What to do after applying to TAPIF, the Teaching Assistant Program in France

After Applying to TAPIF

Teaching Assistant Program in France

April: Acceptance E-mail

As of 2008, the French Embassy in the US started sending out acceptance e-mails on April 29 with académie assignments (the date was April 6 in 2009). However, these e-mails did not include the length of the contract nor the level. The subject line was: Félicitations/Congratulations ! – French Teaching Assistantship Program 2008 – 2009. This is what the body of the e-mail said:

Bravo ! A l’issue de la commission franco-américaine de sélection des assistants de langue vivante, nous avons le plaisir de vous informer que vous avez été sélectionné(e) pour un poste d’assistant(e) en France, rémunéré par le Ministère de l’Education Nationale français, pour l’année scolaire 2008 – 2009.

Vous serez affecté(e) dans un ou plusieurs établissements d’enseignement dans l’académie de [académie]. Les établissements où vous interviendrez ne se trouvent pas nécessairement dans la ville qui donne son nom à l’académie. Veuillez noter que vous recevrez un courrier de la part de votre académie vous informant de votre lieu d’affectation (niveau scolaire et ville) mi-juin.

Merci d’envoyer un courrier à Mlle Carolyn Collins si vous ne souhaitez pas accepter le poste.


Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you of your acceptance to the French Teaching Assistantship Program, sponsored by the French Ministry of Education, for the 2008 – 2009 academic year.

You will be assigned to one or several schools in the académie of [name of académie]. The school (s) in which you are placed will not necessarily be located in the city of [name of académie]. Around mid-June your académie will send you more information, including your city assignment and instruction level.

If you are unable to accept this position, please send a letter of withdrawal to Miss Carolyn Collins immediately.



“Contract Clarification” e-mails containing the length and level of the contract were then sent at the beginning of July.

If you are accepted into the assistantship program, but decide not to go to France, you should send a resignation letter to the embassy so that they can give your post to someone on the waiting list. You cannot defer the assistantship until the next year like you can with graduate school. You must re-apply the following year. The organization that runs the assistant program, the CIEP, has a rule that you can only be an assistant two times (consecutive or not). However, just being accepted into the program counts as one time, regardless of whether or not you actually go to France and work as an assistant. So even if you re-apply the next year and work as assistant then, you cannot renew your contract for the following year because according to the CIEP, you’ve already done two years.

If you are assigned to the académie de Grenoble, I have written another page specifically about the orientation and medical visit procedures there.

June: Waiting

Now you have to wait for your next piece of information (arrêté de nomination). In the meantime, you should be saving money (at least $1,500) because you might not receive your first paycheck until the middle of November (though you can request to be paid at the end of October if you open a bank account and fill out the paperwork as soon as you get there). You’ll need plenty of money for food, transportation and perhaps a security deposit, a few month’s rent, etc. depending on where you live, plus extra money for travelling during your vacation times.

If you are still a university student, you can buy the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). You will be eligible for 32,000 discounts throughout the world (airlines, restaurants, hotels, museums, etc.) If you are not a student, but under the age of 26, you can get an International Youth Identity Card. And if you are a full-time teacher, you can get an International Teacher Identity Card. These cards cost $22, and you can buy them online through STA Travel or at a local card issuing office (usually the International Office at a university.) You will have to put your own photo on the card when you get it, and it will be valid for one year.

You can research plane tickets prices now, but you might not be able to get the return date you want yet. Most airlines require the return date be within 330 days, so if you want to return home in May of the next year, you’ll have to wait until later in June before you can book the ticket. Plus you won’t know the location of your school or city until you receive your arrêté. I was in the Grenoble school district, so I could have been close to the airports in Marseille, Lyon or Geneva, so I waited until I knew where in the académie I was going to be. But if you plan to fly into London or Paris and then take the Chunnel or train to your académie (which might be cheaper anyway), then you can probably get your ticket before your arrêté arrives. Just make sure not to leave too early in September in case you don’t receive your visa until the last minute. And beware that your académie may have the orientation before October 1, so in some cases, you need to be there a week earlier.

STA Travel, Student Universe and Travel Cuts are three great student discount sites for buying plane tickets. STA and Travel Cuts require that you have an ISIC card and Student Universe requires verification that you are a student. I bought my plane ticket from Student Universe for $788 from Detroit to Lyon, September 26 to May 8, and all I had to do was verify my university e-mail still worked. STA and Student Universe also allow multi-city tickets (I flew back from London instead of Lyon), but STA’s prices can be a little
misleading (they change once you choose the actual times and flights and are usually over $100 more expensive that the original quoted price in the search results.) So overall, I prefer and recommend Student Universe for plane tickets from the US to Europe.

If you have no teaching experience, you might want to read up on teaching ESL and/or try to gather some materials to use in your classes. Of course, you can’t really plan lessons until you find out which classes you will have, but you can try to bring some authentic materials that your students will be interested in. You can bring a map of your country (or state), your yearbook from high school, holiday-related items (if you are American, you will have to teach a ton about Thanksgiving…), peanut butter candy, etc. Just think about what your students would enjoy seeing and learning more about. For the theoretical as well as practical aspects (lesson plans!) of teaching ESL, I’ve uploaded all of my lesson plans to its own page as well as recommended some books that you might like to buy from Amazon.

If you’re not yet fluent in French, you should probably take some time each day listening to French radio, watching French movies, reading French books, etc. You will be  completely immersed in the language once you arrive, so you need to get used to it. If you’ve never studied abroad and only learned French from college courses, you’ll need to learn slang and idioms since those are rarely taught in classes. I’m continuously working on my Informal French & Slang page as well as updating my French Listening podcast with authentic, unrehearsed language. I try to read Voici and Closer (trashy celebrity magazines) because they are full of current slang. You can also check out the Anglicism wiki to learn the current English words that have been borrowed by the French. If you need help with building confidence and motivation in speaking French, try Why French is Easy.

There are some good books for learning slang, such as Tune Up Your French by Natalie Schorr, Street French by David Burke, Merde! by Genevieve, and Hide this Book by Berlitz. Berlitz’s website also has mp3s files of all the phrases in the book that you can download for free. There are a ton of French podcasts available through iTunes nowadays. The  French in Action video series is also available for free online as a streaming download (if you are in the US or Canada…) and the BBC’s Languages site has some other good video programs for learning French, such as Ma France and the French Experience. And here are some documents on Faux Amis and Written vs. Spoken French.

By the end of June, you may receive another e-mail that includes a list of all of the e-mail addresses of the other American assistants in your académie. (I received it on June, 26, 2006.)

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Dr. Jennifer Wagner

PhD in Applied Linguistics, ESL/French teacher, author of two French books, and helping others to learn languages online at ielanguages.com.