By Jamie Wordsworth
Over 100 ‘auxiliaries de conversación’ have travelled to the Valencian Community as part of a government-funded programme to develop language skills in schools.
But you may be wondering exactly what is an ‘auxiliar de conversación?’
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression before. Perhaps you have a small child who returns home from school every day only to tell you yet another story about the young assistant working in their English classes. Perhaps you were one yourself once upon time.
But perhaps, and probably the more likely answer, you haven’t.
An ‘auxiliar de conversación’ is basically a native English speaking classroom assistant. They work alongside teachers and other members of staff to provide a fresh approach to learning English. The assistants are either recent graduates or current university students, and serve as cultural ambassadors for their country of origin.
Alongside their ambassadorial duties, their key role is to reinforce the oral skills of the students. It is important to note that they are not teachers, nor do they take the persona of one, but offer an alternative source of inspiration in the classroom – a chance for the kids to experience an insight into a different culture and way of life.
And it is not just Britons that have made the trip to Valencia but young men and women from a host of other nations too, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States of America. Many of these are countries that some may never visit, so to have a native come here and spend a year in their classrooms is an opportunity that should not only be welcomed, but celebrated.
As you may have gathered, I myself am an ‘auxiliar de conversación’ in a primary school in Gandia and I must say that I am finding the experience an incredibly enriching one, particularly as the exchange of cultures is a two-way process.
I have attended local festivals, paella competitions, a Thanksgiving Dinner and much, much more during my short stay here. And, of course, I am eagerly awaiting the much anticipated tradition that lies at the heart of all Valencian culture – Las Fallas.
Although assisting with classroom activities is helpful, and the chance to practise with a native English speaker invaluable, for me, and many others involved in the programme, the most important component is the exchange and joining of cultures – an idea that seems eerily appropriate in the world’s current climate.
The auxiliaries are scheduled to remain here until late May of this year, and would usually be offered the chance to renew their contracts.
However, with the United Kingdom in a state of eternal limbo regarding Brexit, and the United States one month into a Trump presidency, the future of the programme remains unclear.
Hopefully, this exchange of cultures and learning won’t be hindered by a few silly men in suits.