“Why Spanish children take a lot of time to learn foreign languages?”

The topic I would like to focus on now is the amount of time children take in order to learn languages. In fact, most teenagers are studying higher courses in high-school without understanding their own native language what leads to a difficult understanding of another foreign languages.

andre-hunter-168807-unsplash.jpgAs an English teacher, I must provide my students with attractive methodology for them to catch all that heavy theory they are supposed to study. Yet, despite all my efforts on trying this, they are unable to know how a language works. Why? Quite easy. They are not used to see grammar as an easy issue; but a difficult trouble. So, the problem starts in their really young age. We are all taught the same with subjects such as: History, Maths, Arts, Music, and Languages. We are often taught our native language as the first language we have contact to and hence we learn the basic grammar, orthography, and native’s vocabulary. However, it seems that is not an easy-peasy task for our teachers. To make a child understand the grammar of a language is a hard work. So, we think she or he will understand in future, once being a teenagers in the high-school. That is the typical thought, yet it is not true at all.

My class starts as ever, I ask what sort of homework do they have, or even whether they have an important exam soon. Unless they must study for the said reasons, I usually give them grammar or vocabulary exercise sheets for fill. “I have already done!” often claim after ten minutes. I take a look at the sheet and I start click-clacking the rolling pen. “Wrong, wrong, wrong once again” I say writing in red ink all the mistakes of my students. I hope they ask me the reason just for their sake.

Question done, I stand up, I take the marker, and I start my way to the whiteboard. Not until I completed the theoretical diagram was I questioned why English is obligatory ─as ever crying over spilt milk─ in schools, and so difficult. “It’s not difficult”, I said. “It’s just as Spanish for us. Let’s make the comparison! Past perfect is exactly the same as Spanish pretérito pluscuamperfecto.” I left them more bewildered than before. They didn’t know the verbal tenses of their own native language! Then, I repeat the method with new exercises with the same grammar point. Consequently, they do them wrong again.

This situation put the question in my head: “What is the problem with languages?” All I thought about this issue was taken from my experience as teacher, as well as my own experience. Hence, I investigated a little more about this phenomenon and asked some students in order to find a possible answer.

Several students told me how bad was being their lecturers. This fact is not so strange, since I have also had some non-professional teachers who became more useless the more day passed. I must claim to them that teaching is not just reading a simple book! Teaching relies on the theory of being difficult sentences and explanations easier for those who are unable, one way or another, to catch the meaning at first try. Those who want to spend all their lives teaching should keep that in mind. Besides, showing students you are not interested in your own subject with misunderstandable speeches, and giving confusing explanations is a prove that you are doing your job wrong.  

A bad attitude from the lecturer’s part is a truly fact. Nevertheless, we must also take a look at the students’ behaviour. Do they want to study English? Are they interested in other subjects?

The answer should be: “Yes, they are not interested in English and they prefer to study another thing.” “So, let’s prepare yourself for Spanish test you have on Friday”, I say. “Hmm, I think I forgot the books at home.” “Neither have you got a notebook?” “Not.” “Fine.”

So, we must add the the non-working attitude of students to this situation. They do not want to do nothing, but playing video games or just chatting with their friends. We are facing thereby a problem of laziness.

This careless attitude is the aftercome of a bad education at home, not just teachers’ one. Providing children a good schedule time and organisation plans are essential for them. It must lie on parents and childhood these aspects since we cannot change them once we are elder ーor, at least, it is more difficult. Good habits and formation should be well learned once at college or higher-education centres. Yet professors cannot change them, it is up to their domestic habits.

We all know languages are boring to study, we must be sincere. Yet the worst things are funny if we can teach them with funny methods. For instance, building sentences with LEGO bricks could be a well idea for children. Their colourful pieces will wake up the creativity of the most little ones, giving them the will of taking the pieces and play with them too.  This is just an idea; nevertheless, it often works.

So, as a conclusion, I think Spanish children are used to get everything they want without any kind of effort, leading them to be incompetent adults in future. That is the reason why we must boost the children wills of learning. Not just Arts, Music, History, and so on. But Languages too. How professional would be a mathematics whether he was really good at maths, yet useless in English? He would just be able to share his own work with their national colleagues, or employing a translator. Besides, it is our duty to teach children to act as responsible people since these children will be our leaders the day after tomorrow.

Link for download: Why children take a lot of time…

5 thoughts on ““Why Spanish children take a lot of time to learn foreign languages?”

  1. In the 5th grade, I remember a fellow student from the Philippines. He spoke no English, save a few words, when he started, but he played with us. By the middle of the year, he was nearly fluent. He just wanted to have friends, and where we lived, the only way that was going to happen with clear communication was learning English. In recent years, even decades, the idea of learning English has fallen by the wayside, and this is affecting the idea of learning this language. Also, the idea of academic excellence has also diminished in importance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First, thank you for the comment and having read this story. It’s such a good motivation for making new friends, despite the starting situation of being alone… Anyway, I find really important to make learning languages important for students, because it’s not just important, but essential. So, we must demonstrate young children how important is knowing English (or other languages).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You should learn of the work of a brilliant linguist named Stephen Krashen. His books are free to read online and Youtube has some videos of him. If you believe in his hypotheses you will completely change the way you teach. You’ll get much better results.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments, I’ll take a look at them just to study further about children’s behaviour and obtain better marks in my classes. Thank you very much.


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