What is a Language Assistant?

An Overview of the Language Assistant Program in Spain

Spanish School Building

A Typical Spanish School

Each year Spain opens its borders to thousands of Language Assistants from a variety of different countries. A language assistant, also known by its Spanish title as an Auxiliar de Conversación, is a non-Spanish national who goes to Spain to teach their native language and culture in the Spanish school system.

So,  A Language Assistant Is An English Teacher?

Not exactly. North American language assistants are similar to English teachers, and some really may be, but it is not a requirement to have studied English language, education, or to be certified in TESOl, TEFL, etc. The only requirements to be a North American Auxiliar de Conversación is to be a native English speaker, hold US or Canadian citizenship, and be at least a Junior in college. The official language assistant website does say that candidates should have a good level of Spanish, but this requirement is not enforced and many people arrive with very basic language skills.

 Is This A “Real” Job?

The language assistant job is classified as a grant/scholarship in order to make it easier to send North Americans to Spain. This means that successful candidates will receive a student visa for “postgraduate studies”. They will have to apply for the Spanish residency card (the NIE) after arrival.

 What Does It Pay?

The grant money is paid monthly and ranges between €700 and €1000 depending on one’s placement region. Currently, Madrid is the only community to offer language assistants €1000 per month, but the Auxiliares de Conversación in Madrid also work more hours– 16 instead of the standard 12 in other regions.

What Will They Expect of Me?

Teacher and Blackboard

Anything and everything. The job’s official title is: Cultural Ambassador, North American Language and Culture Assistant. The program’s manual vaguely details that language assistants serve as points of cultural reference and should serve as a support to the classroom teacher. In practice, assistants’ duties range from human dictionary to independent classroom teacher.

 Can I Choose My Placement?

When applying, candidates can specify regions, although not actual cities. Upon placement in a region, language assistants will later be told of their placement city or town and whether they have been put in a primary school, secondary school, or official language academy (quite rare).

 When Can I Apply?

The language assistant application period generally runs from the beginning of November until the end of March, and candidates are notified from late May until late July. If you are thinking of applying make sure you have a passport already; it will at least save you the first of many steps to obtaining your visa.

 Is It True That They Have Canceled the Program?

As of May 2012 various regions have canceled the program for the following year. The regions that have currently canceled the language assistant program for 2012-2013 are:

  • Catalunya
  • Castilla la Mancha
  • Canary Islands
  • Valencia

Overall, being a Language Assistant is one way for a North American to work in Spain. It is not a glamourous job, but it pays enough to get by in most parts of the country and does provide a valuable cultural experience. Apply to be an Auxiliar de Conversación here.

For more about the job description, read: What Does a Language Assistant Do?

Photo Credit: velvettangerine

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