Why Put All of the Best Auxiliar de Conversación Blogs in One Place?
These English Teachers Have Fantastic Ideas
Googling “auxiliar de conversación blogs” nets 2,740,000 results—but many just regurgitate the same information (application requirements and FAQs). There are, however, a handful that offer outstanding insights I wish I’d known before applying to teach English in Spain.
I Want to Save You Time
As such, I’ve created a list of what I think are the most informative, accurate blogs around about being a language and culture assistant through Spain’s Ministerio de Educación. Just like everything else on this site- it’s here to save you time and energy by connecting you with quality resources in as few clicks as possible.
Other AuxiliaresDeConversacion.org Free Teacher Resources
If you decide to sign-up to travel to Spain and teach English, be sure to come back to our site for tons of free, searchable teaching resources for auxiliares de conversación.
And, if you want more than the 3 hours of English teacher training you get at the auxiliar orientation in October, take our free, self-paced online crash course: How To Be An Awesome Auxiliar de Conversación. It’s facilitated by an experienced language teacher & teacher trainer, and the price is right—zero, zip, nada!
Let’s get to those blogs!
I. Should I Really Apply To Be An Auxiliar de Conversación?
Trevor lays out the pros and cons of the auxiliar de conversación program perfectly: You can “test the waters” and see if teaching is your thing, but it is very much a “bare bones deal”.
This one perfectly captures the give and take of what being a language assistant is all about: not always being in charge. Yes, “this job will require minimal effort outside of your working hours,” but “you may get bored correcting pronunciation 12 hours/wk.”
She did the program for 2+ years, gives her honest perspective, and explains perfectly how your experience really depends on where you’re placed, who you work with, and where you decide to live. Your location, commute, and colleagues can make or break your experience. Check out her “LindsayLaVida” YouTube channel and Instagram account for more information.
II. Reflections on Why Being an Auxiliar Is Worth It
Casie’s A Wandering Casiedilla Blog - I I Lived in A Spanish Village for 8 Months, and it Changed Me Forever
There’s a reason why the Ministerio de Educación has a link to this post from the application page—if you had any doubts about going before reading this, you won’t afterwards! Casie’s experience is another great example of why, in my opinion, you shouldn’t stress that much about your placement. Being the “only foreigner” turned out to be a fantastic experience for her. I also absolutely love her last takeaway, as it explains something I felt but could never put into words:
Trevor’s beautiful writing hits on what I find to be a big selling point for many: culture and history that you just can’t experience elsewhere in the world. It’s a reflection on the beginning of a sometimes lonely, but amazing journey.
Sonja describes the bits and pieces of Spain’s culture that you will come to love over the year(s) you decide to live in Spain.
III. The Auxiliar de Conversación Application Process
There isn’t an official Auxiliares Facebook group, but this is the best there is for help getting into the program. They know the ins and the outs of the entire process (I actually think “Profex” is Melissa’s middle name) and have an insane amount of data from auxiliares all over Spain. Look at their “Big Auxiliar Book” (linked in our resources) before choosing your region to see pros and cons from last year’s auxiliares. This is also one of the few groups where there aren’t ads or spam in the posts.
This is an outstanding, narrative-form explanation of the entire process from start to finish. Like Cassandra, my Spanish skills were very low when I applied. Also like Cassandra, I used Google Translate to get through the application. She guides you from mailing items to your state’s consulate to receiving your carta de nombramiento.
If you are a visual person like me, check out this post—it has a great month-to-month breakdown of what happens when, from mid-January (have your transcripts ready) to mid-September (get settled and find an apartment).
Sarah’s Sarah La Viajera Blog - How to Apply for a Student VISA (Chicago Consulate in particular)
Sarah breaks down all of the steps she went through to get a student visa in painstaking detail at the Chicago Consulate. Reading this gave me nightmares for a week as I was reminded of my own ordeal. (True story: I was at the trailhead of Henry Coe State Park, setting off on a three day camping trip when I listened to a voicemail from the Spanish Embassy saying my VISA application had been rejected.) Sarah’s post is a 100% accurate portrayal of, as she puts it, “the beginning of the confusing world that is Spanish bureaucracy.” As you’ll soon discover, vuelva usted mañana.
Cathy explains how to get everything prepared for your auxiliar application way ahead of other applicants so that once Profex opens up, you have a higher chance of being assigned the comunidad of your choice. She ended up with number 134! I looked mine up for fun—when I applied at the end of April ten years ago, my number was 1810. Sounds like now I would have been in the 3000s. One note of encouragement for those concerned about where they may be placed: I ended up in Castilla y León, which I hadn’t even listed as a choice. It was fantastic.
IV. I Wish I Knew This Before Being An Auxiliar
This ain’t your regular top 10 list. These are not-so-obvious things that you should really know but aren’t going to read about in other blogs. Case in point: DO speak Spanish with the teachers so that you can make friends, be proactive in negotiating a good schedule for yourself, and most importantly, be assertive!
Kirstie’s Venga Vale Vamos Blog - 8 Things I’d Go Back And Tell Myself As a New Auxiliar de Conversación
Kirstie opines on her experience with a reflective narrative that really hits home for me, both with the positive—”you’ll realize you’ve learned to love these kids… [s]howering you with cards and drawings…making you glow with pride when they master a lesson”—and the negative—“Try asking, “What is your favorite color?” two hundred times a day.” She also stresses the importance of remembering that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and keeping busy in your free time.
V. First Days As An Auxiliar de Conversación
One of the things I definitely wasn’t ready for—and Sam wasn’t either—was the cultural difference in class and student behavior. You’ll quickly realize you aren’t in Kansas anymore, but that that’s okay. Sam emphasizes the importance of being flexible, which I can’t agree with more. Her example of going into a classroom and being unexpectedly put on the spot for 50 minutes is a great metaphor for the program in general. If you aren’t comfortable with uncertainty, taking risks, or, for those without a high level of fluency (my level was very low when I started)- making sometimes-embarrassing mistakes, then I would think very hard before applying.
Catalina breaks down her first day minute by minute and gives you a great feel for what it is like to commute from a big city (in this case, Sevilla) to a smaller pueblo. She provides plenty of examples of how planning ahead can really pay off, especially doing a dry run of getting to school and contacting the previous auxiliar. (I did this as well and REALLY lucked out as it helped me find a great place to live.) Another thing Catalina mentions (which I found really hard to believe, and I know you do too, but it’s absolutely true) is the fact that you are literally a celebrity at your school. She describes the experience beautifully below:
VI. What Does An Auxiliar de Conversación Actually Do?
Kristina explains so many things in this post that will be extremely helpful for you. She goes into detail about what the job entails on a daily basis, but perhaps even more importantly, she also talks about two big cultural differences: needing to wait (great tip on having backup plans; I recommend checking out “sponge activities” and games in our resources and printing some out so you literally have them in your back pocket for when you need them), and informality in general (I didn’t mind wearing jeans every day!).
This has a great explanation of the types of activities you might be doing from one day to the next and how you won’t just be in an English classroom. I was never in a pull-out style class myself, thankfully. She also brings up VIPKid, which I don’t think was around when I completed the program.
Rebe writes for several days (and I definitely recommend reading all of her entries), but I find the first to be the most interesting. Like Genevieve, she very clearly lays out how varied a typical day can be. She also walks through what her day looks like literally minute by minute. Rebe also has an honest description of classes in Spain in general.
Jessica’s “10 things to expect” list offers a different perspective than the previous posts. All of her classes were in the bilingual program (i.e., should be taught in English), but she found this wasn’t always the case. She also points out interesting Spanish educational system differences at the primaria level, two being discipline and teaching religion. Just don’t shout "señooooo” around her!
VII. What An Auxiliar de Conversación Should Do Before Coming To Spain
This covers really important topics that many overlook (I know I did), such as banking, phone service, and other loose ends. It also mentions something I had never thought about, but which makes a lot of sense: thinking ahead about the potential death of a loved one while overseas.
IIX. FAQ For Auxiliares de Conversación
Liz’s blog is probably the most comprehensive auxiliar resource there is. There’s a reason it’s at the top of the search rankings, only behind the program itself. She’s blogged about everything, and has a very honest and informed (and critical at times) view of the entire process.
Sam & Veren’s Alternative Travelers Blog - Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Spain
Sam and Veren have an incredibly exhaustive list of answers to questions you might have. I definitely recommend taking a look here before going to any of the Facebook groups.
IX. Comparisons of Different Auxiliar de Conversación Programs
Emily breaks down in detail the pros and cons of the Ministerio de Educacion’s Language and Culture Assistant program, CIEE Teach Abroad, the Franklin Program, Meddeas, and the BEDA program. She also has one of the best (and most accurate) blog titles around.
If you didn’t already know, the Ministerio’s auxiliares program isn’t the only game in town. Meredith, the auxiliar interviewed in this post, compares and contrasts her experiences with the MEC auxiliar program, the Bilingual English Development & Assessment (BEDA) program, and being a English Language Assistant through Colegios Bilingües Cooperativos’ UCETAM program.
X. Unique Auxiliar de Conversación Perspectives
Chris and Kaeti give a breakdown of the major airports in Spain, the important role of trains and buses (I know you’re thinking Greyhound, but it’s not that), and Blablacar. Pro-tip for taking an Uber in Madrid: You know how in the US you can look at the first few digits/letters of a license plate and just remember those to find your Uber? In Spain you want to look at the last few digits instead - the first ones might all be the same.
This is an extremely well-written piece about being a woman of color in Spain. The blog as a whole is a compendium of perspectives from Spain exploring different topics-many related to identity, perhaps the most important of which is the dismantling of the single story narrative.
First of all, this blog has my favorite name (Rebe gave a friend credit for coming up with it). One thing I sure never thought about beforehand was how different the English I would be teaching in class would be due to the United Kingdom being 2,500 miles closer to Spain than the United States. This means that you’re going to be teaching crazy, made up words at times, like “shan’t” and “leant,” and will need to correct misspellings like “tyre,” “appetiser,” and of course “colour.” I joke, of course, but take a look at some of the differences here. Also, look to the English teacher before saying blanket statements like “that’s totally wrong,” and especially steer clear of correcting the teacher in front of the class.
An interesting look at the reverse side of Spanish/American cultural differences: things you take for granted about your own culture until you’ve been immersed in another one for a long time. Rebe also does a fantastic job of stressing the need to go “beneath the surface” when examining culture.” Two of the many random things I remember thinking after coming back were that the average street in front of my house is the size of a Spanish autopista and that American money has a particular smell to it.
Candice offers a glimpse of what it’s like to live as a family in Spain while being an auxiliar, including the positive impacts on herself, her husband, and their children.
Although no longer the “ultimate guide” (it will make sense when you open the link), Sam & Veren still take you through many of Madrid’s top vegan spots. They have a ton of posts for other places in Spain as well (País Vasco, Granada, Valencia).
XI. Just for Fun - Spanish Slang (Jerga)
Guess what—”pinche” isn’t a swear word anymore! But a surly camarero might belt out an “¿EHHH?” in reply if you order a “jugo” de naranja. This ain’t your Auténtico 1 textbook anymore, boys and girls. Here are some words you’ll be learning.
Here are some really useful phrases you’ll be glad to know before you start in Spain. Case in point: ordering food using the phrase “me pones un…” instead of with “puedo tener.” Doesn’t that make you wonder why your Spanish teacher made you learn commands? Also, make sure you finish the above sentence (“me pones” means something very different).
Trevor has a fantastic list of words that might not mean what you think they do. I love his explanations of “bueno” (see quote below), and I’d also take a look at hombre, vale, and osea. One other word worth knowing is venga. I’m not as good of a definer as Trevor is, but I’d say it’s used like “anyways” or “anywho” in that it’s code for “let’s wrap it up.” If you were saying goodbye to someone you were hanging out with, you could say, “Bueno, me lo he pasado muy bien… Venga… Hasta mañana.”
Let’s Hear Your Comments
So, in my opinion—these are the best auxiliar blogs and posts around. What are your thoughts after reading the posts? If I missed one of your favorite past or current auxiliar de conversación bloggers, who is it and which category would you put it under? Please add it below!
Still have a question about the program? Feel free to write your question below, reach out to any of the bloggers above, or join the most applicable Facebook group and ask there.