Children in a classroom holding up words written in French.

Language assistants can transform language teaching in your institution. They can work together with a teacher, or on their own with groups of students, to improve linguistic ability and raise cultural awareness.

How do they help students?

Language assistants can:

  • transform language teaching through conversation, songs, games and activities with students
  • help students prepare for oral examinations and practise their speaking skills, especially pronunciation and intonation
  • introduce students to aspects of their culture and inspire an international outlook
  • contribute to cross-curricular work in collaboration with other subject areas
  • encourage students to be more ambitious and outgoing, as well as helping them develop the ability to communicate their world views.

As most assistants are not qualified teachers, they should not be asked to take sole responsibility for a whole class, deal with discipline issues or mark students’ work outside the classroom.

Can language assistants help teach remotely?

During the pandemic, Modern Language Assistants were still able to offer support in the (virtual) classroom. The Language Assistants team have been impressed by the innovative ways assistants have worked with their host institutions to adapt their teaching practices and ensure students retain a high quality of language-learning, even when classes could not occur face-to-face.

We have received amazing feedback and examples of the work which language assistants can deliver remotely, including but not limited to:

  • Giving virtual oral classes or conversation sessions to small groups of students or one-to-one
  • Recording videos on vocabulary topics to assist with pronunciation
  • Recording audio for listening practice, e.g. sound bites, everyday conversations
  • Creating comprehension activities and PowerPoints about selected cultural topics
  • Writing a weekly newsletter or activity in their language or providing authentic news articles from their home country
  • Designing interactive materials such as online vocabulary games
  • Setting weekly tasks, activities or quizzes, e.g. virtual postcards or vocabulary tests.

Read the BBC story on a French language assistant’s Hebridean lockdown.

To learn more about what our language assistants have been up to, head to our British Council Language Assistants Twitter page.

Can they help outside the classroom?

Yes! Language assistants can develop projects and extra-curricular activities (e.g. lunchtime clubs) focused on their country’s culture and even support the creation and/or development of an international partnership with their home country.

Here are some fantastic examples of ways our Language Assistants got involved in the 2021/22 academic year: 

  • Running lunchtime MFL/language specific clubs 
  • Setting up a pen pal exchange for students with target language schools 
  • Running an art contest for students 
  • Lunchtime grammar and speaking practice sessions 
  • Participating in other school projects such as cookery, drama and music clubs. 

How do they help teachers?

Employing a language assistant adds a brilliant resource that the classroom teacher can use to grow their own language abilities and confidence, supporting their own continuous professional development.