English is known as the most spoken language in the world. Therefore, learning and mastering the language has many benefits. This is recognized in many countries through the world, where English is taught as a second language.
In Europe, 91% of students in primary and secondary school study English. Spain is no exception, where students begin their English education in the first grade of “primaria”, or primary school. In the first grade, students are 6 years old. They continue learning English all through secondary school, where they also need to select a second foreign language. When graduating from secondary school the students are 16 years old, which marks the end of the compulsory education. This means that Spanish children learn English in school for a total of 10 years.
Even though all Spanish students learn English in school, the quality of English teaching varies. A lot of this has to do with the English level of the teacher. A teacher who feels confident speaking and teaching English, will try to speak as much English as possible in the classroom. A teacher with less confidence might speak mostly Spanish in the English classes, which will impact the students’ learning outcome greatly. According to the Catalan Education Department “The traditional approach to teaching languages doesn’t work” (Montagut, 2017). Only 13 % of Spanish high school students have an intermediate level in English according to Eurostat figures. The reasons behind this low level might be many. The quality of English education in schools is a large factor. Focus is heavily on tests and examinations, and less on conversation and interaction. Moreover, Spanish children consume less English media than many other European countries. Movies, TV-shows, and games are mostly dubbed into Spanish. Therefore, children don’t get to practice much outside the classroom. Many parents send their children to private English academies for this reason. Therefore, the individual level of English varies greatly in the classrooms. This makes the job more difficult for the teacher, as some students will have a much higher level than others.
One way to improve English education is to include native English speakers as language assistants in the classroom. A language assistant acts as an aid to the main teacher in the classroom, and their main goal is to make English teaching more interactive and immersive. The students will greatly benefit from interacting and speaking with the language assistant, as they listen to the native speaker’s pronunciation. While the main teacher can be in charge of testing and examination, the language assistant can focus on organizing activities where the students practice speaking English. This can boost motivation for the students to also practice English outside the classroom.
At RVF our goal is for all Spanish public schools to have a language assistant. With our teach aboard program in Spain, you can share your expertise as a native speaker, while living in Spain and exploring the Spanish culture. Does this sound like something you’d like to take part of? Contact us today to set up a meeting and learn more about our teach abroad program.