Whilst on my year abroad in Paris, I’ve been working part time for a company called Babylangues. Babylangues employ native English speakers to teach English to French children. Today I’ve had my last session with five year old Benjamin, who I’ve been working with for eight months. In that time not only has his English improved, but his confidence and inclination to speak it have increased massively. This has been a rewarding and challenging job, and I hope I can encourage you to consider applying working for the company if you’re in France.
Why did you decide to work for Babylangues?
I decided to apply for a job with Babylangues because I’ve always been interested in teaching and the job was an opportunity to try teaching English as a foreign language in a more relaxed environment. Babylangues as a company appealed to me because you’re not an English speaking babysitter, you’re an English instructor and your job is to teach. Additionally, Paris is an expensive city to live in and I needed the extra income!
What does the job involve?
Your role is primarily an English instructor, but there is also a lot of childcare involved. You’ll be matched with a family with (usually) one or two children. You communicate with your children only in your native language and try your best not to let on that you can understand any French. In a typical session for me, I would pick up five year old Benjamin from school, take him to the park to have his snack and play outside, then head back to his apartment to do a craft, play games or read a picture book. Each week Babylangues email teaching assignments with suggested activities for your sessions so you’re never left to plan, but you still have independence and flexibility to do whatever suits your child best.
What are Babylangues like as employers?
- Babylangues have been incredibly supportive, from advising on problems I’ve had with my child to answering questions about the CAF in France. I’ve had several behaviour issues with the children I’ve worked with and when I turned to Babylangues for help they quickly stepped in. They always lend a supportive ear if you’re not sure of how you should handle a situation, and I found that empathy reassuring.
- You can be flexible with your hours. I worked two afternoons a week with one family, which fit perfectly with my university timetable. Other friends worked more often, and some worked with more than one family. There are always more hours available if you want them, but if you can only manage five then that’s okay too!
- They provide training before you start with the family. You’re also given workbooks and a colouring book, as well as a CD and a vocabulary book. Each week you’re emailed teaching assignments using these resources. You still of course need to do some planning of your own and some adapting, but you’re not totally on your own.
What can I gain from it?
- Work experience in teaching English as a foreign language and an insight into second language acquisition. My degree is in French and Linguistics so for me this was fascinating, but I don’t think you need to be as keen as me to appreciate how cool it is to be helping a small child learn a foreign language.
- I met some of my best friends in Paris through Babylangues. There are plenty of opportunities to socialise with other instructors, at the initial training event and at regular socials.
- The pay is 10.45 an hour, which certainly helps me afford a Parisian student lifestyle!
- It’s provided an insight into French family life. As a student I wouldn’t have had this otherwise, and I’ve found this incredibly entertaining at times!
- Chances are your child will speak very little English, so by listening to their chatter you’ll improve your French and learn all sorts of vocabulary! Chatting to babysitters and parents of other children in the park has given me an opportunity to practise my spoken French too.
What were your best moments?
- Yesterday Benjamin said ‘Look, a spider!’ and I was so so proud. A whole sentence, totally spontaneously, in English. I have been useful!
- Once we made an obstacle course for Benjamin’s fat cat, Plumo, who is on a strict diet to lose a kilo. This was so much fun and I sincerely regret not taking any photos! You can probably guess this wasn’t a teaching assignment, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any language learning!
What were your worst moments?
- The first child I worked with bit me, spat at me and told me I wasn’t a princess! Pretty harsh words for a four year old. Babylangues were very supportive throughout those few weeks!
What advice would you give to other Babylangues instructors?
- If an activity isn’t working, accept it and move on. There’s no point in struggling with a tired toddler and you can always try it again next time. Benjamin physically shied away from the Babylangues books and we had some real struggles before accepting that he just really hates colouring!
- Tell Babylangues if there’s a problem. I’ve had issues with biting, pooping in the park and miscommunication with the parents and every time Babylangues have helped me out. Problems are bound to arise and they understand!
- Music can be very calming– with the first family I worked with (8 year old boy and 4 year old girl) I downloaded the Frozen soundtrack and this proved to be somewhat soothing during tantrum time! Benjamin loves Daft Punk and if he’s getting too boisterous a quick dance means he settles down again in no time!
- If you’ve got very little planned, my suggested activities would be ‘I spy’ (I spy with my little eye something (colour/shape/size/etc), hide and seek (with hiding a teddy/object if you’re very tall in a small room like me!), board games (helps if they already know how to play) or any building activities they have.
- Benjamin is a hundred times more cooperative when he’s outside. I don’t know if it’s the extra space, or the fact it’s not his space, but whatever it is it makes for much less stressful sessions. Find what environment works for your child and utilise it!
- Repeat all the vocabulary as often as you can. Every day we have the same conversation about the weather, we count the trees, we look for red cars or blue cars or black cars, we say the same rhyme at the traffic lights. The more familiar they are with the vocabulary the more inclined they’ll be to use it spontaneously too!
I hope that you’re now thinking ‘Wow, I want to apply too!’ So if you’re in France or will be soon you can have a look at the Babylangues website for more information. If you have any further questions or queries I can help with, feel free to get in touch. I’ve been posting updates here on my blog throughout the year so there’s plenty to look at if you’d like to read more!
I really do recommend working for Babylangues, especially as a student in France. If you’re lucky enough to do so I wish you the best of luck! And try not to stress too much- at the end of the day you want it to be fun for the child. I’ve always set out with a goal of encouraging language learning and making it as fun as possible for all involved!