Boost language attainment with a modern language assistant

Language assistants give your school the opportunity to broaden students' understanding of the world around them, improve their language skills and increase their cultural awareness. 

Language assistants are native speakers of French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin or Irish, and are usually undergraduates who come from our 14 partner countries across the world. Many of our assistants are language students themselves, but the programme also attracts applicants from other disciplines and age ranges, including trainee and qualified teachers.

The British Council's Language Assistants programme draws on over 100 years of experience with overseas education authorities to provide a trusted, high quality service. A recent survey carried out by the programme among host schools demonstrated improved results in languages, such as raising standards in under-performing students and motivating talented students to achieve more.

Make a real difference

Our language assistants are cultural ambassadors who will make a real difference to language learning in your school.

In addition to providing invaluable support for teachers, in a primary school a language assistant can:

  • help to introduce language learning, especially speaking and listening
  • work across the curriculum and facilitate cross-curricular activities and projects
  • help to implement government policy on language learning. 

A language assistant will provide the cultural awareness and language learning skills that can only be gained from a native speaker. Hosting an assistant can also support the building of international partnerships - by hosting a language assistant a school is automatically eligible for Level 1 of the Foundation International School Award.

What will a language assistant do in my school?

Language assistants can transform language teaching in primary schools. They can work together with a teacher or on their own with small groups of students to introduce basic language skills and improve linguistic ability. They can help students practise their speaking skills, especially pronunciation and intonation, and get involved in songs, dances, games and activities.

Language assistants can develop projects and extra-curricular activities (e.g. lunch time clubs) focused on their country’s culture and even support the creation and/or development of an international partnership with a school in their own country. Above all, they offer a brilliant resource that the classroom teacher can deploy and make use of to grow their own language skills and confidence in ensuring progression all the way to the upper years of primary. As most assistants are not trained teachers, however, they should not be asked to take sole responsibility for a whole class, deal with discipline issues or mark students’ work.

“Having a language assistant has supported teachers to have the confidence to deliver French across our schools” Amelie Thompson, Deputy Head, Gipsy Hill Federation, London

When would a language assistant work in our school?

The standard period of appointment is from: 

  • 1 October to 31 May in England and Wales
  • 1 September to 31 May in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This period may be extended for up to a month either side of the appointment by mutual consent. The language assistant must be paid for any extra work pro-rata.

Can I share a language assistant with other schools?

Yes – in fact, many successful placements are based on this arrangement.

Sharing an assistant with other schools can bring the benefits of having a native speaker among your staff while minimising the cost. It also means schools can take part even if they can only offer a small number of hours per week.

Each language assistant can usually be shared between a maximum of three primary and/or secondary schools or further education colleges. This is a programme-wide restriction agreed with our overseas partners and is in place to enable language assistants to have as much impact as possible in the institutions they work in. The fewer schools a language assistant works in, the more time they have to engage and support students, staff and the wider school community. However, there may be some more flexible sharing arrangements available (please see below). Please contact the team for more information.

French Language Assistants (MLAs from France only) for primary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Sharing arrangements will be permitted for up to six primary schools in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.  Language assistants will not always have access to transport, so the schools will need to be within reasonable travelling distance (the British Council will review and approve sharing proposals for more than three schools). MLAs may not be primary trained but will have an interest in primary teaching. You should then enter the number and/or names of schools with whom you wish you share on the Schools Online application form in the relevant free text box.


Please note: as the Schools Online application form caters for the entire Language Assistants Programme, please specify in the ‘Further Information’ text box at the end of the form if your request is for a Primary-specific French MLA, so that we can best identify these requests and efficiently liaise with our partner agency in France.

Where are language assistants from?

French speaking

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • France
  • Switzerland

German speaking

  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Switzerland

Irish speaking

  • Northern Ireland
  • Republic of Ireland

Italian speaking

  • Italy

Mandarin speaking

  • China

Spanish speaking

  • Spain
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Mexico

See also