English Language Assistant

What is an English Language Assistant (ELA)?

Every year around 2,500 Language Assistants from the UK support the teaching of English in fourteen countries around the world. The British Council Language Assistants programme offers UK students a unique opportunity to gain transferable skills and to become immersed in another culture.  The British Council offer year-long paid placements with teaching time limited to between 12 and 20 hours a week, giving Language Assistants plenty of time to explore their new surroundings.

Why become a Language Assistant?

Experience another culture

This paid placement will put you in a great position to travel, learn and pursue new interests.

Develop transferable skills

Skills such as cultural awareness, communication, presentation, creative thinking, problem solving, time management and organisation are skills that can be gained during the programme and are skills which will help you in the future and that future employers will look for.

Learn a new language

There is no better way to learn a new language than being surrounded by native speakers. Your language skills will improve greatly as you interact with locals and navigate day-to-day life as a Language Assistant.

What will I do as an ELA?

Your duties will vary depending on what country you decide to go to and who you teach. Working between just 12 and 20 hours a week gives you the flexibility to make the most out of this amazing experience whilst also getting paid.

English Language Assistant

An ELA’s role typically includes:

  • Supporting the teaching of English in a school or university
  • Planning activities & creating resources to enhance the students level of English
  • Introducing UK contemporary culture through classroom and extra-curricular activities
  • Supporting the running of international projects and activities

As an ELA you will not be required to:

  • Teach any subject other than English
  • Discipline children
  • Mark work regularly
  • Cover for staff illness

If there are any other duties that you are required to carry out, they will be agreed with you before your departure. You will also receive further training once you arrive at your host institution.


There are different qualities required by ELA’s that vary from country to country, as well as specific eligibility criteria that you will need to meet.

Language Requirements

No formal language qualifications are necessary however you need language skills equivalent to a B1 on the European Framework which is equivalent to the first year of A level/Higher. The requirements for Spain are slightly lower, at an A2 on the European Framework. These skills can be acquired through travel, private study or through a University Language Centre course. You do not need previous language skills if you are applying for China.

Native-level English

You must be a native-level English speaker to become a Language Assistant. Your English skills will be assessed by reviewing your written application, your university reference and your educational background. On some occasions, your English may need to be tested through a phone or face-to-face interview.

Secondary Education

Your secondary education should have been completed in the UK (aged 12-18 in Scotland, 11-18 in the rest of the UK). You may still be eligible if you were educated outside of the UK but hold a UK passport, subject to a test of your knowledge of UK culture. If you were educated in the Republic of Ireland, you will be eligible if you are currently studying at a UK university and hold a UK/EU passport.


You must have passed two years of university-level education by the time you start the programme. You must contact the British Council if this was completed outside of the UK.

Additional Information


You will be able to register your preferences for specific locations and age groups but you must be willing to accept any post offered to you as preferences are not guaranteed.


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You will need to be available to complete the entire period of appointment for the country to which you apply (typically one year placements).

Background Check

Applicants will need to apply for an International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) which costs approximately £60. You should not apply for this until you are told to do so. Your application will not be accepted if you have ever been convicted of, or received a caution, reprimand or warning for a sexual or violence related offence or any offence involving any type of harm to a child/children.


A teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification is not needed to be able to apply although we would recommend completing a TEFL course to give you a basic overview of teaching abroad and so you get the best out of your experience in the classroom. You can view our range of courses here.


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Consecutive years

You can only be an ELA through the British Council four separate times, regardless of whether the posts were in the same or different countries. Both consecutive and non-consecutive years will be counted. Partner organisations abroad will have their own eligibility criteria so you will need to check with the British Council before applying if you would be able to stay for a consecutive year in that country

Where can I go to become an ELA?

Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland

*For further information about each country and eligibility please click here


English Language Assistant

What will it cost?

Unlike many other teach abroad programmes, there is no programme fee to work as a language assistant. The British Council have over 110 years of experience of running the programme and you will receive support and guidance as well as from their partners overseas both before and during the placement.

There are a number of costs that you will need to cover yourself. These include:

  • Return flights (*Those applying to China will have their flights reimbursed)
  • Travel insurance
  • Accommodation and utility bills (the cost of this will vary so you should do some research beforehand). * For those applying to China, accommodation is paid for
  • An International Child Protection certificate (approximately £60)

Additional Costs – there may be other costs that you will need to consider, depending on location. These can include vaccinations, visas, work permits and ID cards, travel costs for pre-departure briefing, induction courses and money for the first two months.

English Language Assistant

How do I apply?

Applications for the 2017/2018 academic year are currently open.

University applicants

If you are at university and want to apply to be a Language Assistant as part of your year abroad, your university may set a separate internal deadline that may be considerably earlier than the British Council deadline. You must check this with your university in advance of applying. After applying you will need to provide your tutor’s or year abroad coordinator’s email address to act as a refer.


Applicants who graduated before 1 January 2014 will need to provide an up-to-date reference from a recent employer.

What’s next?

Once your application has been accepted, you will then need to prepare for your placement. You will receive an information pack around four to six weeks before you leave which will be specific to the country you will be working in and will cover inductions, lesson ideas etc. You must plan contact with your school to arrange insurance and visas.

For any more information about the ELA programme visit the British Council website

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