- Are you a native English speaker and/or educated in English?
- Do you feel lost in your current career?
- Are you a student or recent grad and not sure which direction to take?
- Think you might want to teach but not ready to commit?
- Do you want to experience a new language and culture for a short period of time?
- Do you want to immigrate for the long term but don’t have the money or qualifications for a visa?
If you answered yes to any of those questions teaching English abroad through a government-run language assistantship could be a great option for you!
Most people know there are plenty of ESL jobs around the world. Fewer people know that there are a number of government programs for teaching English. After having personally done two of these programs, one in France and one in Spain, I highly recommend these types of programs over private language schools and non-governmental exchange programs. Why? Simple. They’re less work, more pay, safer, cost the applicant little to nothing beyond the cost of the flight, and are open to people with little or no ESL experience.
They offer opportunities to test out the teacher life before you commit, get paid to live abroad, fill out your resume during a gap year (or five!) and even be a backdoor into permanent relocation.
Although each country’s program is slightly different, the general job is pretty consistent. You work in one or more schools as native language support. You are a language and culture assistant, not a full teacher. In most programs you do not give or mark exams, you do not plan entire lessons, you do not discipline students, and you are not alone with the children.
You do have to show up for your hours, use and share resources from your home country, speak your native language, and lead certain games and activities. You will likely have some basic teacher training and/or observation before starting work though the amount and quality of training varies by program.
Spain: Auxiliares de conversación
The Spanish program is great for a variety of reasons. 1. It doesn’t have a language requirement. 2. You get a student visa without having to show the proof of income and housing normally required. 3. You can renew in-country and switch to a different type of visa (work, family, etc.) without returning to your home country. This makes it a good option for people trying to immigrate long-term or pursue other projects in Spain.
Plus you get to live in Spain! Sunshine is everywhere, siestas are built into your work schedule, and public holidays are frequent.
WARNING: Spain has a number of other “programs” that pretend to be or be affiliated with the official Auxiliares de conversación program. These are NOT good programs. Some charge application and service fees and/or require more hours of work for less money. The official auxiliares de conversación program does not charge an application fee or require you pay anything besides the student visa fee paid directly to your Spanish consulate.
- Contract: October 1 – May 31
- Location: Spanish public school(s); primary to secondary; each autonomous community determines which countries of origin are allowed
- Hours: 12 hours per week (except Madrid, 16 hours), 4 days a week (English assistants almost always given Monday or Friday off);
- Pay: 700€ net per month (1000€ in Madrid)
- Housing: not provided
- Renewal: Yes; 2 renewals available officially but not uncommon for auxiliares to be renewed more
- Visa: applicant pays; student visa, renewable in-country, can be changed to work/family visa in Spain, can be renewed for another education program (eg. MA/PhD programs, some language programs), counts for establishing permanent residency in Spain
- Eligible countries: varies by year and autonomous community; here’s the 2020-2021 list of countries and application links
- Age limit: 21-60; schools themselves decide whether to take an assistant older than 35
- Education: Bachelor’s Degree
- Language: None
How to apply
The application period starts January 1 and runs until early April.
JET has three different exchange jobs: Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), and Sports Exchange Advisors (SEA).
ALTs are the most common and are language assistants that teach English or other foregin languages in Japanese public schools. CIRs work in offices and agencies translating, teaching employees, and helping with the company’s overseas guests. CIRs require a high level of Japanese while ALTs do not. SEAs are sports professionals who work specifically in sports-related activities.
Compared to the European language assistantships JET is more like a fulltime job. You have more hours, more responsibility, and more money. Unlike most other assistantships, JET pays for your flight to Japan.
ALTs Basic info
- Contract: varies by country; participants from Brazil, China, Korea, and Peru come in early April and participants from other countries come late July/early August; contract lasts for 10 months
- Location: Japanese school(s); primary to secondary
- Hours: 35 hours per week at the school split between teaching, after school activities, and other duties
- Pay: Year 1: ¥3,360,000 then increases for renewal years
- Housing: Depends on placement
- Renewal: can renew 4 times
- Visa: Participants issued a 3-year working visa; not valid for jobs outside the JET programme
- Eligible countries: JET country list; if your country is not on this list but you were educated in English or and English-speaking country you are encouraged to contact your embassy and may still be eligible to participate
- Age limit: None
- Education: Bachelor’s degree or certificate of at least 3 years completed study
- Language: None for ALTs
How to apply
JET’s application instructions direct candidates to contact the Japanese embassy in their country of origin. Some countries have dedicated application portals and some are run directly through the Japanese embassy’s website.
Application deadlines vary by country. According to the JET website, applications open in October and run until late November/early December. Those who make it past the initial round will have an interview at the embassy in February. Accepted applicants will be notified in late March or April.
Georgia: Teach and Learn with Georgia
The country of Georgia is actively recruiting native English, French, or German teachers to co-teach in Georgia public schools. While this program is off the beaten path, it does offer incentives such as paid flights and a cellphone. Adventurous teachers looking for a truly immersive cultural experience may also appreciate living with a host family.
- Contract: September – June
- Location: Georgia public schools
- Pay: 600 GEL net if living with host family; 500 GEL net if living alone
- Housing: most assistants live with host families
- Renewal: yes
- Eligible countries: no specific countries listed; native English, French, or German speakers
- Education: Bachelor’s degree
- Language: none
Volunteers with the English Opens Doors program are placed all across Chile and work with public school children aged 10-18. The pay for this program is very low, only 10,000 CLP or about $130USD and volunteers must cover all travel costs and arrive with sufficient savings to live in Chile. Beyond the stipend and host family placement, volunteers also receive free access to a full online Spanish course.
- Contract: Dates for 2020-2021 will be published in September
- Location: Public middle and high schools in Chile (students aged 10-18)
- Hours: 35 hours per week, divided into 24 teaching hours, 7 lesson planning hours, and 4 extracurricular hours
- Pay: 100000 CLP per month (~ $130USD)
- Housing: all volunteers placed with host families; possible but not suggested to live on your own
- Eligible countries: All countries; applicants from outside traditionally English-speaking countries must do an additional Skype interview to prove their English skills
- Age limit: 21-34
- Education: Bachelor’s degree
- Language: None
France: Assistants de Langue
The program in France is probably the cushiest in all of Europe. The contract is 7 months, October – April, but two months of that is paid vacation since French school kids and employees get two weeks of vacation for every six weeks of school.
The pay is more than enough to live comfortably in most parts of France (excepting Paris) plus you only work 12 hours a week so if you pick up a few private lessons you’ll have plenty of money to take some nice vacations during those 8 weeks off!
An added bonus is that most (but not all) academies in France offer subsidized housing in or near the school.
- Contract: October 1 – April 30
- Location: French public school(s); primary to secondary; France and overseas territories
- Hours: 12 hours per week, 3-4 days a week (schedule set by your school)
- Pay: 790€ net per month
- Housing: Depends on academy; many offer apartments at or near the school for less than 100€/month including utilities
- Renewal: depends on country of origin; most English language assistants are eligible for 1 renewal
- Visa: Free (fee waived); temporary work visa; cannot be renewed in-country; not valid for other jobs; does not count in establishing permanent residency
- Eligible countries: 50 countries accepted
- Age limit: 20-30 (35 for certain countries)
- Education: at least 3 years of university study before arrival in France
- Language: B1 French
How to apply:
Click your country’s link on the country page. There you will find a link to your country’s specific program page. You must apply through your country’s specific portal. Unfortunately, the Philippines is not a participating country at this time.
The application period varies by country but generally it starts in October and runs to the end of December. Extensions into January are not uncommon due to a lack of applicants.
Korea: EPIK and TaLK
The Korean government offers two different English programs: English Program in Korea (EPIK) and Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK). Their homepage spells out the differences between programs, both of which are good options for aspiring ESL teachers. Neither require you to speak Korean.
TaLK is more of a classic assistantship. You work 15 hours a week in rural Korea teaching after school English classes. TaLK requires an Associate’s degree or at least three years completed of a BA.
EPIK is a professional teaching position. It requires 22 hours a week teaching the regular English curriculum to elementary, middle, and high school students in more urban areas. You must have a BA for this position.
Applicants must be from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, U.K, or the U.S.A. Those with dual Korean citizenship who met certain residency requirements are also eligible.
Both take applications twice a year. Applications for the spring term (starting February) for both programs are now open!
Other programs and links:
- Assistantships open to UK or Irish passport holders: country list
- Austria (only USA citizens)
- Czechia (full teachers, only USA citizens)