After Studying Spanish For Years You Cannot Progress Beyond A Certain Stage-What’s Wrong With You?
By Julio Foppoli
Many students feel frustration after having spent years trying to master a second language. They feel they are not up to the challenge. There are so many rules and patterns they simply feel at a loss, let alone those foreign sounds they can never seem to understand. The good news is: in most cases they are not to blame. Find out why in this new mini-article on Second Language acquisition.
THE WRONG APPROACH
Did you know that the teaching methodology accounts for over 90% of the students’ success or failure in learning a second language effectively?
In other words, it’s not your fault if you have not been able to achieve your goals so far. Most likely, the kind of work you’ve been doing may be the one to blame.
Most language courses revolve around grammar and vocabulary drills which result in nothing but frustration and the feeling that “you are not cut out to learn Spanish.”
Those courses focus so much on students’ errors, that they cause you to lose confidence and drastically reduce your oral fluency in the language by “punishing” you any time you use the language.
It is common in these settings to find students mentally struggling with patterns and structures before making any single utterance, for fear of being corrected, told they are wrong or even ridiculed.
This sad, yet real situation produces two main results:
- Many students cannot put up with the mental stress and frustration and drop out their Spanish courses with the feeling they are not up to the challenge of acquiring Spanish as “this is a very hard language to learn.”
- Other students keep working hard even for years, but still cannot progress beyond a certain level and start to feel stuck. Many start to question whether they are to blame for their lack of improvement.
Have you ever found yourself in one of the two situations described above? If you have, the good news is: You are NOT to blame! And… you are far from alone!
Over 90% of students of second languages, not just Spanish, feel exactly the same way.
Why is this so?
Simply because the MAIN teaching methodologies currently used worldwide, even on the Internet, are WAY OUTDATED!
They simply reproduce teaching models that were in vogue over 100 years ago but in a digital format.
Does this sound difficult to believe? Read on.
Almost EVERY single course available on the market today is rooted in the GRAMMAR TRANSLATION METHOD of second language acquisition.
This method started to be used in the 1890’s and it consisted mainly of explanations of grammatical rules, some sample sentences, and lots of exercise drills to practice the new structures. Does this sound familiar?
This system was mostly used to learn to translate Classical Greek or Latin into other languages and it offered little opportunity for real second-language acquisition or should we say “offers”?
It may be acceptable to learn dead tongues but it will be of no use to you if you want to learn to communicate in Spanish effectively.
This clearly shows you why no matter how hard you may have tried, you have been unable to learn Spanish. It is NOT your fault. It is the methodology used; it is the course providers’ fault! Not Yours!
Who can put the blame on you if so far you have been prepared for a reality that does not exist outside the classroom?
After all, as we have seen in our previous mini-articles, children acquire their native language easily and effectively, without boring and repetitive grammar and vocabulary drills, without sentences or structures in isolation, so why should you do that to learn a second language? However, language courses force you to do that time and again.
Worst of all, the language that is shown to you has been simplified to such an extent that if you showed the study materials to a native speaker s/he won’t be able to help sniggering.
Students are presented with unreal and unnaturally simplified samples of Spanish that no one ever uses. In real life, that is NOT how language acquisition occurs!!!
You are NOT to blame!!! How come you be expected to communicate effectively if you’ve never been given a single chance to communicate or to be exposed to REAL language, just as it is spoken worldwide.
Imagine a pilot-to-be whose only experience in flights has been in flight simulators. Would he be nominated for flying an airline’s top commercial airplane? Would YOU like to be on that flight? Would you like your family and beloved ones to be there with you? I definitely wouldn’t.
Just because a person practices and practices and practices in an unreal or controlled situation does not mean that s/he will be able to succeed in a real-life situation. Now see this analogy in language courses.
Language students are obliged to repeat words, phrases and sentences in a parrot-like fashion, they are forced to do grammar exercises, repetition drills just to “hammer the structures into their heads” and they are never ever given a real chance to interact even with another person in a real setting. Would you expect them to use language effectively if real communicative needs arise? Of course not! Most likely they will dry up and be unable to say a word! But it is NOT their fault! They are just the expected result of a bad product.
Having identified the problem, the solution is just one step ahead. But that will be the main topic of our new article on Second Language Learning.