the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) might be right for you. TAPIF is an exchange program that hires Americans as English language teaching assistants in schools across France. Every year, the French government recruits teaching assistants from over fifty countries to teach foreign languages in French schools at the primary and secondary school levels.
Each country has a separate application process. In the United States, the TAPIF program manages applications from Americans, but other anglophones from all different countries can also apply through their home country.
As a language teaching assistant, you spend twelve hours a week in the classroom at the school where you are placed, giving lessons that reinforce what students learned in their regular language class and helping students improve their speaking skills. You are also compensated for your work, and you can use your time in France to improve your French and experience French life. The contract for Americans lasts for seven months, from October 1st to April 30th.
As a current teaching assistant working at a high school in Altkirch, a small town in the Strasbourg region, I can vouch for the program as a great gap-year experience. I really enjoy the time I spend in the classroom working with my French students. I also can talk with the other teachers at the high school, further improving my French speaking skills.
One of the great benefits of this program is that as a teaching assistant, you have the chance to travel in France and around Europe during vacations and on the weekends. In addition, you have the chance to meet other teaching assistants from all around the world. Initially, it can be a little daunting to move to another country and begin working there, especially since France requires foreign workers to fill out so much paperwork, but the experience is worth it. However, one of the drawbacks to the program is that you have little choice over where you are placed in France.
Although you can choose three preferred regions on your application, within those regions, you don’t know whether you will be in an urban area or in a rural area. For me, I was surprised when I was placed in a very small town : I have never lived outside a big city before. It turns out that this placement has allowed me to discover the French countryside and the more remote areas in the Alsace region, which I never would have seen if I had been placed in a major city.
For Americans, the application for TAPIF opened last month, and you can access it online at tapif.org. The deadline for the application is January 15, 2015.
To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident between 20 and 30 years old, must have completed at least three years of post-secondary education, must be a native speaker of English, and you must be proficient in French. That doesn’t mean you have to be fluent. You just have to prove you have B1 level of speaking, which is basically enough for you to be able to communicate with ease in French. The application consists of a questionnaire and a statement of purpose in French. You must also attach your university transcript, and you are required to have two recommendations. One must be a language evaluation by a French professor or a language evaluator from the Alliance Française, and the other must be a general letter of recommendation from a professor, a manager, or another person who can vouch for you. In your application, you can specify three regions in France or in French departments overseas where you would prefer to teach, and you can also indicate whether you would prefer to work with primary students or secondary students, although you are not guaranteed to receive your first choice.
The program is somewhat competitive. Last year, 1,750 Americans applied for 1,100 spots. Applicants can increase their chances of being selected by demonstrating an interest in education and the French language, and by demonstrating on the application that they have previous experience working with children or youths.
If you don’t come from an English-speaking country, there are opportunities for you to work as a teaching assistant, too. The French government hires teaching assistants for many other languages including German, Spanish, and Chinese. For non-Americans, check out this website, which has information about all the teaching assistant application processes in other countries: www.ciep.fr/assistants-etrangers-france/pays-concernes.