English Language Assistants

by Red Lionness

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 28th May 2011 and has been read 30667 times.

The British Council Language Assistants programme spans five continents, placing people in 14 countries around the world. Becoming a Language Assistant is an experience that will stay with you for life: as well as improving your language skills and exploring a community, you'll build your sense of independence and gain the satisfaction of firing young imaginations.

Who knows, you may spark a long-term passion for teaching. What's certain is that you'll return with skills and experiences that will make any recruiter sit up and take notice. Are you resilient enough for Latin America? Could you adapt to life in China? How about dealing with the snowy, beautiful winters of Quebec? There are special qualities required by Language Assistants that vary country by country, as well as specific eligibility criteria you will need to meet.

What is it all about?

Being a Language Assistant is a fantastic way to explore another country, experience a culture different to your own, and develop invaluable, transferable skills for the workplace. Lanuguage Assistants have been placed in schools and universities all over the world since 1905. The overwhelming reaction from our assistants on returning home is that the experience has changed their lives forever, complete with memories to last a lifetime. So, whether you are keen to gain some teaching experience or would like to improve your knowledge of another country, the Language Assistant programme has something to offer everyone.

There is no registration fee to apply and no formal Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification is required either.

Where can I go?

We now work with schools across four continents, right through from Europe, Asia to Latin America, so there’s something to suit even the most adventurous amongst you. Each year, there are usually about 2,500 posts available. You could find yourself supporting the teaching of English in a primary school, a secondary school or even a university. It all depends on where you decide to go.

Are there any language requirements?

You do not need a formal language qualification to become a Language Assistant. All you need are language skills equivalent to a B1 on the European Framework. This is equivalent to the first year of A level/Higher. The requirements for Spain are slightly lower at an A2 level on the European Framework.

These skills can be acquired through regular travel, private study or through a course at the University Language Centre. If you are considering applying for China, you do not need any previous language skills at all.

Am I eligible?

1. Native-level English

To become a Language Assistant, you must be a native-level English speaker. We assess your English skills by reviewing your written application, your university reference and your educational background. Sometimes, we might also need to test your English through a phone or face-to-face interview.

2. Secondary Education

You should have completed your secondary education in the UK (aged 12-18 in Scotland, 11-18 in the rest of the UK). However, if you were educated outside of the UK but hold a UK passport, you may still be eligible, subject to a test of your knowledge of UK culture. If you were educated in the Republic of Ireland, you will be eligible if you are currently studying at a UK university and hold a UK or EU passport.

3. University

You must have passed two years of university-level education by the time you start your assistantship. If this was completed outside of the UK, please contact us before applying.

Anything else?

1. Preferences

You must be willing to accept any post offered to you. You will be able to register your preferences, but these cannot be guaranteed.


2. Time

You will need to be available to complete the whole period of appointment for the country to which you apply.


3. Background check

You will need to apply for an International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC)* (more details below). The cost of applying for an ICPC will be approximately £60 and you should not apply for an ICPC until told to do so.

If you have ever been convicted of, or received a caution, reprimand or warning for a sexual or violence related offence, or any offence involving any type of harm (physical, emotional or sexual) to a child or children, your application will not be accepted.


4. TEFL

You do not need a Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification to be able to apply.


5. Consecutive Years

Please note, you can only be an English Language Assistant through the British Council four separate times, regardless of whether the posts were in the same or different countries. Both consecutive and non-consecutive years will be counted. Please note that our partner organisations abroad will have their own eligibility criteria so please check with us before applying if you would be able to stay for a consecutive year in that country.

Articles written by Language Assistants about their experiences

There are so many fantastic insider guides and articles written by Language Assistants on our site. Here are some particularly good ones:

How to survive being a Language Assistant without any teaching experience Thrown in at the deep end: My first day as a Language Assistant

How to prepare for a year abroad as a Language Assistant

A week in the life of a Language Assistant in Germany A week in the life of a Language Assistant in Paris How to survive small town life as a Language Assistant


Visit the British Council Language Assistants website for more information about teaching abroad, and you can also follow them on Facebook. To find out about other British Council Study Work Create Programmes, please visit their site!

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