Want to teach English in Spain? The Auxiliares de Conversación Language Assistant program is a fantastic option. In this post, I’ll explain how the program works, who can apply, my experience and some tips for the application.
What is the Auxiliares de Conversación Program?
To begin, the official name of the program is the North American Language and Cultural Assistant Program. The program is sponsored by the Spanish Government and is also called the Auxiliares de Conversación Program or simply the “Aux” Program.
Here are some of the highlights of the program
- Work between 12-16 teaching hours per week
- Earn 700 -1000 euros per month depending on your weekly hours and region
- Teach elementary or secondary level children in public schools
- Work Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday
- Health insurance is included
- Teach from October 1 – May 31
- Assist Spanish teachers with English classes (and sometimes other subjects as well)
- You can renew your position to work in the same school for a 2nd year
- All regions have positions, including autonomous cities in Northern Africa
Who can apply to be a Language Assistant?
In order to be eligible to teach with the Auxiliares de Conversación Program, you need:
- A passport from the United States or Canada (there are also Auxiliares de Conversacion programs for India, Australia, the UK, and the Philippines – each country has its own website and requirements
- Have a BA or BS, be at least a junior enrolled in a BA or BS program, have an Associate’s degree or be in the last year of community college
- Native-like level of English
- Able to pass a criminal background check
- Aged 18-60
- Pass a physical and mental health examination
- Able to fill out paperwork in Spanish
Pros of Working as a Language Assistant in the Auxiliares de Conversación Program
Unfortunately, because the program isn’t very standardized, language assistants have very different experiences. However, these are some of the general benefits of the North American Language and Cultural Assistant Program in Spain.
- Help students improve their English skills by playing games, teaching grammar, preparing them for English exams and reviewing vocabulary
- Share your cultural traditions with students by creating lessons based on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc.
- Gain valuable international working experience
- Improve your Spanish by communicating with teachers and admin at the school (non-English teachers)
- Use your three day weekends to explore Spain (and other European countries) or to teach private lessons (clases particulares)
- Get the chance to live in Europe as an American/Canadian
- For people interested in becoming teachers, it’s a great opportunity to try out the profession
Cons of Working as a Language Assistant in the Auxiliares de Conversación Program
While there are many advantages of being a language assistant, there are some disadvantages as well.
- Regions are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that if you have your heart set on a specific region or location, you need to get your application in early and may be disappointed
- Assistant experience really varies from school to school – some schools are extremely supportive and other assistants end up leaving the program early due to conflict. It’s a bit luck of the draw
- You’ll be working 12-16 hours per week, but will most likely spend many more hours at your school due to unpaid gaps in your schedule
- If you take days off, your pay gets severely docked
- Some co-teachers will treat you like a babysitter and abandon you in the classroom. They aren’t supposed to do this (imagine if there was a medical emergency) but many teachers don’t seem to care
- The pay isn’t great (of course you aren’t working many hours either) so you’ll need to teach private lessons or teach English online on the side if you want to travel, go out to eat, go to concerts, etc.
- Some of the schools don’t pay their assistants on time
My experience in the Auxiliares de Conversación Program
I taught in the UCETAM language assistant program for two years before I did the Aux Program. I made sure to submit my application as soon as the program opened and requested Madrid as my first region with primary students as my preferred age group.
Because I submitted everything early, I was placed in a school in Mostoles, a suburb of Madrid at a primary school.
In Madrid, language assistants receive 1000 euros for 16 hours of work per week. I got to choose my schedule and chose to work Monday-Thursday, with Fridays off.
My school had two other assistants (shout out to Sara and Laura!) and we definitely bonded over some of the crazy happenings in the school.
Pros of my experience
Disclaimer: I can only speak from my experience. I have heard of assistants having a better experience and worse experience. Reach out to former assistants before you make a final decision.
- The kids at my school were FANTASTIC. They were so much better behaved than the kids at my UCETAM school. I taught 1st-6th grade
- Some of the teachers were amazing and really supportive
- Sometimes we got to work with the kids one-on-one in our own language assistant room. I really enjoyed having such personalized conversations with the kids
- My school was only a 30-minute bus ride from my apartment in Madrid
- The schedule was much better at my Aux school than UCETAM. We finished teaching so early that I was home before Spanish lunchtime (2-3 pm)
- I had a lot of freedom when it came to creating my own lessons for holidays and grammar
- We were paid on time
Cons of my experience
- Some teachers were HORRIBLE. They screamed at the kids (who were basically angels, so it was really awkward)
- The headteacher had me do THE MOST RANDOM STUFF. One day I translated the school’s website from Spanish to English, another day I created a life-size doll of another teacher’s husband (I’m not kidding), another day I was told I would be covering for a teacher’s wedding leave of 2 weeks. She didn’t leave me any lesson plans and when I tried to plan out some lessons I WAS SCREAMED AT
- One of the teachers taught their entire English class in Spanish while I sat in the corner
- I was supposed to teach the English teachers once a week and it just turned into them gossiping about each other – but in English
Would I recommend the program? Yes and No.
Yes – if you want to live in Spain, would like international work experience, have a decent level of Spanish (to defend yourself against teachers and admin), and enjoy energetic children.
No – if you are sensitive to conflict, dislike loud and energetic children, want to work as an actual teacher or only have a basic level of Spanish.
How to apply to the Auxiliares de Conversación Program in Spain
Applications usually open around January on the official website. You’ll submit the application online through a system called Profex.
Make sure to prepare the following documents long before the application date:
- A scanned, signed and dated electronic copy of the provided checklist
- A copy of the main page of your US or Canadian passport (must be valid for travel)
- A statement of purpose between 250-300 words written in English – you must explain that you are a native-like speaker in your statement
- A letter of recommendation written in English or Spanish from a former professor or employer (up to 250 words).
- If you also have an EU passport, you’ll need to include a certificate of health and a clean police background check
My advice for the application
If you are serious about applying for the program, here’s my advice.
- Choose your preferred region(s) carefully. You cannot change them once the application is submitted. Remember that you are signing up for a REGION, not a city, so it’s the luck of the draw where you’ll be placed
- If you make a mistake, DELETE your entire application and start a new one. The system has issues with incomplete applications
- Check your statement and your letter of recommendation for grammatical errors. You can reach out to former assistants for statement samples
- Follow all the instructions carefully
- Reach out to the person writing your letter of recommendation well in advance
- Make sure you have ALL of the documents ready before you submit your application
- Apply as early as possible if you want to avoid disappointment
- Join Auxiliares de Conversacion Facebook Groups – use the search bar to find answers about the application process, specific schools, housing advice and more