Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2543-3164
  • E-ISSN: 2543-3156
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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 . 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.


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