The Community of Madrid provides for the deployment of language assistants as an important feature of the bilingual programme. Language Assistants typically are young university graduates from English-speaking countries who support the work of teachers in the classroom, in addition to providing cultural and linguistic input.
The number of Language Assistants is continually increasing. In the 2015-2016 school year, there were over 2.000 language assistants assigned to public primary schools and public secondary schools in the Community of Madrid. They come from a wide range of countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and are all assigned to public primary and secondary schools.
Language Assistants collaborate 16 hours per week at their assigned schools. Orientation is provided by the Regional Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport throughout the schoolyear, which helps to inform language assistants about the Spanish educational system, their rights and responsibilities and a range of legal aspects they need to be aware of in order to initiate their new life in Spain. In addition, every year a Language Assistant Handbook (available at the website: www.educa2.madrid.org/web/auxiliares) is published, which gathers the information that both language assistants and schools should know. This handbook, published in English and Spanish, outlines the duties and tasks of language assistants, administrative procedures they must complete, how their work is evaluated, and other relevant topics.
There are 1,208 English-speaking Language Assistants assigned to Madrid´s 353 bilingual public primary schools. There are 110 bilingual public secondary schools, at which 469 English-speaking Language Assistants are placed. There are 15 French Language Sections and 4 German Language Sections in public secondary schools, with an assignment of 31 French-speaking Language Assistants and 8 German-speaking Language Assistants.
Some of the Language Assistant’s responsibilities, from the Language Assistant Handbook (2016-2017):
- To speak in their mother tongue to the students.
- To help teachers plan their lessons, providing linguistic support in the classroom.
- To reinforce primarily, the students’ oral skills in their foreign language, and to promote other cultures. As native speakers, they should be in constant contact with the students.
- To motivate the students’ and to foster interest in the language and culture of their English/French/German/Italian-speaking countries.
- To encourage the participation in training initiatives and in the learning and teaching of languages. Their presence in the classroom and at the school should be a source of ideas, creativity and new resources.
- To carry out specific conversational tasks.
- To attend the language laboratory, computer room and multi-media centre with the students.
- To provide teaching material, especially authentic material from their countries of origin.
- To take part in a variety of activities: staff meetings, informal discussions, class presentations or the designing of teaching material.
- To attend meetings along with the rest of the bilingual staff in order to organize class activities and plan ahead.
- To teach other members of staff their native language: with the intention that teachers, preferably those in the process of obtaining language certification, improve their communicative competence in English.
Taken (with slight alerations) from: Madrid, comunidad bilinguë 2015-2016 / Madrid, a bilingual community 2015-2016, p. 79.