Want to move abroad and teach English in the BEST country in Europe? When I first heard about the North American Language and Culture Assistants program, I thought it was too good to be true. But, I’m here to tell you it’s REAL.
This post has everything you need to know to teach English abroad in Spain!
This post was originally published February 17, 2016, and was updated October 19, 2018.
Images & Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette
It’s no secret I fell in love with Spain when I lived there as an au pair in the fall of 2014. I was heartbroken when I wasn’t able to obtain a visa to extend my stay. Before I even left, I knew I had to find a way to get back.
My friend Ellie, who I met during my au pair days, turned me on to the North American Language and Culture Assistants program. The program is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education, and within Spain, it is referred to as Auxiliares de Conversación.
At first, I thought it was too good to be true. A way to live AND work in Spain….LEGEALLY?!
I applied for the program in January 2015 and received my acceptance email in May. The following September, I moved to Madrid and so began the best two years of my life.
If you want to move abroad but don’t have a lot of money (aka you need a job abroad), this program is for you!
What is the best place to teach English abroad?
Spain, Spain, SPAIN!
From affordable cost of living and excellent healthcare to amazing food and incredible travel opportunities, Spain is the best place to teach English abroad.
I mean, come on. We’re talking about the chance to teach English abroad in Europe! You’ll be able to live in a fantastic country on a fascinating continent. Think of all the things you’ll be able to see and do!
The Spanish Ministry of Education established the North American Language and Culture Assistants program to combat Spain’s poor English proficiency, which is one of the lowest in western Europe. Every year the Spain’s government brings in thousands of native English speakers (primarily from the U.S. but from other English speaking countries as well) and places them in schools around the country as language or English teaching assistants in Spain.
What are English teaching assistant jobs in Spain?
Being a language assistant isn’t the same as being a full-fledged teacher. Language assistants work alongside native Spanish teachers in English-language classrooms.
Duties vary from community to community, school to school and classroom to classroom, but overall, a language assistant’s responsibilities are to correct pronunciation, play games, give cultural presentations, etc. Basically, just assist the school’s foreign language program in any way possible.
Some people describe a English teaching assistants as a “walking, talking dictionary.” Honestly, that’s fairly accurate. I like to think of myself as a face for the language the students are learning. I consider myself an ambassador for the English language and American culture.
Where does a language assistant work?
Upon being accepted into the program, language assistants are placed in a participating Spanish community. Spain has 17 autonomous communities, but not all the communities take part in the program. The communities which accept the most auxiliares are Madrid, Galicia and Andalusia. I think there’s something crazy like 1,000 language assistants in Madrid.
Most language assistants work in either a primary school or secondary school. Primary schools cover infant education (starting at three years old) through sixth grade. Secondary schools cover the American-equivalent of seventh through tenth grade.
I work in two primary schools in the Community of Madrid. Between the two, I work with four-year-olds, five-year-olds, first graders, second graders, third graders and sixth graders.
By the way, my situation is a bit of an oddity. It’s rare for a language assistant to be placed in two schools. Most auxiliares have just one school. I’m super lucky, I guess.
Want to know exactly what’s it like to teach English abroad in Spain? Check out THIS POST where I breakdown a typical day teaching English in Spain!
How much money do you make teaching English in Spain?
North American Language and Culture Assistants is one of the paid programs to teach English in Spain.
I work 16 hours per week. That’s eight hours in each school. The school year begins in October and ends in June. As compensation for my time and effort, I receive 1,000 euros a month and health insurance.
In every community other than Madrid, language assistants work 12 hours per week from October through May. Since they’re working fewer hours, those assistants receive 700 euros per month in addition to health insurance. The 1,000 euros per month in Madrid is to accommodate a higher cost of living
The pay is more than livable, and health insurance is swell, but the best part of the whole gig is I have three-day weekends. No Mondays for this girl. I work Tuesday through Friday, which leaves me plenty of time to travel on the weekends or just kick it in Madrid.
What qualifications do you need to be an English teacher abroad?
No experience with children or background in education is necessary to apply for the program. It’s different from a traditional English teaching job because there is always a head teacher in the classroom with you. As long as you’re a native English speaker and have a college degree in SOMETHING, you meet the requirements for teaching English in Spain with this program.
Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to find a job teaching English in Spain without a degree.
That’s my “brief” overview of the program. Sounds pretty sweet, right? I sure thought so, and I haven’t been disappointed.
Finding this program has been the answer to my prayers in the sense that it allows me to legally live in Spain. If you’re looking for a way to live abroad, travel around Europe and learn Spanish, this program is the way (and the truth and the light).
BUT, moving abroad is not for the faint of heart. The Ministry isn’t obligated to help you find a place to live, open a bank account, navigate the residency process, etc. This program isn’t for someone who needs their hand held.
UPDATE: Find out what I thought about teaching English in Spain at the end of my first year. THIS POST tells you the good, the bad and the lovely.
When you decide to teach English abroad, you need to be prepared to leave behind the familiar. It can be scary and overwhelming.
My first week in Spain and the struggle to find an apartment had me asking myself if I’d made the right decision in moving abroad. I’m not too proud to admit that I cried myself to sleep a night or two.
So yeah, there are going to be tough days. As someone who made it through to the other side though, the risk is worth the reward. I’ve honestly never been happier. The good days, the bad days–that’s what make it an adventure. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re interested in learning more about the North American Language and Culture Assistants program, check out its website for more information. The application period for the 2019-2020 school year is opens soon!
Do you have any questions about being a language assistant in Spain? Feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll do my best to help!
Want to know more about other awesome travel jobs? Check out these posts!
Psst…Don’t forget to Pin this post for later!
It sounds like a nice experience. Spain is a lovely country!
You have a really nice blog and I am in love with the header. Did you design it yourself?
Victoria recently posted…Amsterdam Coffee Festival
Alex | Backpacking Brunette says
Actually, my sister designed it for me! Thanks for reading!
awittman recently posted…What I’m doing in Spain: Life as a language assistant
Hello! I have received a regional placement, but I have no idea which school I’ll be in. I’m eager to know so that I can look for places to stay. How long did it take you to know which school you got assigned to?
Alex | Backpacking Brunette says
Hi Ju! Congrats on your acceptance! What’s your regional placement? Wow, you’re taking me back a bit with this one, but I don’t think I found out the name of my school until July. The visa process and auxiliar application is great practice for living in Spain…get ready for a lot of waiting! I know it’s difficult, but try to have patience. It will come! Perhaps you’ll find this comforting (or maybe it will just terrify you), but you actually have to be in Spain to apartment hunt. At least, that was my experience in Madrid. The majority of landlords didn’t respond to emails. Best of luck and thanks for reading!
Alex Wittman recently posted…Quintessential Querétaro: A Day Trip to Bernal
Saif U Din says
Thank you for sharing such an informative article keep doing great work. here is something amazing teachers help teachers
I love how detailed this is! I’m writing an article on Auxiliares for my readers–I’d love to link to this article! I think it’s quite helpful!
Denae recently posted…VLOG: Budapest Christmas Markets
Alex | Backpacking Brunette says
Hi, Denae! I’m so glad you found the post helpful. Feel free to link it! All the best, Alex