5 Programs That Let You Work and Learn French
French is the first language I ever studied and France was the first country I ever visited, so my love affair with the language is strong.
For this reason, I regret never having worked in a French-speaking country.
Has working abroad ever appealed to you? If so, visiting a French-speaking country may just be the way to access everything you want: money, language and travel.
- Why Work to Learn French?
- The Top Programs for Working and Learning French
Why Work to Learn French?
It’s an affordable way to travel.
While I love (read: live for) traveling, it can be a major strain on my bank account. The times I’ve enjoyed my travels most were when I worked as I went. This way, the money didn’t run out, so I could relax and afford to do more things.
Some of the programs we showcase here pay, while others are volunteer positions or provide free housing in exchange for work. Whatever route you decide to take, you’ll be able to experience culture and learn French without going out and spending money.
You gain international work experience.
If you want to work in the global market, one of these jobs might be your first stepping stone. You can explore what career fields interest you and what types of places you want to work in. Do you want to work in diplomacy? Hospitality? Teaching? Maybe you want to live in France, or even Canada or Switzerland.
You can build your resume.
As someone who has studied, worked and lived in multiple countries, trust me when I say that holding a job in another country stands out on a resume! Just serving tables in New Zealand has sparked conversations in interviews when potential employers have looked at my resume. Working abroad sets you apart from the crowd.
You can learn unique French vocabulary.
In these jobs, you’ll spend significant chunks of the week at your workplace, so you’ll learn French that is required in the field. In many cases, this is professional French vocabulary that will be useful in future international jobs. These are words and phrases you won’t necessarily learn by sitting in a classroom or watching French films.
The Top Programs for Working and Learning French
1. Serve food in Quebec, Canada
Edu-inter is an immersive language school in Quebec City that teaches students of all levels. Class sizes are small, five to 12 people throughout the school year and nine to 15 students during the summer.
This program’s goal is to prepare students for the workplace by offering job opportunities and teaching professional French. Not only do they offer workshops to help students prepare for interviews in French, but they help set students up with jobs in Quebec City.
You can start classes at Edu-inter on any Monday of the year and pay weekly. Their most basic package is 15 hours per week of core French for 250 CAD (194 USD) per week.
If you need the staff to set you up with housing, you pay them 225 CAD (175 USD) to place you, and the most affordable package is 238 CAD (185 USD) per week for a homestay with three meals per day. You can see the full breakdown of pricing here.
Don’t let these costs deter you, though! Remember, you’ll be working and earning money.
After completing Edu-inter’s interview workshop, you’ll apply for and be placed at a job in a restaurant, café, bar or hotel in Quebec City. You’ll get to earn money while interacting with the culture on a daily basis.
Not only will you learn French in the classroom, you’ll learn practical French at your job.
For this program, you need to either be a Canadian citizen or qualify for the Working Holiday Visa.
2. Intern at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
As much as I love France and want to travel to Canada, my dream is to study and work in Switzerland. I visited Geneva as a teenager and was completely swept away by the gorgeous landscapes and mouth-watering chocolate.
Well, good news! You can work in Switzerland while giving a major boost to your resume. How does interning at the United Nations sound?
At this job, you’ll learn French vocabulary related to diplomacy, public policy, government, peacekeeping and management. This kind of command of the language will be a huge selling point when you apply to any company that operates on a global scale.
The application process is very competitive. I would expect nothing less from the United Nations!
Applicants for the United Nations Office of Geneva’s Young Professionals Program (YPP) must be under 32 years old and fluent in either English or French.
Applicants must also meet one of the following criteria: be currently enrolled in graduate school, be in their last year of undergraduate school or have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree within one year of applying.
Internships range from two to six months, 40 hours per week. Unfortunately, work is unpaid, but can you imagine how impressive working for the United Nations in Switzerland must look on a resume?
3. Tutor in France
Babylangues is an English as a Second Language tutoring company that operates in 17 French cities, including Paris, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Nice.
As a tutor, you’ll travel to French families’ homes to work one-on-one or in small groups with their children. Babylangues wants to create an “English bubble” for the kids, and the company believes working in a safe space with a native English speaker is the best way to do so.
Pay varies depending on where you work, but if you work in Paris, you’ll take home between 10.45 and 16.50 euros (12.29 and 19.41 USD) after taxes. (Your pay will vary depending on your resume and previous experience.)
In addition to monetary compensation, Babylangues provides tutors with free French cell phones! If you’re in Paris, they also give you a free pass to use Vélib, the city’s bike sharing program.
If you choose to do so, Babylangues lets you apply for “intergenerational accommodation,” where you live with an older French person or a French family. In exchange for rent, you help them around the house.
Living with French people is a fantastic way to increase fluency, and not having to pay rent means you can spend your hard-earned money on enjoying French luxuries, like all the French pastries you can stomach!
Another way to further your French studies is to attend Mardis de Babylangues (Babylangues Tuesdays), where you can participate in a free language exchange. As an added bonus, your first drink is free!
4. Be a teaching assistant in France
Working as a teaching assistant sounds like the same gig as being a tutor, but it’s actually quite different.
The Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) is a government-run program that places fluent speakers of other languages in public schools. Rather than tutoring a child and working for a family, you’ll be working in classrooms.
After taxes, you’ll end up earning around 800 euros (940 USD) per month, which isn’t bad considering you only teach for 12 hours a week!
Outside of the classroom, you can learn French by conversing with French coworkers, engaging in language exchange or taking French classes.
A huge plus of the TAPIF program is that with the limited class hours and school breaks for holidays, you have plenty of time to travel around Europe. However, keep in mind that 800 euros per month doesn’t provide you with a lot of travel money after living expenses. For this reason, I recommend saving up a little money before moving to France.
Travel may also be more attainable if you live in an area with a low cost of living. TAPIF operates all around France, including French overseas departments and territories such as Martinique in the Caribbean and French Guiana in South America. You list your top three placement options during the application process and if you’re accepted, the government tries to take your preferences into account.
Visit this post for tips on preparing for your job interview:
7. Intern in Aix-en-Provence, France
Attending L’Institut Américain Universitaire (The American University Institute), or IAU, gives French learners the dream situation. You can earn college credit, gain work experience and live abroad!
Aix-en-Provence is a quaint city in southern France. It stole my heart after spending just one afternoon there on my first trip to France.
Aix-en-Provence is considered a college town, so get ready for the classic French college experience!
IAU staff arranges internships for its students in fields ranging from education, theater, library sciences or even event planning. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Meanwhile, you’ll be studying French formally in the classroom to earn credit at your university back home.
To earn credit for your internship, you must spend 12-15 hours per week at your work site. You must also write three short essays in French over the course of the semester, write one final essay and give a final presentation. At the end of the semester, you’ll earn three credit hours for completing your internship.
If you want to attend IAU, you must have already completed at least four semesters of college French and submit your resume before attending.
Regardless of where you want to live, what you want to study or which career field you want to enter, there’s an exciting opportunity awaiting you in a foreign country!
And if you want to get a head start on your French before embarking on your new adventure, native content is the way to go. Binge French titles on Netflix, listen to France’s Top 50 on Spotify—the works. The video-based language program FluentU has a little bit of everything from French media, with learning tools to help you get the most out of your immersive experience.
Who says you have to choose between traveling the world and being responsible? By working abroad, you get to do both.