Watch the full story of how a language assistant can benefit your school and why Edinburgh City Council feels British Council language assistants were critical to their successful delivery of the Scottish government’s language policy. Please note, this film is six minutes long.

Bring the world of language and culture alive in your classroom

Employing a British Council language assistant is a unique way to broaden your students understanding of the world, improve their language skills and increase their cultural awareness.

Language assistants are dynamic, enthusiastic native speakers of French, Spanish, German, Italian and Mandarin Chinese, and are usually undergraduates or recent graduates.  As we recruit language assistants directly from their home countries, their language is up-to-date, the classroom resources they provide are relevant and authentic, and they will be well placed to connect with students on their own level . Simply put, employing a language assistant provides the kind of learning experience that cannot be found elsewhere.

Make a real difference

Language assistants will make a real difference to language learning in your school. They can help students learn how to be confident and adaptable, communicate in different ways and settings, make language learning more exciting, and even enhance teachers' knowledge of languages. In a secondary school, a language assistant can also:

  • improve overall standards
  • help students prepare for oral exams by providing conversational practice with a native speaker
  • help to implement government policy on language learning
  • encourage students to be more ambitious and outgoing, and to develop abilities to better communicate their own beliefs and view of the world
  • help students to understand the UK’s place in the world
  • help students to understand different cultures.

Employing a language assistant can also support international partnerships and enable your school to apply for the Foundation International School Award.

What will a language assistant do in my school?

There are no limits to how a language assistant can support your school to bring language learning to life in the classroom. 

They can work together with a teacher or work on their own with small groups of students to introduce basic language skills and improve linguistic ability. They can help students practice their speaking skills and prepare for their oral examinations, or contribute to cross-curricular work in collaboration with other subject areas too.

Language assistants can develop lesson plans 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. As the majority of 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.

In addition to the above, a language assistant can help students to develop all four of the capacities on which the Curriculum for Excellence is built:

Successful learners

By making languages more exciting, students become more engaged and eager to learn. They apply what they learn in the classroom to other situations and settings out in the world.

Confident individuals

Language assistants encourage pupils to be more ambitious/outgoing, develop abilities to communicate their own beliefs and view of the world.

Responsible citizens

Language assistants help pupils to understand Scotland’s place in the world and understand different cultures.

Effective contributors

Language assistants help pupils to learn how to communicate in different ways and different settings, to adapt what they learn.

When would a language assistant work at my school?

The standard period of appointment is from 1 September to 31 May in Scotland. 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.

Each language assistant can 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 with and support pupils, staff and the wider school community.

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