At one point in history, French was one of the most widely spoken languages, comparable to English today. While it doesn't hold the global dominance it once had, French is still one of the most common languages in the world – an official language in 29 different countries.
A romance language, the French language is noted for its beauty and elegance. But for English-speaking students first learning the language, there are barriers and challenges that must be faced before acquiring the skills to speak it fluently.
French language teachers are available to help students navigate the nuances and intricacies of this language. Using their expert language acquisition skills, teachers guide students through the language-learning process, introducing them to the cultures and features of the French language.
But before they're able to introduce their students to the language, potential French teachers must first show they have the knowledge of the language content and culture necessary to teach language learners.
To prove this competency, potential teachers must first go through the teacher certification process, which tests them on content, culture, and language acquisition knowledge.
What is teacher certification?
Many careers require licensure or certification as a guarantee of an individual's commitment to the profession, and teaching is no different. French teacher certification is an assurance that the person holding the certification has sufficient knowledge and skills to teach his or her students.
Without certification, parents and school administrators would have difficulty telling whether or not a potential French teacher is a good fit for the school environment. While the certification process is different for each state, most require a background check on the potential teacher, as well as passing scores on a certification exam.
Teacher certification standards vary depending on the state, but most have similar goals and standards. For more information on your state's certification process, check the teaching certification requirement map.
So in order to meet French language teacher certification standards, what exactly should potential teachers focus on?
French language content
All foreign language teachers must possess a solid understanding of linguistics theory. For potential French teachers, this includes communicative functions of stress and intonation, as well as points and manners of articulation.
Before passing certification, French teachers must demonstrate a knowledge of the standard nomenclature of grammatical analysis, including different nouns, verbs, and determiners. They also understand pronunciation problems and ways of helping students overcome these problems.
Certified French teachers know the various theories behind foreign language teaching, and must show how to apply these theories to teaching and the learning process. For example, during the certification process, potential teachers must identify the theoretical basis for curriculum design, and approaches to meeting the needs of their students. This includes learning objectives, teaching methods, and communication in the classroom.
The certification process tests teachers on the knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of foreign language instructional techniques. For French language teachers, these techniques are designed to help students develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.
To help foster the development of these skills, potential French teachers must learn how different class exercises spur students to improve their language skills. For example, teachers often use certain in-class games like Bingo to help students build vocabulary in a fun and constructive way.
Teachers also engage in class exercises like repetition and dictation to help their students acquire complex comprehension and writing skills.
To pass certification, potential French teachers must demonstrate a complete language proficiency by communicating in the language with native speakers who are unaccustomed to interacting with non-native speakers. By speaking with accuracy, clarity, and precision, potential teachers show they have the ability to convey their intended messages.
Certified French teachers are able to communicate in an interpersonal way on a variety of topics, from home and school, to hobbies and current events. They communicate this both by speaking, as well as by writing in fluent, concise, and clear sentences.
During certification exams, potential teachers are tested on their language comprehension by deciphering audio recordings of native French speakers. To meet these standards, potential teachers must understand the gist of normal conversational French, including the rules of the sound systems and grammar devices.
French teachers must understand idiomatic expressions and the rules that govern the formation of sentences like subject/verb agreement, word order, interrogatives, adjectives, and adverbs. They are also able to point out the differences and similarities between French and English to help facilitate language learning.
In addition to their knowledge of French language learning strategies, French teachers are also experts on French culture.
To pass certification, potential teachers should understand what daily life is like in French-speaking cultures, and how modern events, traditions, history, literature, and other cultural features make up a country. They must also demonstrate an understanding of the attitudes, values, rites of passage, and ideas of a country's people.
With a solid grasp of these concepts, potential French teachers are prepared to face the rigorous standards set by certification.
Earning French teacher certification
French language teachers have the important role of developing life-long language acquisition skills in their students, but first must obtain certification. If you're interested in a career as a French teacher and want to learn more about the certification process, see the teaching certification requirement map.
What makes foreign language teaching distinct?
Compared to other subjects, foreign language instruction has unique and distinguishing characteristics.
While all teachers must display knowledge and command of their subjects, foreign language teachers must not only obtain this knowledge, but teach it in a way that sustains interest and motivation among students who might find the subject overwhelming.
According to “The Distinctive Characteristics of Foreign Language Teachers,” published in Language Teaching Research, there are a number of factors that distinguish foreign language teachers from teachers of traditional school subjects.
The article, written by Simon Borg, notes that just the nature of the subject matter itself sets foreign language teaching apart. Borg says that foreign language teaching is the only school subject that requires teachers to use a medium not understood by the students.
Foreign language instruction also requires interaction patterns that other subjects do not require. For example, foreign language teaching often involves group work and interpersonal interaction between students that isn't as necessary in other subjects.
Borg also writes that foreign language teachers have a harder time increasing their current knowledge of a language, simply because language teaching is different from other teaching.
Because language teachers teach communication, not facts, teachers can only truly increase their knowledge through foreign language communication. For some teachers, this might include spending their vacations in foreign countries, immersing themselves in culture and native language.
Foreign language teachers must also encourage extracurricular learning more than other teachers. For example, a foreign language teacher might help to start a club that focuses on the culture and language acquisition of a target language.