Giving private tutoring lessons in France

I knew I wanted to give private English lessons in France on the side to help make some extra moolah, since I don’t make tons of money working only 12 hours a week.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s what I’ve learned about it so far!

Finding students

All of us assistants, myself included, had high hopes for finding students online using sites like and  Unfortunately, we were nearly all disappointed.  I don’t think any of my friends have found any jobs through those sites; there are just so many English-speakers in Nice that there’s no shortage of English teachers.  I did find one student through Cherche-Cours, but after I went on vacation he dropped off the face of the earth… not sure what happened there!  I also got an email from one other person seeking a teacher, but in the email the site notified me that she had emailed five people at one time, so it’s not like she had handpicked me or anything.  I opted not to message her back because by then I already had three students and she didn’t speak ANY English, so it would be starting from the beginning, which is a hugely daunting task.  My disappearing student was starting from the beginning as well, which made for a lot of work on my end, so I’m kinda glad he just stopped emailing me back and showing up for lessons.  Hope he’s okay…

Update: Since leaving France, I’ve gotten several emails from Kelprof/Cherche-Cours (Can’t remember which.  Maybe both.) with requests from students for lessons.  So maybe just be patient and the students will come!

If you still want to try the online thing you can try or, but again, I haven’t heard of anyone getting great results from those sites.  They’re wonderful for finding apartments or other employment though!  Check them out.  For example, I found my babysitting gig through AngloInfo, and also found my English-speaking church and doctor from their forums.

The best way I have found to get students is through the school you work for.  I got my first student from one of the French teachers at my school emailing me asking if I would be interested in giving private English lessons to one of his prepas (post-high-school) students.  OF COURSE I said yes, and then the student emailed me to set everything up.  My other two students are actually students of mine at school; one girls’ mom gave her contact information to her daughter’s English teacher that I work with and then I called the mom to arrange the details, and the other student just came up to me after class and asked if I would give her lessons.  I gave her my email and phone number and her dad emailed me that same day and set up our first lesson for two days later!

The best thing about giving lessons to students from your school is that they likely already have a passable level of English; they can at least communicate with you, and are also currently in English class, unlike someone who is older and just needs to learn English for their job.  I don’t know about you but being the only person teaching someone a language from the very beginning is kinda terrifying.

The pay

My first student asked me how much I charged, and at first I wasn’t sure what to say.  All of my friends here (yeah, the ones without tutoring jobs) suggested I charge 20-25€ an hour, but that seemed kinda high to me.  I decided on 15€ an hour for several reasons:

  • If it seems high, remember I do have a college degree in English Education, so I’m not like some random person who majored in like, Psychology or something.
  • If it seems low, then good!  I’d rather make someone feel like they were getting a good deal rather than feel like they were being overcharged.  There were several reasons why I leaned toward the low side:
    • Although I majored in English Education, it wasn’t teaching English as a second language, and I have NO experience in teaching English to foreign language learners.
    • This puts less pressure on me to be a super-duper-awesome teacher.  For 15€ an hour they’re getting someone who’s not very experienced, but who does try hard to create good lessons and teach well.  There is much less pressure on me charging 15€/hour than 25€/hour.
    • Charging less might encourage them to ask for more lessons a week than if I charged a lot.  Not sure if this is true or not, but it seems to make sense to me.
    • Charging less might encourage them to suggest me to their friends or anyone they know looking for a tutor.  This seems to be true since I got my third job through word of mouth from my second job, and the mom from my second job also told me that she gave my name to one of her friends who wanted a tutor for her son.  They haven’t called, but at least she was willing to suggest me to her friend!

I’m happy with my choice to charge 15€ an hour, especially because when the dad from my third job emailed me, he said he would pay me 15€ an hour, so that must be his going rate for tutors.

What/how to teach

Each of my three students is slightly different.  For one, my first one, I come up with lessons each time we meet.  For the second, sometimes I help her with her English homework, and sometimes we work on things that I bring or created for her to do.  With the third, we only ever work on her English homework, so I never have to prepare anything.  Score!

As I’ve mentioned, I have no training in teaching English as a second language, so I’m kinda flying by the seat of my pants over here, but it’s going all right.  I did a lot of Google research before my first lessons, and emailed with my old French teacher from high school and one of her friends, who teaches English in France.  They told me about a method of foreign language acquisition called TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling), which really intrigued me.  I don’t know a lot about it, so I won’t go into detail about it here, but I’m planning on learning more about it before I go home so that if I get a job teaching French I can use it in my classroom!  I do try to incorporate small aspects of TPRS though, both in my private lessons and in my classroom.  Here’s a round-up of TPRS links, in case you want to learn more: TPRS’ Wikipedia entry  Blaine Ray’s website (creator of TPRS)  Ben Slavic’s website (teacher of TPRS)  and his bestselling book  TPRStories  TPRS Teacher blog  Yahoo’s More TPRS Group  my French teacher’s friend’s blog about TPRS

Phew, that was a lot of links!  I also have a cool story about Ben Slavic; I was encouraged to buy his book TPRS in a Year but money was kinda tight, so I put it off… I eventually decided to buy it, but then couldn’t get the website to work to switch from the US to another country.  I emailed Mr. Slavic himself (per his contact info on his website) about my issues, and this was his response:

Sounds like a pain in the butt. I’ll just attach my books here at no charge. Your payment will be to love France and enjoy it all and don’t worry about anything and don’t pay any attention to the actual French people. Just kidding.

Yeah.  He put his personal email on  his website, emailed me back pretty much immediately, AND attached PDFs of all of his books FOR FREE.  HOW COOL IS THAT??  Plus he said the word butt.  Lifelong fan, right here.

Wow, I got off topic.  Okay, what I teach.  A good way to start is by asking the student what they struggle with the most, what they think would help them, and what they need to prepare for.  For example, my first student has certain exams at the end of the year to get into a really good university; he told me what they were like and told me about the website SujetsetCorriges, which has helped a lot in finding texts for him to read.  With him, I do a small variety of things, like:

  • translating a text from French to English (because that’s more difficult for him and easier for me)
  • reading an article in English, and then:
    • making him read it aloud and correcting his pronunciation
    • looking up words he doesn’t know and adding them to a vocabulary list
    • going over together any phrases he doesn’t understand
    • making him answer questions verbally
    • making him write answers to questions and correcting together the errors he made
    • making him summarize it verbally or written down
  • creating sentences from his vocabulary list
  • quizzing him from his vocabulary list
  • grammar lessons with what he’s struggling with

I try to choose articles that have vocabulary that will help him with his exams, mostly stuff from Sujets et Corriges, rather than something like The Little Prince that uses vocabulary he doesn’t really need.  I’ve also used this site to find articles that are already translated in both English and French, since my French skills are far from perfect.  The website isn’t AMAZING, like some of the English is kinda weird and there are missing letters in the French translation, but it’s good enough.

Occasionally I ask him what he would like to focus on more or what he would like to do the next lesson.  After all, he’s an adult, only a few years younger than me, and he knows what he needs to work on!

With my second student, the one I help with her homework and also do other things with, it’s less structured.  I’ve done a few grammar lessons with her (stuff I’ve noticed her struggling with or what she said she didn’t understand) and also a lot of vocabulary, since she said she felt like that was a weak point.  This is in addition to helping her with her homework.

A huge thing that I’ve noticed that helps my students (namely my first student, since I’ve been meeting with him the longest) is just talking with me in English.  Speak in English as much as you can during your lesson; I only do random vocabulary words in French most of the time, or switch to French just to explain a difficult concept if they’re really not getting it.  And I only allow them to speak in French if they’re getting noticeably frustrated with trying to say a certain thing in English.  Then after they say it in French I explain how to say it in English.  But I encourage English as much as possible.  Even if it’s super broken English, I’ll get the gist of what they’re trying to say, then can help them say it better!  Even just chatting in English helps a lot; ask about their day, their lives, what they’re doing over the weekend, what they did last weekend, what they’re doing/did over vacation, etc.  It helps their fluency and confidence so much!

All right, that’s all I can think of to share so far about my experience teaching private English lessons in France.  Hope it helped you, if that’s what you were looking for!

Categories: Assistant Helpful Information, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Giving private tutoring lessons in France

  1. katch

    this is an amazing article seems like you are just talking to me in person and telling the stories how you managed teaching english!

  2. Hello! I simply want to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent info.

  3. Greg

    Hi Kelsey, I just happened on your blog while searching for an example of a letter to a French school (I leave for France in a few weeks to do TAPIF in Issoire, right under Clermont-Ferrand, and am about to email my schools to ask about housing). Great blog -very helpful info on here. But it’s even more great to read that you know about TPRS and Ben Slavic! Isn’t he awesome? Are you back in the US teaching French? I just finished my second year teaching HS French. I found out about TPRS and TCI (Teaching Through Comprehensible Input) halfway through my second year and will never teach any other way again. My kids learned acquired WAY more French and had way more fun -and so did I. Ironically, my lesson planning went from several hours per night to about 5 minutes per day on most days.

    Are you a member of the Professional Learning Community section of Ben’s site? If not, I HIGHLY reccomend it. It’s only $5 per month and I learn everything I know about language teaching on there. It literally saved my career as a teacher. Once again, nice blog. Best of luck.

    • Thanks for your nice comments! I wish you all the best in France, and I hope you have as wonderful a year as I did. So glad my blog is helpful!

      It’s funny you commented this today… I just got a book of story scripts from his website in the mail! I want to start using TPRS (I teach HS English, French, and ESL) but I’m hesitant yet about my abilities. I know, I know “Bad TPRS is better than no TPRS.” I’m working on it! I’ve been emailing with my HS French teacher about it, who’s a big fan. I especially think my ESL class would greatly benefit from TPRS, so I definitely want to start using it more!! I still need to use my “Discovering French” book though.

      I’m not a member of the community, but I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!! Definitely feel free to comment if you have any questions or anything, and if you want I can give you my email address too!

      • Greg

        Thanks for the the reply! Those story scripts by Ben Slavic are great -they pretty much carried me through the last three months of last school year when I started using TPRS, plus a few scripts by Anne Matava which are also great. Have you gotten into any TPRS yet this school year? I’m not sure if you’ve joined Ben’s online PLC, but there are several posts on there by him and other members about doing TPRS even in situations where you’re still required to use certain materials (Like the Discovering French book). Hope to see you on the PLC -I sincerely doubt you’d regret joining!

        What did you do for phone service in France? I was planning on using Skype or Google Hangout for calls back to the US, but I’m not sure if I want to spend money on getting internet. I’m also looking for the cheapest way to make calls/text to people in France. Any tips you could offer on that would be great!

        • Greg

          Nevermind my phone question -I just found your post about that!

        • I just bought one of Anne Matava’s books from Ben Slavic’s website! I haven’t been using TPRS a ton yet… mostly just circling. I did use a story in my ESL class but the class is still kinda getting set up right now, so I only was able to use it for one day. I’ll look into the PLC sometime- it sounds awesome! Also my French teacher from HS (who told me about TPRS… she didn’t use it back then though) just emailed me about a Stephen Krashen conference in Chicago. I might have to go!

          I got your comment about finding my post about cell phones, but my advice to you is that you will definitely want Internet service. You don’t work that much and will have plenty of free time at your apartment even if you go out and do stuff a lot, and you’ll want it for planning trips/buying plane tickets/staying in touch with people back home/etc. However, it’s not unusual for apartments to come already set up with Internet (like routers for the whole building) so maybe you won’t have to deal with it! Croisez les doigts!!

  4. robinmartino

    Personal tutor or private tuition Its also has a different fun and good experience…..I am really excited to read your post so thanks for sharing it.

  5. Gloria Nelson

    As always, entertaining and educational! Keep those blog posts coming….love reading them all from start to finish!

  6. This has been the best post out of the last few. I laughed and laughed. Did you reply and tell him that our family says “buttocks”. LOL. MISS YOU!!!

  7. Dad

    You do such a good job with these posts; I really enjoy reading them.

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