As a Teaching Assistant abroad are you mainly speaking English?

My son is studying Spanish at uni and is thinking of being a teaching assistant in his third year. But Surely that means he will be teaching and therefore speaking English all day and wouldn't it be better if he just got a menial job with Spanish workers and speakers.

This question was asked on 16th February 2016 and has been read 1438 times.

  • Sam · 4 years ago

    There is no better way to learn a language than by being surrounded by native speakers. As a Language Assistant, language skills improve immeasurably as individuals interact with locals and navigate day-to-day life. Whilst your son will be teaching English, he will have ample opportunity to communicate in Spanish with his colleagues, students and locals. As teaching hours are limited to between 12 and 20 hours a week, being a Language Assistant gives individuals plenty of time to immerse themselves into the language and culture of the host country, whilst also gaining invaluable transferable skills. In that respect, teaching English is just a small aspect of your son's year abroad.

    It's also important to remember that your son could be placed in a rural area or smaller town if he wishes, rather than the big tourist hotspots.

  • Abigail Neal · 4 years ago

    I'm a language assistant in a small town in France this year, and I actually use a lot more French in the classroom than I had expected to. It depends on the level of students your son will be working with, but I work with secondary school and sixth form students (aged 11-19) in quite a deprived area, and with the majority of classes I have to translate most of what I say, and I've learnt a lot more French from my students' questions. And as the above commenter said, most of your language improvement comes from interacting with locals (including chatting in the staffroom) on a daily basis, so I don't think working as a language assistant diminishes your learning very much. Plus, it can be quite a comfort working with teachers who speak excellent English - it's nice to be able to talk to them in English when things are going a bit wrong! Good luck to your son, being a language assistant is an amazing experience and I wouldn't have done anything else.

  • Anonymous Answer · 4 years ago

    During my year abroad, I worked in a rural village school about 90 mins from the centre of Madrid. Admittedly, I did speak English at work a lot as many of the teachers and students wanted to practice outside of the classroom. It was also incredibly helpful to have the English teachers at my school especially in my first weeks, to help when I was confused as to how things work and what was expected of me.  

    All of the organisation, however, such as my salary and my timetable, my commute and travel were all conducted in Spanish and I was only working 16 hours a week, which meant the other hours of the day, I was immersed in Spanish.

    I would 100% recommend living with native speakers if at all possible, whether you are working abroad in foreign language, or teaching English. Whilst I was very apprehensive about moving in with strangers when I had a limited vocabulary and little fluency, I found that my roommates' patience and commitment to socialising and chatting with me meant that my language skills improved exponentially. The best way to learn is over a glass of wine, during shopping trips, or merely getting to know others socially.


    Best of luck - my year was the best year of my life so far, and I wouldn't change it for the world.x

  • Rosemary Maher · 4 years ago

    I spent my year abroad teaching English in a secondary school in France last year. I found that I ended up speaking more French than anticipated with certain classes, just clarifying vocabulary etc., and also tutored English, which again resulted in speaking a fair bit of French! Integrating into the community requires French; I went to the local market, saw a lot of films in French & avoided self-serve machines like the plague just for an excuse to speak to a native speaker!

    As a language assistant you are at a major advantage, as you will be surrounded by French native speakers - it's just up to the individual to make as much use of this as possible! The honest answer is that the language assistant experience is what you make of it - if you really want to speak a lot of Spanish, you'll find a way (either tandems, speaking to colleagues in the staffroom/canteen, speaking to other admin staff who don't speak English, your students, others in the local community etc) but equally it's entirely possible to speak a lot of English and less of the target language. 

If you would like to contribute to this question, please login or register.