North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain
88% Rating
(12 Reviews)

North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain

The program is an academic “continuing education” grant provided by the Ministry of Education of Spain. The program sends over 2000 American and Canadian participants to Spain each year to serve as teaching assistants, sharing their native knowledge of the English or French language and North American culture in Spanish public K-12 schools. The program, though fairly young, has been gaining popularity quickly with more and more demand each year for such a unique experience!

The grants will be given on a first-come, first-served basis so we recommend everyone interested to apply early.

Locations
Europe » Spain » Seville
Europe » Spain » Madrid
Europe » Spain » Granada
Europe » Spain » Cadiz
Europe » Spain » Barcelona
Europe » Spain
Length
1 Year+
Salary / Benefits
Minimum 700 Euros
Currency
USD

Program Reviews

  • Benefits
    86%
  • Support
    68%
  • Fun
    90%
  • Facilities
    93%
  • Safety
    98%

Program Reviews (12)

Default avatar
Kelsey
Female
25 years old
CA
University of California- Riverside

Amazing Opportunity

10/10

Like many who studied abroad in Spain and fell in love with the country, I applied for this program as a way of coming back to Spain. I (like many) was hoping to return to where I studied abroad, Madrid, but due to the high volume of applications was placed in Palencia (yes with a P), Spain. It was honestly the best thing that could have happened. I was placed at I.E.S. Alonso Berruguete and was lucky with how prepared and enthusiastic the English department staff was. The head of the English department reached out soon after I received my letter as well as a few other staff members (including the P.E. teacher!) who all made me feel welcomed. I was a little nervous about being placed in a smaller city that I couldn't find much information about but I LOVED my experience. The teachers were very well-organized, communicative, and friendly.

HOWEVER, I would say this experience isn't for everyone.

This is not just paid vacation for a year, it is a job and one that should be taken seriously and does require prep-work. You are not required to be a master teacher nor know every grammar rule to a T however, expect to plan activities, answer general questions about the English language, and help manage classrooms. You should be comfortable with public speaking and be comfortable with the fact that some students may not be interested in what you have to say (at least at first). They don't train you for this job (see how program can be improved below) so you should prepare yourself by reading classroom management strategies, collecting personal stories you can share with students, and speaking with other program assistants.

Also, a general knowledge of Spain and Spanish is very helpful, especially if you aren't placed in a touristy city. Although it is not "required" for the job, it will help you make the most of your experience and make things like getting your residency card, opening a bank account, and daily life way easier and enrich your experience. They also don't mention this (to my knowledge), but the orientation was conducted in Spanish.

Your experience can really depend on which region/school your are placed in. I've heard of some people being paid late or having horrible experiences with their departments but I never had any problems with mine. The stipend of 700 euros per month was enough to cover living costs but I supplemented travel and spending time with friends with private classes. With careful budgeting I was able to travel, have a great time, and still have savings at the end of the year. Like other people have said however, definitely have enough money saved up to get you through the first few months just in case. I was lucky enough to find private lessons and my region paid on time but I heard other regions are less punctual with payment.

The hours were great, I worked about 12 hours a week and that left plenty of time to find private lessons to supplement, travel, and meet up with friends. I would say the work/life balance is probably the best I'll ever get!

Some of the benefits of living in a smaller city were the commute (took me 5 minutes to walk to school!), the low cost of living (my studio apartment was 250 euros a month + utilities but you could definitely find way cheaper), and a very tight-knit community. There was plenty to do and I was able to get very immersed in the local community culture.

Definitely keep an open mind if you apply for this program and ask questions in the auxiliar Facebook groups. Many language assistants have great information and even if official information is difficult to find sometimes, you can get all the support you need in these groups.

Overall, would definitely recommend to those willing to have a great experience, are open-minded, and are hard-working.

How can this program be improved?

-More pre-departure guidelines and training
-Maybe a website with resources

Default avatar
Pablo
Male
32 years old
Tucson, AZ
University of Arizona

Highly Recommend

10/10

I was an auxiliary in Spain for 2 years. Not only do you only work 12 hours a week, but you have plenty of time to travel and see Europe because of the work schedule. I was also able to find additional work in English academies private tutoring students. The pay isn't great but there's always money to be made elsewhere. I definitely made lifelong friends while there. Three other of my roommates we're from Ireland and England and until this day I still communicate with them, they were also there teaching English like I was.

How can this program be improved?

I would have to say it could improve by having people I hope you get settled in, for example, housing, getting all of the legal paperwork completed.

Default avatar
Not
Female
24 years old
Miami, Florida
University of Maryland

Great experience for the open-minded

10/10

I was an auxiliar de conversacion for 2 years in Extremadura. I absolutely loved the experience but it had very little to do with the work I was doing. The "English" teachers were terrible and completely unmotivated. Students passed because teachers didn't want to deal with the trouble of failing them. There was of course some very bright students that even asked for extra work. However, if you want to be a teacher then this program probably isn't for you. This program is for somebody who is looking for an easygoing job that will allow them to live in Spain and experience the culture. You usually only work from 12-16 hours per week so you have plenty of time for hobbies and travel. Your experience depends a bit on luck. I got placed at a great school with great people that were easygoing and happy with me aslong as I did my job. I know other people that had terrible teachers that made them do work that was out of their scope. All in all, I strongly recommend this program as a gap year between graduating college and getting a real adult job. I traveled all over Europe and met some amazing people!

How can this program be improved?

More guidance and guidelines. There should be a standard for both the school and auxiliares. We were never given any instruction on how to teach. It was very much a figure it out on your own method. Their are really no guidelines so a lot of the times assistants are taken advantage of. I was required to teach art classes by myself when I'm terrible at art. I ended up teaching advertising and photography because it's the best I could do. I even had to give an exam where all the students cheated and there was nothing I could do because I technically wasn't a real teacher.

Default avatar
Nora
Female
24 years old
Newton, MA
George Washington University

Best Year of Your Life!

8/10

The program allows Americans and other native English speakers to gain teaching experience, while also giving them the means to see Europe. Because the contract consists of only 12 hours of teaching of week, teachers have plenty of time to prepare lessons and travel through Europe.

How can this program be improved?

Teachers need more support from the program.

Default avatar
Formerly
Male
32 years old
Virginia
American University of Paris

Unsupportive, Backstabbing Environment

4/10

The coordinator at my school was a workplace bully who criticized me for such things as eating too much cheese and disrespecting a co-teacher, who I in fact genuinely respected. The headmaster and director of studies of this ‘bilingual school’ did not speak much English, nor took any interest in learning.

The program involves a great theory to co-teach – native English assistants with supportive regular staff – but the reality is you can be regarded as lowly and unnecessary.

Tensions are high in a country in recession.

The program offers no type of airfare or housing consideration, which is unnerving after you make a commitment with them. I owed 2/3 of my salary for rent and security deposit before I even earned it. I was offered housing in a room, owned by the DOS’ family, only to be unfairly evicted a few months later.

I remember typing a worksheet up for a class in the school’s central office, only to be told to go away somewhere else by the headmaster. He would always be there to criticize and lecture, but never to encourage and inspire.

Some people had better experiences than me and renewed. The stipend does not go far. Beware. I became proficient in the Spanish translation for 'insufficient funds' at my Banco Santander ATM.

There were fun nights out in Madrid, moments teaching in the classroom, and developing friendships with an international crowd, but overall this prestigious 'Ministry of Education' scholarship was not a positive experience.

Default avatar
joellange
Male
42 years old
Tempe, Arizona

Advice from an expert

9/10

My experience as am English language assistant has been great. I teach 12-hours a week at an Elementary School in Toledo, Spain. My coordinator at the school went out of his way to make sure my schedule allowed time for me to be able to pick up my daughter from school. I am always paid on time, even early at times. The students at my school are for the most part well-behaved, although overall behavior levels here are worse than in the USA.

I think my experinece has been a fairly common one, although I do know of people, like my wife, who have had less pleasant experiences at their schools. Issues I have heard about from other particpants range from problems with payments to rude and unhelpful coordinators to unrealistic expectations from the school.

My advice to anyone considering the program is that an intermediate level of Spanish is the minimum you need or else it will be quite difficult (perhaps manageable for the very determined). You need to bring at least $2000 with you for 1-2 months rent plus deposit, cell phone, internet and living money as you won't be paid until November 1st at the earliest. Unless you bring more than $2000 you will probably have to give private English classes (under the table) in order to have travel and spending money. This is a common way for participants to supplement their incomes because 700 euro doesn't go far. It is easy to find students by putting up signs at local universities, language schools and the school you teach at. Also there are websites to advertise on for free like tusclasesparticulares.com.

Lastly, take advantage that you are in Europe and travel! Ask your coordinator to set your schedule to doing your 12-hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so you have 4 day weekends in which to travel. Check out the following discount airlines to travel cheaply; Ryan Air, Vueling and Easy Jet.

Default avatar
kellidoscope
Female
42 years old
Toledo, Spain

The experience of a lifetime

8/10

I have participated in the North American Language and Cultural Assistants program for the past 2 school years. Overall it has been an opportunity of a lifetime. My Spanish have improved immensely, my 6-year old daughter is now bilingual and I have been able to travel all around Europe.
That being said the program does have its drawbacks. The pay has not been raised since the start of the program 5 years ago and it is not enough to get by on without supplementing your income through other jobs. Also, some of the communities have had problems with paying the auxiliares on time as well as renewing their identity cards. Also, I have noticed the school you are placed in can sometimes make or break the experience.
Bottom line, I am so glad to have done the program, I have no regrets. Now its my last 2 months here in Spain and I am going to miss it dearly.

Default avatar
lepond
Female
32 years old
Segovia, Spain
Bluefield College

A great program, but your experience is 50% luck, 50% your attitude.

9/10

Pros: Teaching in Spain for 8-9 months with health insurance is a pretty good deal! You will likely have a built-in support system from the school and teachers you are working with. You'll also have a good chance to work on your Spanish, as the students often need you to translate for them. You'll be able to save up money while living abroad, making it easy to travel to other places in Europe. You can also scrape together more cash by teaching private lessons.

Cons: The quality of your experience can vary greatly depending on the region you are placed in, as each region in Spain is responsible for payment of its own language assistants. (Some regions, like Castilla y Leon, are better about paying assistants on time; Andalucia and Catalonia notoriously pay their assistants late.) Also, you're obviously going to have a different experience if you are placed in a small village versus a city, like Madrid. It's a bit of a coin toss, considering you are not guaranteed to be placed where you'd like.

Also, the application and visa process can be daunting at times, and often the program organizers simply don't have the answers you'd like them to.

Final word: Overall, a great program. The benefits are obvious, but be aware that there are downsides. I wouldn't recommend this program unless you are very comfortable speaking Spanish (or are participating with someone who is)...or unless you are a seasoned traveler/expatriate. I don't think I would recommend program for a pure anglophone's first time living abroad.

P.S. If all you have is your high school Spanish, take some classes before you go! You'll thank yourself later.

Default avatar
rachelann
Female
32 years old
Salt Lake City, Utah
Williams College

I wish I could do it again...

10/10

I taught at an elementary school 45 minutes outside of Madrid from October-July 1,. I worked 4 days a week, Tues-Friday from 9 am-2 pm and got paid 1,000 euros a month. You get paid more in Madrid because it's more expensive to live there. I absolutely loved teaching those little Spanish kids. I taught english and science (it was really basic science) mostly to 1st grade and 5th grade. Sometimes I would prepare presentations, games, or some kind of fun learning activity, but I mostly taught things from the workbook. It was really simple and so rewarding.

My spanish is also terrible, but I got by with help from other assistants and some of the teachers who spoke english really well. I lived with my husband who was getting a Masters, but I think that if I had Spanish roommates I would have learned even more.
Don't compare yourself to the other assistants who know better Spanish...just have fun and keep practicing!

It can be really scary and stressful getting a bus pass, finding an apartment (use idealista.com) and opening up a bank account without knowing very much Spanish, but it's a good experience for you and it would always end up working out. I would suggest when you are doing anything that has to do with visas, to bring extra copies and a color copy of important documents. My black and white copy of my passport and marriage certificate weren't good enough. BUT, don't worry near all of the chinos (convenience stores) there are little internet cafes to make copies.

OH I loved Madrid, but If I could do it again I would go to Basque Country (Bilbao, San Sebastian), Granada, or Barcelona. I like to be closer to the coast and I love those places, especially Granada and San Sebastian. I wish I could go back so much. My heart aches, I miss it so much. It was a really great program and I think you should do it.

Default avatar
Euskadi
Female
32 years old
Álava, Spain
University of Washington

Came back for a second year in the Basque Country

9/10

I participated in the North America Language and Culture Assistants in Spain program for eight months during the 2009-2010 school year. I taught classes at a secondary school (ages 12-18) in the province of Álava in el País Vasco and lived in Bilbao.

Prior to arriving, I didn't really have a clear idea of what I would be doing on a day-to-day basis at my school. According to the program manual, Language Assistants help out in English classes, focusing specifically on speaking and listening. I assumed I would be helping with activities planned by the teachers and that I would not be left alone to lead classes. But I was wrong. I was the first Language Assistant my school had ever had and they decided to give me an hour per week with each of the groups, teaching alone. The teachers asked me to do certain activities from the textbooks and then to create supplemental activities like games and listening to songs to review grammar and vocabulary.

While challenging at first, I quickly figured out how to plan and carry out a class. There were definitely some tough groups, but overall I had a great experience. The teachers in the language department supported me in my role as a Language Assistant and also in my life outside my school.

My job only required 12 hours of teaching a week and I spent between two and five hours planning lessons, so there was a lot of free time left for other activities. For me that consisted mainly of going on long walks around Bilbao, hiking in the beautiful mountains on the weekends, reading, cooking, and watching lots of Spanish television (you know, to keep improving my Spanish). Other auxiliares in Bilbao found fun things to do like clubbing, going to concerts, and doing language exchanges in pubs.

Language-wise, I entered the program with a degree in Spanish and linguistics and a year of study abroad in Spain. It was great to put my studies to use on a daily basis. I have heard of people who have very limited or even no Spanish language skills applying for the program. One of the application requirements is an intermediate level of Spanish, but they don't really have a way to check that since the application is online and doesn't involve an interview. Be aware that there is no hand holding in this program. Once in Spain, participants must apply for a residency card, open a bank account, find a place to live, etc. on their own and in Spanish, so having at least an intermediate level helps immensely to get settled and then to just get around every day.

I enjoyed my time in el País Vasco so much that I decided to apply to come back for a second year. I am currently at the same school I was at before for the 2011-2012 school year and planning to renew my position for the following year. This time I'm living in the town where the school is located and I love it. I'm working on learning more about Basque history and culture, attending a Basque language class, and taking advantage of having the public library right behind my apartment building.

Without hesitation, I would recommend this program to anyone with a decent level of Spanish who wants to continue to improve their language skills, learn more about Spanish culture, experience living in another country, and/or gain teaching experience.

Default avatar
dekacarnegie
Male
24 years old
Ann Arbor MI
University of Michigan

This program defined me

10/10

A few great things about this program were

1) My work schedule was no more than 12 hours a week. This gave me a huge amount of time to see the sights, travel and learn Spanish. I taught myself guitar and many friends took college classes on the side.

2) The work itself is not hard. I was placed in a school of 300 students, age 12-16 and a few 17 year olds an one 18 year old. The hardest part of my job was calming the students down when they got to work with me as they were so excited and willing to speak English. I knew most by name and often went to recess with them to play soccer.

3) The teaching staff was helpful and friendly. Make sure to make a good start with them as they will be your co-workers for six months.

4) The stipend they gave me was 700 euros a month. While this is not a huge amount, it is more than enough to live off of. I shared an apartment for 290 and after eating expenses and travel, I left the country with a hefty sum saved up. Instead of paying to travel and live abroad, I was paid to do it. Amazing.

Things to watch out for

1) Make sure to bring enough money to live off of for a month. The first check doesn't come until the end of the first month, so you'll have to have plenty for an apartment (deposit and first month's rent) and extra for whatever might happen.

2) Look at the apartments in person before you make anything permanent. I had a place set up that looked great and was on the same square where Picasso lived and found out it was packed with people and a total dive. Stayed in a hostal for two weeks, made great friends there, and found a nice place.

3) Make sure you find a place that allows you to live a little. I had a few friends who got places in the outskirts of the city near their schools. While they could wake up an hour later for work, they could never come out at night or stay in the city to site see because the bus to their town stopped running at night and they didn't have a car.

4) I got in the program late and so a lot of my forms were not ready when I got there. Once in the country, it took me about a month to get my visa sorted out and a photo ID set up. While it wasn't a problem at all and everything was sorted out, make sure you take care of yourself when it comes to forms and identification. It is your responsibility.

5) Get Spanish speaking roommates!! You won't be learning Spanish at work, your job is to teach English. If you get someone who speaks English as a roommate, it will be English at home and work. You also want to be able to go out a night with natives of the city to see the right places and listen to Spanish outside a classroom or workplace. It's harder to meet these people and find these places if you have a roommate from Canada, Australia, the British Isles, or the States.

A final note, I made many very good friends from around the world and keep in touch with many of them. I left with a totally different world view and a profound feeling of joy at having been able to participate. I fell in love with Spain and I will be going back.

Default avatar
MollyC
Female
32 years old
New Orleans, LA
University of California- Berkeley

Perfect for the Lone Dove

8/10

This is the ideal situation for someone who is looking for independence in a foreign country. There is zero communication nor help if you have questions. They essentially assign you a school, give you a contact name and hopefully an email or phone number that works, and a day to show up. How you get there, when you get there and where you live are all issues you have to figure out yourself. This is not for the faint of heart. But if you are looking for an adventure and the opportunity to be totally immersed, you have found what you are looking for. There are no fees you have to pay, your "salary" is good and your health insurance is great. If you need support while abroad, this is not for you. If you crave total freedom, this is definitely for you.

About The Provider

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The program provides Spanish students and teachers of English or French an opportunity to broaden and increase their knowledge of the English or French language and North American culture through interaction with native speakers.

The Assistants will also have the opportunity to learn about the

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