Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Project yourself into the future.
Imagine when you can construct sentences like it ain’t no thing, when you know a ton of French proverbs and expressions and when your extensive knowledge of French slang makes people thing you’re a native speaker.
Once your French is awesome, you’ve gotta keep it up.
When you first start learning French, you’re all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
You quickly soak up new words and the basics of grammar and conjugation.
Once you reach the intermediate level, things tend to slow down a bit. You feel like you’ve seen it all, but at the same time you’re not quite fluent. Staying motivated is essential at the stage in the game. And what better way to stay motivated than to make some big, lofty, professional goals?
You know the expression “use it or lose it”? Well, it’s not just catchy, it’s true. You’ll have to keep working until you see the light. Don’t worry, though!
There are numerous ways to put your French skills to use in today’s world where la Francophonie (the phenomenon of speaking French) abounds. Walk with me.
La Francophonie (the Phenomenon of Speaking French) in the World
- French is the 2nd most widely spoken language in the world after English. French is the official language or one of the official languages in 29 countries. English, for comparison’s sake, is the official language or one of the official languages in 45 countries.
- French plays a significant role in several countries, even when it isn’t one of the official languages. In countries like India, Egypt, Lebanon, Greece, Poland and Brazil, French is an important language in administrative and commercial contexts.
- French is the one of the official working languages of many international organizations. Organizations such as Médecins sans frontières (Doctors without Borders), Amnesty International, The United Nations and the African Union, to name a few, conduct business in French along with English.
To get comfortable with different types of French—including French from different regions, as well as general vs. business French—FluentU is an incredibly handy tool. FluentU provides authentic French videos, like news reports, inspiring speeches, TV clips and more, that have been transformed into personalized language lessons.
For example, every video comes with interactive subtitles. Click on any unfamiliar word for an instant, in-context definition. There are also vocabulary lists, full transcripts, flashcards and fun quizzes for every video to help you get the most understanding out of it.
Best of all, you can easily squeeze in some immersive French practice on your commute or lunch break with the FluentU mobile apps for iOS or Android.
13 Jobs in Diverse Industries That Require Your French Skills
Let’s now explore some of the major industries and jobs that you could waltz into with French fluency on your resume!
Keep in mind that it’s a bit tougher to break into any of these industries and jobs than doing a waltz. You’ll need to work your way in and get your foot in the door, so to speak. You should expect to do volunteer work, internships or start at an entry level before seeing your career take off. You’ll need to build up good experience.
A translator is someone who works between at least two written languages, working with documents such as textbooks, instruction manuals and newspaper articles. Translation is profession that appeals to French speakers because of the flexibility it offers. In many cases you can work remotely, thanks to the Internet, and set your own schedule if you work on a freelance basis.
For those with wanderlust, translators often enjoy success in the foreign country in which they reside. As a result, translation is a highly competitive field. Your best bet for breaking into the translation industry is to specialize in a specific domain (law, science, medicine, education) so as to target a specific niche.
- American Translator’s Association (ATA): The ATA is the largest membership organization of translators in the US. By becoming a member, you have access to a series of work-related benefits.
- Fédération International des Traducteurs (International Federation of Translators): This group is more far-reaching than the ATA, containing news, databases and employment resources for translators all over the world.
- Proz: This translator network is an asset for freelance translators looking for work.
An interpreter is someone who works with at least two spoken languages. Interpreters are most often needed in conferences and courtrooms. Simultaneous interpretation is the most in-demand form, in which a language is decoded as it’s being spoken, as in the exemplary case of UN interpreters. Surviving as a French interpreter is all about elegantly conveying the words and personality of the person for whom you’re interpreting, so that you effectively disappear.
Not only must you be extremely comfortable not only with speaking, you also have to decipher non-standard accents and find apt and equivalent expressions across languages as well. Like translation, interpretation is a highly competitive field.
- International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC): This is a informative, comprehensive website for those who are considering become interpreters as well as those already established in the profession. For the former group, one can find information regarding training and career guidance and for the latter, the site provides access to a wide range of employment opportunities.
- National Association for Judiciary Interpreters and Translators: This is a great resource for those who are specifically interested in working in the domain of legal interpreting.
Anything that’s published should benefit from the eyes of a good proofreader. As a French proofreader, you’d likely be working in conjunction with a translator. Your role would be to make sure that the translation is grammatically correct and that there are no fautes de frappe (typographical errors).
Working as a French language editor on a freelance basis is another possibility. In this case your responsibilities would extend beyond that of a proofreader. Your job would be to make sure that the French content uses proper syntax and flows properly.
Hospitality, Tourism and Travel
5. Tour guide
Multilingual tour guides are an absolute must in places like museums and monuments. If you like chatting people up and enjoy learning about different cultures, becoming a tour guide for the francophone tourists in town may be a position to look into. It’s not all fun and games, though—you’ll need quite a bit of patience and stamina.
- The French National Federation of Tourist Guides: If you’re seriously considering working as a tour guide in France, this site should be your first top.
- European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations: This European umbrella network works to bring value to the tour guide profession and maintain high standards of quality.
6. Flight attendant
Flight attendants that speak several languages are indispensable, especially on long-haul international flights. English is a very in-demand language, and French is yet another one. By being bilingual in this pair of languages, you’ll have a huge advantage starting in this career.
7. Casino, resort or hotel staff
The hospitality industry is a great place to use your French and there are a variety of positions to fill from receptionist to manager, depending on your qualifications and prior experience.
8. Consul, ambassador or diplomat.
A country’s foreign service is a governmental branch that provides diplomatic services to other countries. Embassies and consulates that are staffed by foreign service officers are required to speak the local language. As a foreign service officer with a mastery of French, your placement options are numerous!
These prestigious positions are highly competitive and applicants are weeded out by way of a rigorous examination process.
Here are the foreign service websites for the US, Canada, the UK and Australia:
9. French teacher
A surefire way to use your French (and extol the virtues of the conditional) is to become a French teacher in your country of residence.
Although teaching credentials or an education degree are not always required for these positions, they may give your a competitive edge if you have them.
10. English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher
This may seem counter-intuitive but another great way to use French is to become an ESL teacher. The key is to find a position in a French-speaking country. Not only will you have to translate English back in to French to make sure your students understand the lessons, you’ll be speaking a lot of French in the teacher’s lounge and when you’re off the clock.
- Teaching Assistant Program in France: This teaching program, run by the French Ministry of Culture, is a great way to immerse yourself in French culture while teaching English in France or one of the DOM-TOMs.
11. Voice-over artist
Do you have a face for radio? Do you have the gift of the gab? Are you really good at doing impressions? Along with your stellar French, these qualities could make you an totally awesome voice-over artist. Voice-over artists are called upon for dubbing movies, for commercials and cartoons.
12. Non-governmental organization (NGO) staff
NGOs are constantly looking for people who speak several languages. Working in an NGO great option for expats living in France or those who are gearing up to travel to another francophone country.
- Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (International Federation of Human Rights): This Paris-based NGO with hubs all over the world is one of the largest and the most well-known on the human rights NGO circuit.
- Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger): This international NGO works to end hunger in developing countries.
- International Red Cross: The Red Cross specializes in humanitarian aid in the wake of war and natural disaster.
13. Think tank staff
Think tanks, organizations conduct research in a variety of domains like social policy, economics, military, technology and culture, are always in search of Francophones.
- Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): This Paris-based think tank whose focus is economic development across the globe is constantly hiring temporary, entry-level staff members. Make sure to check their “current vacancies” page often.
- Sofreco: This consultancy firm, which specializes in sustainable economic and social development is a great option for those with a background in economics or any of the other social sciences.
- United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO): Headquartered in Paris, and offering jobs all over the world, UNESCO’s mission is to promote world peace and justice by way of education, science and culture.
You see? Your high school French teacher was right.
Being able to speak French opens up a world of opportunities! Au boulot (off to work)!
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