Teach English in Spain as a Language Assistant
Teaching English in Spain as a language assistant is a popular gap year activity, and a common way for people to get into TEFL. These schemes allow non-EU citizens to teach in Spain legally, paying a monthly salary that is enough to live on and providing an amazing cultural experience. Language Assistant Spain programs such as Auxiliar de Conversacion and MEDDEAS Spain are free, while others like BEDA Spain and Conversaspain charge a fee.
In this post, we summarise the main language assistant schemes in Spain and answer some of your key questions.
What is a Language Assistant in Spain?
Language Assistants in Spain work in classrooms in government and private schools, assisting the Spanish class teacher with English lessons. They help with oral practice of English, teach the culture of their home country and sometimes get involved in other classes like PE using English. The purpose is to improve the language ability of the children in Spanish schools.
When can I teach English in Spain as a language assistant?
Language assistant programs in Spain employ teachers for an academic year, starting in September/October and finishing in around May. There are holidays at Christmas and over Easter, which are generally paid. Language assistants can return for a second year, but there is rarely work over the summer.
During the summer, many English teachers in Spain work on summer camps in Spain, Italy and the UK. You can find out more about these in our post on short term and summer jobs
Can I teach English in Spain as a non-EU citizen?
One of the benefits of language assistant schemes in Spain is that you do not need to hold an EU passport to teach English in Spain on one. Teachers work on student visas, since the program is considered to be part of, or a continuation of your university studies. The program that you join will advise you on the process of getting your student visa.
Find out more about how to teach English in Europe as a non-EU citizen.
Can I be a language assistant in Spain as a ‘non-native’ speaker?
Some language assistant programs in Spain only recruit people holding passports from the so-called ‘native-speaking countries’ of the UK, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, others will employ teachers from other countries where English is a first language. BEDA Spain includes people from Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to teach English in Spain.
For Conversaspain, the only nationality requirement is to be a native-level English speaker – so CEFR C2.
If your first language is French, German, Japanese or Chinese, you can work in Spain as a language assistant teaching this language too. Other languages are popular in Spanish schools.
If you are from the EU, you can teach in language centres, like Fiona does. Read how she started out in her New Teacher Tales blog.
What qualifications do I need to be a language assistant in Spain?
A Bachelor’s Degree
For some language assistant schemes, a Bachelor’s degree is required. This could be four year if you are American, or three year if you are British. BEDA Spain and CIEE Spain require a Bachelor’s degree. However, it is not always needed. For Auxiliares de Conversacion, you need to be enrolled in university or community college but you can take part in the program before you complete it.
MEDDEAS Spain has three programs. For the Advanced and Graduate programs, you need a degree, taken in the last four years, but for the Speakers program there is no degree requirement.
A TEFL certificate
It is rarely necessary to have a TEFL certificate to take part in a language assistant scheme. However, holding one will provide two clear advantages to you. Firstly, it’ll prepare you for the role. A TEFL course will introduce you to techniques and activities for helping students with English. In addition, it will make your application more competitive. A lot of people apply for the schemes and having already have had training will make your application stand out from the crowd.
If you want an idea of what kind of TEFL certificate to take, see our post on different TEFL qualifications.
A Clean Police Check
Since being a language assistant in Spain means working with children, you need a police check from your home country that states you have no record of any crimes of a sexual nature. The program you go through will advise you on how to get this.
Spanish Language Ability
It is no longer necessary to have any Spanish language ability to participate in most language assistant programs, although it will be beneficial for your day to day life to learn some. Many programs provide Spanish language lessons as part of the package.
Where in Spain can I be a language assistant?
There are positions as language assistants all over Spain, including on the Canary Islands. As you would imagine, there are a lot of language assistant jobs in big cities like Madrid. CIEE place teachers solely in Madrid, and BEDA Spain has many openings there. Salaries tend to be higher in Madrid, but then the cost of living is also higher.
How much can I earn on a language assistant scheme
Stipends for working on a language assistant scheme in Spain are more than enough to cover living expenses. The exact money depends on the specific program, the number of hours taught and the requirements. For example, MEDDEAS Spain doesn’t charge a fee and pays 330 Euros a month for the Speakers’ program, where you don’t need a degree. If you have a degree, you are paid 880 Euros. For Auxiliar de Conversacion, for Madrid you are paid 1000 Euros for 16 hours work, but outside, 700 Euros for only 12 hours.
How much does it cost to take part in a language assistant program in Spain?
Not all language assistant programs for Spain are free to participate in. MEDDEAS Spain and Auxiliar de Conversacion do not charge a fee. BEDA Spain charges a small fee of around 100 Euros, while Conversaspain is 1000 Euros and CIEE 2200. This difference is due to the fact that the first are government-run programs, and the others are private, meaning they need to cover their costs.
Some programs give regular training, support with the visa, finding housing, airport pickup, Spanish lessons and ongoing support in-country. For some people who are new to living abroad, this could be very valuable.
Summary of the main Language Assistant Programs in Spain
Auxiliar de Conversacion Program
- Fee: None
- Requirements: US or Canadian Passport and have, or be enrolled on a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree
- Age Requirement: Born after 1959
- Locations: All over Spain
- Hours: Madrid – 16 hours per week, Outside Madrid 12 hours per week
- Salary: 1000 Euros in Madrid, 700 Euros outside
- Application Period: January to April
- Support: Orientation program, ongoing development, medical insurance
British Council Language Assistant Program, Spain
- Fee: None
- Requirements: UK or EU passport (not Spanish). Native-level English speaker and completed two years of a Bachelor’s degree
- Age Requirements: 20-60
- Location: All over Spain
- Hours: 12-16 hours per week
- Salary: 700-1000 Euros per month
- Application Period: November to February
- Support: Induction course
The British Council Language Assistant Program is also in a lot of other countries e.g. Germany, France and China. They also take speakers of other languages to teach those in Spain. See the British Council page for more details.
- Fee: None
- Advanced Program: Education/English degree taken in the last four years + TEFL certificate
- Graduate Program: Any degree taken in the last four years
- Speaker Program: Any degree or enrolment on a degree.
- Age Requirement: None, but the four year/current degree restriction may mean that it’s largely younger applicants.
- Location: All over Spain
- Hours: 20-24 hours a week
- Advanced Program 930 Euros/month
- Graduate Program 880 Euros/month
- Speaker Program 330 Euros/month
- Application Period:
- Support: Health insurance, help with the visa process and opening a bank account, Spanish language classes, ongoing training, and ongoing support.
- Fee: 150 Euros deposit, that is returned
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in any subject, native English speaker
- It is recommended that applicants have a degree in education, classroom experience and a knowledge of Spanish to be successful in being accepted
- Age requirement: None
- Location: Madrid
- Hours: 18-26 hours
- Salary: 1000-1400 Euros
- Application Period: September to January
- Support: health insurance, free lunches, support with visa,
- Fee: 175 Euros for the first year
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in any subject, native-level of English
- Age Requirements: None
- Location: Mainly Madrid, although there are placements outside
- Hours: 18-24 hours per week
- Salary: 900 – 1200 Euros per month
- Application Period: November to January
- Support: health insurance, help with visa, ongoing support
- Fee: $2200
- Native English speaker from USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject
- Age Requirement: None
- Location: Madrid
- Hours: 16 hours per week. Mondays and Friday off
- Salary: 1000 Euros a month
- Application Period: Rolling. CIEE still accept applications into July
- Support: health insurance, visa assistance, four day orientation, airport pick up, nine nights of accomodation on arrival, cultural events, ongoing support
- Why apply for CIEE Spain? – four day weekends to explore Spain, still accept applications in July.
- Fee: Basic: 1050-1275 Euros. Other deals include a TEFL course and Spanish language classes
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in any subject, C2 level English speaker
- Age Requirement: 18-60
- Location: Madrid and Murcia
- Hours: 16 hours per week in Madrid, 15 hours per week in Murcia
- Salary:1000 Euros per month in Madrid, 850 in Murcia
- Application Period: September – July
- Support: assistance with visa, ongoing training, ongoing support
- Why apply for ConversaSpain? You don’t need to be from a ‘native speaking’ country. You can apply in July.
Experiences of Teaching English in Spain as Language Assistants
Lacy works as a language assistant for BEDA Spain
I’m in the middle of my second year teaching in Spain through the BEDA (Bilingual English Development and Assessment) Program. My first year I was living in Madrid (the capital), and now I’m living in A Coruña, in the northern region of Galicia.
BEDA is only one of the many options for teaching English in Spain – there are a ton of programs, including the ministry, UCETAM, and Meddeas! The best things about BEDA are that they help you with your paperwork when you first arrive in Spain and need to figure out how to stay here legally, they always pay on time, and they’re usually quite responsive if you’re having any questions or problems during your time in the program.
A potential con is that BEDA assigns more hours than most other programs. This is great if you’re living outside of the major cities; in Madrid, the pay was average and I took on several private classes to boost my income for traveling.
In contrast, my situation this year is great because A Coruña is much cheaper than Madrid, and I’m getting paid more than enough to live comfortably. Ultimately your school placement ends up having the biggest effect on how your stay in Spain will be.
BEDA mostly places in private and semi-private Catholic schools in Madrid. I was really lucky my first year and got placed in an incredible school in Madrid – I worked 24 hours for 5 days a week, but I loved it! I was able to work with infant, primary, and secondary (ages 3-16) and the variety was really refreshing.
This year my school is nice, and I’m working with the older kids (ages 10-16). I also got lucky enough to be assigned my 24 hours in only 4 days a week, giving me 3 free days.
I couldn’t be happier in A Coruña! The north of Spain tends to be overlooked by everyone who wants to live in Madrid or Barcelona, or the sunny south, but it’s really lovely here. Coming from the north of the USA, the cooler, rainy weather is more familiar for me, and Coruña is situated on the ocean which is even better! It’s a big enough city that there’s always plenty going on, but small enough that it’s not as overwhelming and crowded as Madrid.
You can read more about Lacy in Spain on her blog.
Have you taken part in a language assistant program in Spain? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments, or contact us if you’d like to be included.
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