Working as a “Maître de Langue”

If you’re reading this blog to be regaled by tales of travels or something related to the romance of life in France, here is your warning to skip this week’s post. However, if you’re curious about what it is like to teach abroad, thanks for joining me! A few people have contacted me asking about my job in France, and how I went about applying for it. This post will answer those questions. As I mentioned earlier, I started my career in France as a Teaching Assistant through TAPIF (the Teaching Assistant Program in France). After a few months, I was determined to stay so I avidly applied for jobs and was ultimately selected to work as a Maître de Langue.

What is a “Maître de Langue?”

I would translate this job title as “Visiting English Teacher” at the university level. There is a similar job in France called “Lecteur/lectrice d’anglais” (also visiting English teacher, despite the inclination to translate this title as “lecturer”), and I’ll distinguish between those two jobs in a moment. MdLs are responsible for teaching English classes and assigning grades to their students, just as a regular Professor does. Every school’s system is different, but I’ll tell you a little bit about my situation. I teach at the University of Strasbourg law school, working with undergraduate and master’s degree students. Side note: the university system in France is very different from the US. Students choose their “major” (that’s the closest equivalency I can make) before university, and go to school specifically for that line of study. Hence why I am teaching undergrad students at a law school.

What are the day-to-day responsibilities?

Over the course of my two years, I taught between 6 to 11 90-minute classes of 25-30 students per semester. My department compiles batches of current articles related to certain themes for each year of study, and we are supposed to work off of them. The themes are pretty interesting and include topics such as technology, human rights, health, etc. I have full control over how I run my classes, and I’ve come up with a model that works for me (feel free to borrow!). Because half of my students’ grade is tied to their participation (with the final exam comprising the other half), I ensure each student talks at least once per day. One way I ensure this is by opening class with a warm up that isn’t necessarily related to the lesson. Sometimes it might be, (“What social issue is most important to you?”) but sometimes the questions are just fun (“If you could have lunch with anybody, fictional/nonfictional, alive/dead, who would it be and why?”). At first I thought this was a bit juvenile, but my students responded very positively to it, and it was a way to ensure one participation point for each person. After the warm up, I would lead into the day’s topic with a satirical cartoon or a photograph, which I would have my students interpret. Then I would invite a group of students to the front of the room to present the text that the rest of the class had read for homework, and they would lead a discussion (students signed up for these presentations on the second day of class, after I modeled one myself and explained the expectations). I would then do another activity, such as a video analysis, or writing or reading comprehension exercise, then assign homework, and class would be over. Like I said, every university operates differently, but this is what worked for me and my students. Outside of class time, of course you must prepare your lessons.

Side note: some people have asked what it is like to teach students not far from my own age (I’m 27 and my students have ranged from 17-40). Personally, I’ve had no issues with it! Assert your presence as an authority figure on the first day of class so they know you’re serious, but most students are very respectful. I have been quite smiley and warm with them, and nobody has taken advantage. When they speak to you in French (I allowed it after class if they had individual questions or needed clarification) they’ll likely speak to you with the polite “vous” form, which is kind of funny. I used the same verb form with them to show mutual respect, and I think it went a long way.

What are the differences between Maître de Langue and Lecteur?

There are a few differences between these two jobs. Firstly, you need a master’s degree to be a MdL. You do not need one to be a lecteur. Also, the number and type of classes differ. MdLs teach 192 hours of TD (Travaux Dirigés) and Lecteurs typically teach 300 hours of TP (Travaux Pratiques) or 200 hours of TD. To be honest, I still don’t know how TD and TP really differ. It seems like my Lecteur/Lectrice friends and I have similar responsibilities. The last big difference is the pay. MdLs make about €1560 (net) each month while lecteurs make around €1200. I couldn’t answer why MdLs work less but make more. My best response is “because France.” Both salaries are much more livable than the Assitant(e) de langue one, so this can be an excellent way to stay in France. Concerning both of these jobs, you should know that the contract is for one year (September through August- pay during the summer! Yay!), and is renewable one time.

How did I apply for/get the job?

I knew I wanted to live in France, which is why I ultimately applied for TAPIF. Before I was even accepted, I fantasized about my potential future life abroad, and skimmed blog after blog. I came across one called As Told by Dana (absolutely check it out! It is extremely helpful), and as I continued reading, I saw that Dana was a Lectrice. I learned a bit more about the position, then filed the idea away to act upon it a few months down the line. Here it the timeline I followed (and would recommend):

October-January: Live your life. Don’t worry too much about it. However, consider checking out previous job postings, or better yet, the postings from 2 years ago (as they are the ones most likely to be hiring again, due to the fixed 2 year term of this contract). This blog posts positions each year, or you can also check on the SAES website here.

January: Make sure your CV and Cover letter (“lettre de motivation”) are looking spiffy, and are written in French. Despite the fact that you’ll be working in English, it is likely that French speakers in HR will be reviewing your application.

February-April: Jobs will start cropping up around this time. Apply!!! You can reference the 2 links I’ve provided, but you can also apply spontaneously. Scope out the English department head of the schools you’re interested in, and send them a polite email with your application. I got a few offers this way. Side note: be sure to address the cover letter to a real person if you’re able to find a name.

Now you’ll wait. Some schools won’t reply at all, some will send an email with a rejection notice, and some will be lucky enough to meet you :).

April-June: Interview! If you’re shortlisted, you will very likely be invited to interview in person. I’ve heard that some universities will actually hire directly off of your CV, but as these jobs become more competitive, this is less and less common. For the interview, you should research some typical teacher interview questions, make sure you know about the specific school, and be be prepared to answer in both French and English. There is no harm in asking the school which language you should expect to speak, but most schools will hold interviews in both languages. They will want to gauge your French level, but will ask you the more substantial questions in English.

What do you do after 2 years?

That’s up to you! Sadly, you can’t spend 2 years at one university as a MdL and then another 2 years at another as a Lecteur. Some schools find ways around this, but it isn’t typically the case. One option you have is to work as a contractual teacher at a university (or secondary/primary school). The contractual position pay varies (for example, I’ll be making less next year on this contract as I did as a MdL) and you’ll work more hours (384 hours of TD is standard), but this is one way to keep teaching in France. The plus is that you’ll be on an official French teacher’s contract, which is pretty cool. I also need to tell myself that to psych myself up a bit for the year to come ;P.

Well, there you have it! Do not hesitate to comment with any questions. I’ll reply to you directly, and you’ll also help me to update this post with as much helpful information as possible. Follow me if you’d like to stay up to date on my shenanigans and expat life!

19 thoughts on “Working as a “Maître de Langue”

  1. Nice to hear of your experience as a maître de langue! I would add and say that the salary difference between maître and lecteur is due to the Master’s degree, as France is very much obsessed with merit and credentials. Otherwise, from what you explained, the job of both positions are pretty much identical. It’s great you’re continuing to teach, even if you’re maître contract is up; alas, I’ll be wrapping up my time as a lectrice, but I can say that it has been a great opportunity to live in France. Looking forward to what’s to come for you!

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  2. Wow!
    This is really awesome and enlightening, thanks Emily for sharing.
    I am currently a language assistant too through Tapif. And I’d really love to stay here for a couple of years too
    But I ain’t got masters yet, do have any tips for me as to how I can go about Applying for Masters or working or both. Can one also get the MDL position with just degree!
    Thanks in advance🤗

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    1. Hey! Thanks for reading :). You don’t need a Masters for a lectrice job, so that could be a good option for you. For the MDL position, the Masters is non-negotiable.

      I don’t have tips on applying for Masters here in France, but I know several people who have done it. There’s a Facebook page called “Assistants Considering Masters in France.” If you join that, you should get some answers. Good luck!

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  3. Thank you so much for this, Emily! It really is an informative read, especially for someone (like me), who wants to stay in France for as long as possible after the assistant programme finishes.

    Just a couple of doubts though: most of the information here, as well as on the official French websites, seems a bit America-centric, which raises the question of whether other nationalities can apply for this position as well. Also, does the Master’s degree have to be from a French university only? (I ask because I already have a Master’s degree)

    Once again, thanks for all the information and I hope your stay in Strasbourg is fruitful despite the current situation!

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    1. Hi Emiliano!

      Yes, other nationalities can apply for this position. I even have a Polish colleague and a Russian one (some schools require only native speakers, but the law fac accepts C2). In case others come across your comment and my reply, I should also add that these jobs are not even just limited to English. Some schools look for Lecteurs and Maitres de Langue in other languages, too. English seems to be the most prevalent, but I’ve seen posts for Chinese, Spanish, German, and Italian speakers as well.

      The Master’s degree does not have to be from a French university. I did mine in the US. Mine happened to be in teaching, but I have friends and colleagues who did theirs in unrelated fields. There’s a lot of flexibility with this. It’s valid as long as you can equate it to the French “Bac+5.”

      Thanks for your comments and questions :).

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  4. Hi Emily!
    It’s such a pleasure to read you. It has been extremely helpful and also calming. I was wondering if you knew any other link for job offers regarding other languages.
    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Martina! I’m so glad to hear that you found it helpful and calming :). I’m not sure if there are any compiled lists for other languages, but if you search for “Maitre de langue” or “lecteur” + your language, you will find posts! I’m not sure what language you’re looking for, but I recently helped someone search for Spanish offers from past years. A quick search for “maitre de langue espagnol” yielded lots of results!

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      1. Hi Emily!
        Thank you for your answer. I’m looking for Spanish offers as well! I don’t have a master’s degree so I can’t apply for a MdL but am interested in lectrice’s offers. I will definitely check your suggestion. Any other information you could have would be super helpful!
        Best wishes

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  5. Hey! There should be plenty of schools looking for Spanish lectrices. I just checked on Google and found schools in some great cities (Bordeaux, Tours, and Lyon) for 2020-21. Schools don’t usually post their applications online this early in the year, but maybe once a week or so, do a quick Google search for “Lecteur d’espagnol en France” to see if any schools start posting for 2021-22. You can also do a search for “Lecteur d’espagnol 2019-2020,” as those are the ones most likely to be hiring again this year (since most people stay in this job for 2 years). You could send spontaneous applications to those schools. Your email could say something like, “I noticed that you were hiring 2 years ago, and I am wondering if these posts will be open again this year.” Then express your interest and include your CV and lettre de motivation.

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    1. Hi Emily!
      Your recommendations are extremely helpful. I’ll definitely check this out. Thank you so much for your assistance.
      Best wishes,
      Martina

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    2. Hi Emil, thx for this informative detailed post. I am just wondering if you have any idea about salaries for PhDs plus TESOL Cert ( I am a non-native) in France as well as the weekly load. thx in advance!

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      1. Hi there, I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment! There are more options open to you with a PhD. Check the “Galaxie” system for offers there. The pay is better, and I think the work load is still pretty manageable. If you are referring to salaries for lecteur/lectrice positions, they are set regardless of your education level.

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  6. Hi Emily,

    Great write up here.

    I’m currently a lecteur in my second year and looking at options for next year. Could you provide some more information about what kind of contract you got after you finished your 2 years as an MDL? What type of contract is it? How did you find the job? Thanks!

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    1. Hi! Thanks :). It was a CDD at the same university, with a full-time contract. I didn’t have to search for it because I knew from my previous years as a Maitre de langue there that they hire a contractuel each year, so when the time came I asked about it and applied. The school I worked at prefers to offer the contractuel position to somebody who has experience there, so it was an easy transition. Some schools post these job opportunities, though! I know I’ve seen a few in the past (and even this year – Bordeaux Montaigne was hiring a handful of contractuels in their English department).

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