TAPIF | Choosing to be a Language Assistant in France

“Passant prends le temps sinon il te prend.” (Passerby, take the time. Otherwise, the time will take you.) – Quote painted on a wall near Notre Dame, Metz, France.

So, how exactly does one decide to become a language assistant in France anyway? How do know if the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) is the right fit for you? I know that these were questions that I was asking myself (and that others were asking me) as I made my decision to move to France for a school year. In the end, it was really about seizing my life, grabbing the bull by its horns, so to say. As I genuinely wanted to live in France, I found a way to live in France. For those of you with even slightly less hesitation, here are some (more rational) reasons for choosing to be a language assistant:

  1. If you want a paid year abroad… If you want to spend a year in Europe or a francophone region, I really think that you would be hard-pressed to find a better route than the Teaching Assistant Program in France. TAPIF is a great alternative (or addition) to studying abroad; you improve your resume, advance your language skills, bank the personal journey of a lifetime, and get paid a reasonable stipend to boot, for 12 hours of in-class work per week. Granted, if your school does not provide you with housing or you choose a placement in Paris, you may have to stretch a bit on the provided salary. However, even with only modest savings, TAPIF pays enough to survive and flourish in a foreign city for a full school year.
  2. If you prefer some type of initial support network… I understand that the average person is not as nutty as I; for most people, independently moving to a foreign country without knowing a single soul is unthinkable, even panic-inducing. For those who have the desire to move abroad but prefer the comfort of a support network, should things go awry, TAPIF could really be your answer. From the welcoming emails from support staff to the friendly faces of fellow English teachers, TAPIF provides individuals with a catching net, should you ever fall. Discernibly, it is not an extensive system full of people to hold your hand, but if you ever need company or advice, you are sure to find someone to help you out, even if you meet them via facebook. (On that note, there are several types of ways to network with fellow assistants, but the easiest and most modern is via facebook. There are both official and unofficial (read = more useful) groups that you can find before your departure.)
  3. If you speak (at least some) French… Frankly, this is a big “if.” The Teaching Assistant Program in France is strict on proficiency requirements. While they never formally test your abilities, you must have a minimum of 3 college semesters under your belt or an equivalent minimum level of B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Naturally, this means that you do not have to be done with university to apply, and most of the British assistants come after their junior year to fulfill academic requirements. Choosing to study abroad in a francophone country during your undergraduate years is a clear advantage here, though nowhere near required. (I chose to study abroad in different countries but did indeed minor in French and continue on to graduate-level French studies.) TAPIF is a fantastic way to improve upon the French you already know, especially with some effort. I am a candid believer that at some point, there is no way to go but immersion.
  4. If you are rather independent… Because assistants work only 12 in-class hours a week, they inevitably find themselves with a lot of spare time on their hands. This can be surprisingly daunting for those straight out of communal living situations or unused to extensive independent travels. Indeed, I have read quite a few TAPIF blogs that consist of little save for complaining about boredom, loneliness, or the weather. Not to say that these types of individuals should not consider TAPIF as a viable option, but emotional preparation is crucial… If you are a reasonably independent person, however, you will likely be grateful for the free time and the wealth of possibility that it affords. For example, I quite like the liberty of taking afternoon strolls or escaping on the odd weekend. I even appreciate having sufficient time to get lost in town or indulge in French cinema. Seven weeks of paid vacation also means a cushy travel/relaxation schedule, so be prepared to face the scheduling void (preferably with enthusiasm).
  5. If you really like baguettes… OK, clearly this is not a requirement, but it does not hurt to be fond of French culture in general. If you don’t fancy the thought of wine, cobblestone, and francophones, I’m not entirely sure why you would consider doing TAPIF in the first place. In this type of situation, a true passion for the French way of life will take you far; those around you, including your students, will easily be able to gauge your enthusiasm, so never underestimate the power of authentic sincerity. The more excited you are to be in France, the better your time will be. That’s a guarantee.

Additionally, if you want some abbreviated, rather funny advice, Jessica of the Doing It in French blog has written a pretty cute list of 30 Reasons to be a Teaching Assistant.

One Response to “TAPIF | Choosing to be a Language Assistant in France”
  1. Madeline says:

    Love #5, so true!

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