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My name is Emmy and I am a TAPIF survivor. Ok, that was dramatic. My year teaching abroad in France really was the best time of my life. But it’s no secret that TAPIF can be a logistical nightmare. The good thing about TAPIF is that you save money by not going through a provider. The bad thing is that, well, you don’t have a provider which leaves a lot of TAPIF-ers feeling under-prepared.

As you know, there is sometimes no rhyme or reason for how TAPIF works. I was one of the unlucky assistants who didn’t receive their contract until late summer and quite frankly had no idea if I’d be landing in France on the date written on my plane ticket. I was also one of the majority of assistants who walked into the classroom and felt like a total fish out of water.

I didn’t study education or English as an undergraduate and it was my first time ever in a classroom. How should I know how to teach English?! It’s since occurred to me just how weird it is that one of the requirements to be an English teaching assistant in France is a basic level of French when what would be infinitely more useful is having a basic level of English and specifically English teaching.

Which leads me to two questions that have boggled my mind since I starting working at CIEE two months ago: Why don’t TAPIF participants know about TEFL?! and If TAPIF-ers knew about TEFL, would more of them take it? I know I certainly would have!

In light of my new role on the TEFL team at CIEE and my past experience as a TAPIF English teaching assistant, I am here to fill you in on all things TEFL. Here are some of the common questions I’ve already received from some of you:

What the heck is TEFL?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a 150-Hour accredited course that certifies you to teach English as a foreign language almost anywhere in the world (almost as in you probably can’t go to North Korea anytime soon). TEFL trains you to take charge as an English assistant and gives the tools and experience needed to establish a strong rapport with students, employers, fellow teachers, and other school administrators.

TEFL, TESOL, TESL, ESL…too many acronyms. What do they all mean?!

I get it, it’s confusing. All of these acronyms are related but each certification prepares you for a different kind of teaching environment. To make a long story short:

TEFL refers to teaching English as a foreign language within a country where English is not a primary or native language. If an institution lists a TESOL or TESL certificate as a prerequisite, you’ll be able to use a TEFL certificate earned with CIEE to fulfill this requirement.

TESL qualifies you to teach English as a second language to those living in a native English-speaking country. This is typically used by those looking to teach English in an English speaking country. As far as France goes, it doesn’t really apply.

TESOL is the umbrella certification includes the overarching concepts of both TEFL and TESL  This is a less specified course, likely more expensive and most commonly taken by those who aren’t quite aren’t sure if they’d like to stay abroad or head home to teach English.

Check out this article and acronym guide to get down to the nitty gritty of these different certs.      

How much does it cost?

The CIEE course fee is $1000 (unless you happened to have studied abroad through CIEE). Keep in mind that all TEFL certification courses should fall right around this price point if they are legitimate, accredited, and well-regarding by English teaching institutions and reviewers. Plus, the certificate never expires. Ever.

Do I have to get certified?

Getting a TEFL certification is not required to work as an English teaching assistant by the French Ministry of Education but could benefit you depending on your career path. For those who are one and done assistants, I would say you don’t really need to get TEFL certified (unless you are entirely freaked out by the idea of being in a classroom for the first time).

For those looking for a longer term stint as an English teacher abroad or at home, this certificate could be the jumpstart you need—especially if you’d like to stay in France and are worried about maxing out your two-year assistantship contract with TAPIF.

How does a TEFL certification work in France?

With a TEFL certificate, you can teach pretty much anywhere in the world. But if you’re looking to stay in France, you’re in luck. France has a pretty sizable English teaching job marketing between public and private schools, language institutions, and private tutoring.

With a certification and direct application to these positions, you’re bound to make some good money (especially compared to the TAPIF stipend). I tutored while I was in France and was able to make 15 euro per hour. If I had the TEFL certification, I would have been authorized to charge even more. You really could make a living off private lessons in France if that’s the route you choose to go!

P.S. Job assistance is included in CIEE’s course fee so if you’re having a hard time navigating the job market, you won’t be left stranded.

What’s the format of the course and could I really do it in France?

CIEE offers 150, 60, and 30 hour TEFL courses. The 150 hour is the one that employers look for but the others are great alternatives if you’re looking to save some cash and/or get a more succinct training before you leave for France.

Completing the 11-week certification in France is totally doable given that assistants only work 12 hours a week and ten of your teaching hours in France could count towards your 20 hours of practicum. If you don’t feel like getting that serious while you’re in France, doing it during the summer months is a great alternative.

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Ok TAPIF friends, that’s all I have for you for now. If you have any more questions or still aren’t sure if TEFL fits into your plan, feel free to reach out and I can put you in touch with the real TEFL gurus over here at CIEE. I hope all of you have amazing years in France and may the arrêté be with you.

Contact me on Facebook (I'm in the 2017-18 TAPIF group - Emmy Ham) or at eham@ciee.org. 


Emmy is a 2016-17 TAPIF alumni who taught for the Academy of Nice in Hyeres, France. She worked in two elementary schools with kids age 6 to 11. Upon her return, Emmy started a working for the CIEE Teach Abroad and TEFL programs as their content marketing intern. She hopes to continue to facilitate teach abroad opportunities for years to come and help TAPIF participants in any way possible!