How to make money with your French language skills
There are countless reasons to learn French. It's one of the best ways to connect with new people, to enjoy French language media and entertainment, and to discover a new perspective on the world. But did you know that French is also one of the best languages for making money?
It’s no secret that bilingual people earn more on average than people who can only speak one language. And of all the languages you can choose to improve your financial prospects, French is, in our opinion, the very best (no bias, of course!). It’s an official language in NATO, the EU, the UN and nearly 30 countries worldwide. The international standing of French, as a language of business and diplomacy, along with the sheer number of French speakers across five continents (around 300 million people!), means that companies, institutions and individuals all over the world are in need of people with French language skills — and are often willing to pay good money for them.
Whether you’re better at speaking or writing, whether you prefer engaging with native speakers or sitting behind an office desk, French is so versatile that there are innumerable ways to put your French skills to use to earn money, and even make a career out of it. And as long as you're able to demonstrate the extent of your skills, for many of these positions you won't even need a degree in French.
If you feel you still have some way to go before your French is good enough to secure you a new job, check out our tips on the best ways to learn French. But if you're feeling confident, and looking for some inspiration (and some cash), why not consider these options?
Become a tour guide
Did you know that Paris is the most visited tourist destination in the world? Every year 10s of millions of tourists flock to the city of love to enjoy the culture, the sights and the cuisine. With more than ten times as many tourists as the local population, just imagine how many tour guides are required to keep up!
Of course, tour guides who can speak French are not only in demand in Paris, or even just in French-speaking countries. In fact, they’re in demand everywhere! As the fourth most spoken language in the world, French is a must-have for those working in the tourist industry wherever they may be.
Maybe you live in a much visited city? Or near a resort or famous landmark? As long as you have the passion, the required knowledge and — most importantly — the ability to speak French to the point that you can successfully convey your enthusiasm, you’ll make an amazing tour guide.
Giving tours is a job which allows you to communicate in French even if you live in a country where it generally isn’t spoken. Leading groups of interested people around tourist destinations is also great fun — not to mention great exercise. If giving tours sounds like something that would interest you, you can discover a list of global tour guide associations here, but it's also worth checking in with your local tourism centre. Speaking to tour guide employers face to face is one of the best ways to showcase your speaking skills, even if the conversation isn't in French.
Wherever you go in the world, you’re bound to find people who want to learn French. While there are only 80 million native speakers of the language, there are more than 200 million who speak it as a second language.
And there are nearly as many people actively trying to learn it. According to Babbel, 120 million people around the world are trying to learn French. That’s a lot of opportunities to teach French, and the high demand can often lead to a higher rate of pay.
It's worth enquiring in local schools or looking on online jobs boards for positions teaching French. There are also opportunities to work as a freelance French tutor through companies like Lingoci, which will likely give you a bit more flexibility with your schedule. Some positions will require you to have a degree or equivalent qualification, so that may be worth looking into.
You will need to be very fluent to qualify as a French teacher. Of course you’ll need to know the material you’re teaching like the back of your hand, but you’ll also need to be able to answer any questions your students may have about the French language. Simply put, your students won’t be able to reach fluency if their teachers aren’t fluent too!
But if you can do it, our advice is go for it! Teaching is the best way to share what you love about learning French, and to help someone else achieve what you yourself have achieved as a language learner.
English is in even higher demand than French, with over 1.5 billion learners worldwide. If you’re not quite fluent in French, then teaching English to French speakers may be the career path for you, so long as you are able to communicate in French on a basic level to answer your students’ questions and concerns. Some advanced learners may not even want you to speak in anything but the target language at all.
That said, if you’re living in a French speaking area, you’ll at least need some French skills to get by. And as with teaching French, you may need a teaching degree or certificate depending on the company and the exact role.
English is in high demand in French-speaking countries like France, Belgium and Francophone Africa. In France alone there are a huge variety of opportunities for budding English teachers. Teaching English is a great way to connect with learners, improve your language skills generally, and make money while doing so. Even if your French isn’t exactly ship-shape, this might be the job for you!
Become a translator or interpreter
In an increasingly globalised world, the need for translators is more important than ever. Multinational corporations require translators to facilitate communication between branches in different locations, while businesses with global audiences need a way to reach a variety of customers who all speak different languages. And while software like Google translate has helped to bridge the language gap between people across the world, it’s no substitute for real living translators, which is why companies are hiring them left, right and centre.
Added to that is the fact that more literature is being published than ever, from books to instruction manuals, from medical documents to website copy. Whether you want to work freelance or in a 9-5 position, the role of a translator is one that’s always in demand.
Most work you'll come across will involve translating from text to text (either French to English or, if your French is good enough, English to French). But with the increasing dominance of video media across platforms such as TikTok, Netflix and YouTube, as well as the growing awareness of the need for accessible content, subtitling is becoming more and more a field of work in its own right. This is a great way to hone your listening skills — one of the hardest parts of learning any language. Of course you'll need to have an excellent grasp of French in the first place, as well a as a knowledge of the subject manner.
Another type of translating work is interpreting. This involves translating in real time as someone speaks, so that two more or people who speak different languages are able to understand one another. You'll need to have impeccable listening and speaking skills, and often a Masters degree, but as a result it's can be a less competitive profession to get into.
A lot of translating jobs are freelance, so it's a good idea to set up a profile on job boards such as Fiverr or FlexJobs, and even curate a social media account around it. Make sure to include any qualifications you may have (including the CPD-certified Complete French Course).
Become a Proofreader
Most language learners say they find reading to be easier than speaking, writing and listening, but if you want to try out proofreading, you’ll need to make sure that your French orthography is up to scratch. This means being able to spot a spelling error from a mile away, and having a flawless understanding of French grammar (which isn’t always the same as English grammar).
That said, if you think you’ve got the skills, and you enjoy reading, this may be the job for you! As a proofreader you’ll be tasked with combing over documents and texts to make sure they make sense and that they’re readable. There is a great amount of variation within the role, so you could be reading anything from legal documents to transcripts of talks depending on the specific job. Most companies will let you choose, as well as work at your own pace — as long as the job is done on time — so it’s an ideal career path for those who enjoy reading and flexibility in equal amounts. As with translation work, proofreading jobs are often freelance, although there are plenty of editorial jobs for those who enjoy the routine and structure of a 9 to 5 job.
You can see the scope of proofreading work on offer by typing in 'French proofreader' on job boards such as TotalJobs or Indeed.