Saturday, 6 November 2010

The case for and against native language assistants

I’ve finally found the time to catch up on all the posts that I’ve missed and I have to say that there were over a 100 on my google reader. One in particular caught my eye over at TEFLtastic entitled Is there any need for native language assistants? This is a theme close to my heart and even closer to my wallet, as this is where I earn the majority of my income.

I am a native language assistant. I work in a primary and secondary school. I’m also a Diploma qualified TEFL teacher. Working as an assistant over the past three years I’ve had time think about whether there is a need for native language assistants and this is what I think.

In theory, non - Nests should have a level of English high enough that they do not require the linguistic assistance of a native assistant. By this I mean that teachers should have a minimum level of English which I would say should be B2 in primary and C1 in secondary.

Teachers should be knowledgeable enough about English culture that they do not need an assistant as a cultural ambassador. Teachers should be trained in modern methods and be able to use a wide range of resources and communicative methodologies.

If this were the case I think that there would be no need for native language assistants and the money could be better spent on other resources. Sadly, in my situation this is not the case.

Many teachers in primary schools that I’ve worked in do not have a good enough command of the English language to be teaching it. Their methods are often outdated and heavily course book oriented. There’s a lot of reading aloud and children are often still sitting in rows facing the blackboard.

Yes, there are exceptions and yes things are changing. There does seem to be a new breed of younger teachers whose level of English is much higher and whose methods are much more modern. But until this becomes the norm, rather than the exception there will still be a need for native language assistants.


  1. Hi Leahn:
    I agree with you and I also understand how close is the topic for you .Though things are changing I think The Spanish Minister of Education or whoever involved should have done something to improve Teachers´qualification while they were teachers´to be. As it has not happened yet native language assisstant are of great and valuable help. By the way, I´m willing to work with you someday.
    Kisses Yordanka

  2. Hi Yordanka,

    Nice to see you here! Yes you're right. The education system is to blame in many ways. Many teachers in their 40s were taught in a very old fashioned and traditonal way.

    Things are changing now and I think that the level of English teachers in primary schools is getting better and better. I know and work with many teachers whose level of English is very good and who are great teachers too. I just think the system needs a shake up.

    Teachers whose English is not up to standard (B2) should not be teaching English. Many seem to just end up teaching English whether they like it or not.

    I think the children benefit from having an extra pair of hands, eyes and ears in the class. You can do so much more if there are two people in a class and the dynamic can be great too!

    Thanks for the job offer! I'd love to work with you I bet we'd have great FUN! and the children too!