Although the figure of the English language assistant (ELA) dates back a long while, its current popularity is
unprecedented in some areas of the world. Such is the case of Spain, where the goal of raising English standards among the younger
generations has become a national obsession. Using critical ethnographic methods, this paper examines the experience of three
British LAs placed in secondary schools in Barcelona. It draws on a focused case study of one of them – combined with ethnographic
snapshots of the other two, interviews with school teachers and regional programme administrators, relevant programme
publications, and social media data. The analysis reveals three major tensions shaping the ELA experience in the 21st century
revolving around: (a) the underspecified and unskilled nature of the job; (b) its culturalist imagination and state diplomacy
mission; and (c) the native speaker ideology constituting its raison d’être. This paper provides new insights
into the intertwining of the ELT infrastructure with global travel and tourism capitalised as skill boosters for employability
purposes, and showcases the importance of foreign language education as a soft power tool.
(1993) ‘Paid to be English’ A Book for English Assistants and Their Advisers in France. Durham: School of Education.
(2016) Teachers in international schools: a global educational “precariat”?Globalisation, Societies and Education, 14(4), 543–559.
Chaloner, J., Evans, A. & Pragnell, M.
(2015) Supporting the British economy through teaching English as a foreign language. London: English UK. Available from: [URL]
(2017) English language models in two plurilingual school programmes: Democratising access or creating new hierarchies. Paper presented at the 41st International AEDEAN Conference. Universidad de La Laguna, 8-10 November 2017.
(2018) The intersection of global mobility, lifestyle and ELT work: A critical examination of language instructors’ trajectories. Journal of Language and Intercultural Communication 18(4), Special issue “Language, Mobility and Work”, M. Moyer (Ed.).
Codó, E., & Patiño-Santos, A.
(2018) CLIL, unequal working conditions and neoliberal subjectivities in a state secondary school. Language Policy, 17(4), 479–499.
(1997) Residence abroad within language study. Language Teaching 301, 1–20.
(2017) Pongan profesores de inglés nativos en parvulario y primaria. La Vanguardia5June 2017.
(2018) An introduction to multilingualism: Language in a changing world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
(1998) Skill, service or industry? The organisation of settlement programs for adults learning English in Canada and Australia. Prospect, 13(3), 36–41.
Dafouz, E., & Hibler, A.
(2013) “Zip your lips” or “keep quiet”: Main teachers and language assistants’ classroom discourse in CLIL settings. The Modern Language Journal, 97(3), 655–669.
Del Percio, A.
(2016) Nation branding and the politics of difference. Signs and Society, 4(1), 1–28.
Departament d’Ensenyament de la Generalitat de Catalunya
(2017) Guía del auxiliar de conversación en Catalunya. Curso 2017–2018. Available from: [URL]
(2007) Working tourists: Identity formation in a leisure space. London: University College London.
(2011) Néolibéralisme, inégalités sociales et plurilinguisme: L’exploitation des ressources langagières et des locuteurs. Langage et Société, 1361, 81–108.
(2006) The assistant experience in retrospect and its educational and professional significance in teachers’ biographies. In M. Byram & A. Feng (Eds.), Living and studying abroad: Research and practice (pp. 186–209). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
(2007) Living and teaching in intercultural spaces: A close(r) look at the impact of assistant experience on prospective foreign language teachers. In A. Pearson-Evans & A. Leahy (Eds.), Intercultural spaces: Language, culture, identity (pp. 9–20). Bern: Peter Lang.
(2016) “English Teacher: Any Tom, Dick or Harriet will do”: Power, discourse and identity in English language teaching. In B. Kürsteiner, L. Bleichenbacher, R. Frehner, & A.-M. Kolde (Eds.), Teacher education in the 21st century: A focus on convergence (pp. 110–136). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.
(2005) A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Heller, M., Pietikäinen, S., & Pujolar, J.
(2018) Critical sociolinguistic research methods: Studying language issues that matter. London: Routledge.
(1999) Small cultures. Applied Linguistics, 20(2), 237–264.
(2016) Mobility for all through English- language voluntourism. In J. Rickly, K. Hannam, & M. Mostafanezhad (Eds.), Tourism and leisure mobilities: Politics, work, and play (pp. 193–207). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
(2009) A theory of soft power and Korea’s soft power strategy. Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 21(2), 205–218.
(2018) The history of language learning and teaching in Britain. The Language Learning Journal, 461, 6–16.
Méndez García, M. del C., & Pavón Vázquez, V.
(2012) Investigating the coexistence of the mother tongue and the foreign language through teacher collaboration in CLIL contexts: Perceptions and practice of the teachers involved in the plurilingual programme in Andalusia. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 15(5), 573–592.
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte
(2017) Guía del auxiliar. Programa de auxiliares de conversación en España 2017/18. Madrid: Secretaría General Técnica, Subdirección General de Documentación y Publicaciones. Available from: [URL]
(2004) Soft power and American foreign policy. Political Science Quarterly, 119(2), 255–270.
(2001) Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.
Pine II, B. J., & Gilmore, J. H.
(1998 ) The experience economy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Relaño-Pastor, A. M., & Fernández-Barrera, A.
(2019) Resignifying English in La Mancha bilingual schools: Eliteness and the native self. Special issue “Elite Multilingualism”, Barakos, E. & Selleck, C. (Eds.) Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.
Rowles, D. & Rowles, V.
(Eds.) (2005) Breaking the barriers: 100 years of the language assistants programme 1905–2005. London: British Council, Department for Education and Skills.
(2018) TEFL tourism: The tourist who teaches. Tourism Geographies, 20(1), 127–143.
(2016) Economy class? Lived experiences and career trajectories of private-sector English-language-school teacher in Australia. In P. Haworth & C. Craig (Eds.), The career trajectories of English language teachers (pp. 185–199). Oxford: Symposium Books.
Subdirección General de Cooperación Internacional y Promoción Exterior Educativa
(2017) Las funciones del auxiliar de conversación [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from [URL]
(2001) The unbearable lightness of EFL. ELT Journal, 55(4), 391–396.
Tupas, R., & Rubdy, R.
(2015) Unequal Englishes: The politics of English today. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
(2010) Excess, fascination and climates. In H. Schmid, W.-D. Sahr, & J. Urry (Eds.), Cities and fascination: Beyond the surplus of meaning (pp. 209–224). Farnham: Ashgate.
(2012) Foreign language assistants in schools: making sure of the future. In J. Sayer & L. Erler (Eds.), Schools for the future Europe – Values and change beyond Lisbon (pp. 117–134). London: Continuum.
Cited by 3 other publications
2022. The dilemmas of experimental CLIL in Catalonia. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 43:4 ► pp. 341 ff.
Ordóñez Dios, Alfonso Francisco & Beatriz Polo Recuero
2020. Teacher perceptions on the role of language assistants in bilingual physical education. Pulso. Revista de educación :43 ► pp. 75 ff.
Relaño Pastor, Ana María & David Poveda
2020. Native speakerism and the construction of CLIL competence in teaching partnerships: reshaping participation frameworks in the bilingual classroom. Language and Education 34:5 ► pp. 469 ff.
This list is based on CrossRef data as of 25 may 2023. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers.
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