If your school is finding it difficult to maintain or increase foreign language skills in the classroom, then help is at hand. Modern Language Assistants are University undergraduates, graduates, or trainee teachers native to Spain, France, Germany, and Italy who take on assistantships in UK schools to help and support students to fulfill their potential. These native speakers work in any school setting and have undergone a competitive selection process to ensure they provide the best support to teachers and bring language learning to life for pupils. Their visas are sponsored by the British Council.
The impact of a language assistant in the classroom
The presence of an MLA in the classroom has shown to have a lasting impact: improving pupils’ intercultural skills and awareness, increasing language ability and confidence among pupils and teachers, and leading to greater pupil attainment and motivation to learn new languages.
Here is what some teachers had to say about their experience with language assistants, taken from the British Council’s annual survey.
‘That personal contact with someone from the country – it was just the impetus…It made the world of difference.'
‘Assistants help to raise the standards and help the students build confidence in their language ability.’
‘[Modern Language Assistants are an] excellent motivator for students and able to give a fresh, youthful perspective to teaching and learning.’
'Pupils gain so much: cultural insights; increased motivation to learn languages; benefiting from building a relationship with a "real" person from the country; up-to-date knowledge about current events and culture.'
Language assistants also have a positive experience, gaining confidence in their teaching abilities and enjoying the opportunity to share their native language and culture with eager learners. A previous Connect MLA from Paris, France said, “I immediately appreciated the positive atmosphere and the good relationship between adults and children at my host school. I gradually started to support French lessons, and I currently teach every class from Year 1 to Year 6. The children are generally very keen on learning new subjects, and they acquire a wide range of vocabulary and phrases on varied themes. It has been more than five months that I have taught French in the UK, and I can now appreciate the children’s progress, which is a delight for me. Teaching my language in this school has been such a great experience so far, and if I had to do it all over again, I definitely would!”
In the British Council’s annual end of year evaluation of over 150 UK institutions hosting language assistants, mentor teachers reported that their language assistant made a significant impact on attainment and learning outcomes in the following areas:
Improved exam grades (92 percent)
Improved cultural awareness (94 percent)
Increased enthusiasm or motivation for language learning (97 percent)
Improved standards in listening and speaking (98 percent)
Improved vocabulary and general understanding of the language (99 percent).
Hosting a language assistant also means that your school will automatically qualify for level 1 of the International School Award, and this is something that Connect – The Network for Global Learning can also help with.
What can Modern Language Assistants do in the classroom?
· Support the introduction of a new language, or support existing language provision.
· Work with small groups (up to 15) on their own, or the whole class in the presence of a teacher.
· Create lesson plans and develop teaching materials based on contemporary culture.
· Support exam preparation with new resources such as recordings for listening practice.
· Deliver interactive classroom activities on topics such as culture and celebrations.
What are the benefits?
· Improvement of pupils’ overall language ability and self-confidence in speaking.
· Increased motivation to learn languages.
· Development of intercultural skills and greater intercultural awareness.
· Increased confidence and accuracy in language ability among teachers.
· Eligibility for British Council International School Award.
This Connect service includes
· Management of the sharing arrangements between schools
· Management of the salaries (invoiced to schools individually)
· Training and support for MLAs and host schools
· Advice on the production of suitable resources for the use of the MLA
· Advice on good practice and effective deployment of the MLA
· Co-ordinates requests from schools and liaises with the British Council to obtain MLA dossiers and throughout the employment period
· Ensures effective communication strategies are in place between host-sharing schools
· Provides ongoing administrative support (sending out initial letters/handbooks etc.)
· Provides individual on-going guidance and support to schools and MLAs as needed
· Provides ongoing quality assurance for the service
· Provides free training sessions for the MLAs delivered by a dedicated MFL specialist
When and how much do they work?
From 1 October to 31 May and teach 12 to 18 hours a week, whether in one school or shared by up to 3 schools. This can be across primary and secondary.
£32.64 (Connect members) £33.66 (Non-members) per hour per Assistant for a 35-week employment period. Includes MLA salary and on-costs.