Auxiliar de Conversacion: Road map to Spain
If you’re interested in teaching English in Spain as an English as a second language (ESL) instructor but have never considered becoming an auxiliar de conversacion (language assistant), this article’s for you.
Auxiliares de conversacion in Spain earn generous stipends, live and work in a welcoming environment with modern amenities, and enjoy plenty of downtime to travel in-country and throughout the European Union.
Let’s explore the exciting world of auxiliares de conversación. You’ll discover why becoming one is an excellent way to gain valuable teaching experience in Spain – and have the time of your life doing it.
What is an auxiliar de conversacion?
First things first: let’s explore the concept of the auxiliar de conversación.
The program, which caters to North American ESL teachers, is administered by the Ministry of Education of Spain (Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional).
It’s open to college graduates (and to those currently enrolled in a degree program) from the United States, Canada, and other native English-speaking countries who come to spend a year in a Spanish public school as a language assistant (auxiliar) to a local teacher.
Auxiliares de conversación in Spain are sometimes known alternatively as:
- Cultural Ambassadors
- English Language and Culture Assistants
- Auxes (Aux Spain Program)
In addition to assisting with language education and subjects taught in English (more on those later), the auxiliar also enjoys the opportunity to share aspects of his or her native culture with the students.
And the Spanish, like other populations around the world that consume Western media, are very interested in American culture! When it comes to working as a language assistant, Spain is hands-down the top destination.
Why teach English in Spain as an auxiliar de conversacion?
Before we dive into the ins and outs of working as a language assistant, Spain, we should acknowledge, is just one of many potential destinations for young English as a second language (ESL) teachers.
So, why Spain?
At RVF International, we’ve written extensively on the reasons Spain is an ideal ESL destination – check out the full list of compelling reasons to teach English in Spain here – but, briefly, here are some of the major factors to consider:
- High demand for English teachers in Spain
- The unique and dynamic culture and history of Spain
- Advanced infrastructure and modern amenities
- An opportunity to immerse yourself in a Spanish-speaking culture and sharpen your lingual skill set (Spanish is the fourth-most-spoken language in the world with over 500 million speakers)
- Stellar work-life balance (three-days weekends on a weekly basis!)
- Access to the entire European Union (EU) through your Spanish visa
- Excellent stipend/pay
- Expansive, country-wide expat presence for support and comradery during your stay
Why are auxiliares de conversacion in such high demand?
English teachers are in extremely high demand in Spain for reasons we have explained in detail in this blog post.
It probably comes as no surprise that English as a second language (ESL) is a major subject of instruction for students in Spanish public schools.
English, as the international language of business and government, is increasingly necessary as a commonly spoken second language in non-native-English-speaking countries for the purposes of economic competition in a globalized world.
But what many readers unfamiliar with the Spanish education system might know be aware of is that two subjects taught to every student in the country – social science and natural science – are also conducted in English.
As a brief aside, back when I was teaching English at a university in Bangkok, I was given the chance to teaching several subjects, including science and sociology, to international students in English.
Accordingly, I am acutely aware – through sometimes painful trial and error — that the technical terminologies of social and natural sciences multiply the lingual challenges posed by the instruction of these subjects in English.
But it’s also an excellent opportunity to fine-tune the students’ English proficiencies while simultaneously offering them an education in the subject at hand – in the case of an Aux in Spain, the social and natural sciences.
HUGE opportunities for ESL teachers in Spain
As high as demand already is for aux, Spain is actively recruiting more English teachers for its schools, as explained in a September 2022 article from The Local: “Spain’s Education Minister Pilar Alegría and US ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso met on Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding which will reinforce educational cooperation between the two countries.”
Where do auxiliares de conversacion work in Spain?
More than 300 public schools located throughout the Iberian Peninsula participate in the national program, sponsored by the Spanish government.
The ages of students taught range from kindergarten through high school, so if you have a preference for student demographic, there’s a plenty of variety to select from. We work with each of our teachers to ensure you’re placed in the most suitable environment possible.
What hours does a language assistant in Spain typically work?
While teaching English in Spain, auxiliaries generally teach for around 16 hours a week – sometimes less.
To contrast this workload with that of many other English-teaching jobs around the world, the industry average of hours taught per week is about 20, but it’s not uncommon for schools to require 25 or more hours in the classroom.
Furthermore, auxiliares generally work for four days a week, with three-day weekends and generous holidays as well.
So, if you’re into traveling around Spain or the rest of Europe (and who isn’t?) in your downtime, you’ll have vast opportunity should you choose to teach English in Spain via the auxiliares de conversación program.
How much does a language assistant in Spain make in stipend?
Because the auxiliar de conversacion position is technically a volunteer position and not a traditional job, participants receive a stipend rather than a paycheck.
The stipend generally ranges from €700-1,000/month, which translates into roughly $740-$1,050/month. While this might not seem like much to North American eyes reading this article, what one needs to live on month to month in the US/Canada verses Spain are two different universes. This amount is a very competitive Spanish salary and is more than enough to live comfortably on a budget while teaching in Spain.
For tips on how to make the most of your stipend while in Spain (and possibly save some money for the future), check out our blog post on the topic.
To learn more about the pay teachers receive in the global ESL industry and how Spain measures up, we’ve also penned a blog post on that topic.
In addition to the compensation that auxiliares receive, there are other non-financial benefits to consider.
Clases de particulares: Extra earning opportunities for auxilares
In addition to the stipend, many foreign English teachers in Spain take advantage of opportunities to conduct what are called locally clases particulares de ingles – private English lessons, usually on a one-on-one basis.
Potential clients for clases particulares de ingles may be students from your regular classes who want some extracurricular instruction or adult learners hoping to advance their English skills for career purposes.
In certain cities like Barcelona, it’s not uncommon for teachers to make $20/hr or more teaching clases de particulares.
What other benefits do auxiliares de conversación in Spain receive?
In addition to the stipend, auxiliares de conversación also receive:
- Exemption from income tax in Spain
- On-the-job training
- Healthcare coverage. Spain is home to one of the most affordable, advanced universal healthcare systems in the world.
What is the cost of living in Spain?
A thousand dollars per month in stipend doesn’t seem like a lot, perhaps.
But, given the lower cost of living in many areas of Spain compared to American cities coupled with the non-financial benefits available to English teachers in Spain, that monthly income actually goes further than you might think.
The cost of living across Spain (with differences between the higher-priced urban areas and more affordable suburban and rural areas) is, generally speaking, 34% lower than in the U.S.
Per Numbeo, one of the most accurate cost-of-living indexes available on the web, here’s what you can expect to spend on daily expenses while in in Spain, as of October 2023:
- Meal at a moderately priced restaurant: $12.71
- Half-liter of domestic beer: $2.65 (the minimum drinking age in Spain is 18 years old)
- Loaf of bread: $1.22
- A dozen eggs: $2.49
- One-bedroom apartment outside of city centers: $647.84
- Basic utilities in a one-bedroom apartment: $135.81
Among major cities in Spain, Barcelona is the most expensive, followed by Bilbao, Granada, Madria, Seville, and Valencia, in order from most expensive to most affordable.
What are the curricula and teaching materials like as an auxiliar de conversación in Spain?
One of the biggest benefits of teaching as an Aux Spain (as the position is sometimes abbreviated as such) compared to teaching English in other locales around the world is the quality of materials and the teaching environment.
Thanks to large-scale investments in the education system by the government, Spanish public schools are well-funded, orderly, and clean.
Each classroom comes equipped with digitalized so-called “smart boards,” traditional blackboards, and various teaching implements that make the job easier and the learning experience more effective for the students.
The curricula are well-designed and premade, so you don’t need to worry about coming up with your own lesson plans entirely from scratch. (Take my word for it, having taught with no curricula to work from, that this is enormously helpful as a time-saver.) All necessary materials, including textbooks, are available to the students.
What’s the day-to-day experience of an auxiliar in Spain like?
One of the most common and understandable questions that prospective auxiliares de conversacion in Spain have is: what’s the daily experience like?
Here’s a rough estimate of your daily schedule in the position:
- 9:30 a.m.: Teach your first class of the day
- 11:00 a.m.: Second class of the day
- 2:00 p.m.: Lunch! (In Spanish culture, lunch, as well as dinner, are generally taken later in the day than in the U.S.)
- 3:00 p.m.: Teacher meeting to discuss any teaching issues and planned activities
- 3:30 p.m.: Third class of the day
- 4:30 p.m.: Wrap up and head home! You now have the rest of the day to do with what you will.
Schedules may vary slightly depending on your school, but this is the general daily schedule you can expect as an auxiliar.
RVF International makes the transition to Spain as easy and enjoyable as possible
Here’s what RVF International teacher Meghan from Texas has to say about her experience with RVF International:
“I had a great year teaching and it was definitely because RVF International prepared me well beforehand. All the paperwork was laid out and easy to follow and someone was always there to help me. I always felt very secure and confident about moving across the world as RVF throughly answered everything thoroughly and quickly. Love them so much! Iʼd use them again and again and again!! Thank you! Iʼm jealous yʼall get to start from Step One with Harrison (Program Director), it was such a great, exciting experience!”
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the auxiliar de conversación program
Rounding out our comprehensive survey of the auxiliar de conversacion program in Spain, let’s answer some common questions that prospective participants have.
FAQ #1: How can interested parties apply to the program?
The government of Spain has a publicly available portal for applicants Acceptance into the program usually comes by the summer.
But we advise, particularly for first-time teachers and first-time visitors to Spain, that you to rely on the expert guidance of an experienced international education and exchange organization like RVF International.
We provide invaluable support from start to finish, visa support, housing support, exclusive RVF content, and more. We are the #1 Teach Abroad Program in Spain and help hundreds of Program Participants each year seamlessly move to Spain where we support you every step of the way.
FAQ #2: How can participants prepare to thrive in their position?
The biggest step that new English teachers venturing abroad can do to prepare themselves to excel in the classroom, whether in Spain or anywhere else in the world, is to get teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) certification.
Many employers, in fact, require TEFL certification in teaching candidates, along with native English-speaking status and a college degree.
TEFL. Set. Go. is a fully accredited 120-hour online course that comes highly recommended from past participants. It’s critical to enroll in a TEFL program that’s both:
- At least 120 hours in length (anything less is not accepted by all employers)
- Certified by a recognized accrediting agency (the one used by TEFL. Set. Go. is the industry gold standard ACCREDITAT)
Getting TEFL-certified is a must if you plan to spend any amount of time teaching English in Spain or elsewhere, as it’s, again, increasingly a universal requirement. TEFL certification has no expiration date, so your certificate will be good for life. While this is a great option to receive incredible teacher training before starting this position, and to help launch a career teaching English abroad, it is not currently a requirement to work as an Auxiliar de Conversacion in Spain.
FAQ #3: What is the school calendar in Spain like?
The school calendar in Spain is similar to that of North America. Classes begin usually around mid-September and conclude in the middle of June.
Auxiliares begin their positions, accordingly, in October and finish up in May or June of each year, depending on the region in Spain.
FAQ #4: Is Spain a friendly destination for American visitors and expats?
Great news: Spain is extremely welcoming to American and Canadian visitors and expats!
By some estimates, there are north of 32,000 American expats currently residing in Spain, with numbers rising in recent years, possibly due to an increase in digital nomadism.
FAQ #5: What items should auxiliares bring with them from home?
Spain is an ultra-modern economy, so most of what you will need on a daily basis you can acquire once in Spain.
However, here are a few items you should definitely bring with you to the country:
- Universal power adapter. Like the metric vs imperial systems debacle, power outlets in Europe are different from the ones in the U.S. (for some technical reason that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense). Universal power adapters are designed to allow you to use your American tech products in Spanish outlets.
- Backpacking backpack (sometimes called a hiking backpack or rucksack). No offense to anyone who uses the suitcases on wheels as their preferred baggage – you’re free to do what you want – but, if you’re planning to travel while in Spain, I’d recommend a backpacking backpack.
They are much more practical for navigating unpaved roads and nature outside of airports and neatly manicured concrete jungles.
- Layered clothing. Temperatures in Spain can swing wildly even within a single day, so it’s a good idea to plan your wardrobe accordingly.
- Stick deodorant. For whatever reason, stick deodorants have never caught on culturally in Spain. If you use them, best to bring a few sticks with you.
Get started today on your journey to become an auxiliar de conversación through RVF International
We’ve tried our best to succinctly lay out the most pertinent information regarding the work that auxiliares de conversacion in Spain do. But if you’ve got more questions, we’ve got answers.
Helping to place North American teachers in rewarding ESL positions throughout Spain is all that we do – and we pride ourselves on doing it well.
Contact RVF International and we’ll get started working with you ASAP to make your dreams of teaching English in Spain as an auxiliar de conversacion come true.
Ben Bartee is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist.