Learning Spanish in School - How Spanish is Made Difficult to Learn

The school method for learning Spanish is also known as grammar-translation method. It actually has little to do with conversational Spanish but was the reason for many modern Spanish learning methods to be developed.

The school method for learning Spanish is not the oldest method of Spanish language teaching and learning but is definitely the most durable one – it is still popular in many places worldwide despite its obsoleteness and obvious inapplicability.

Description of the school method for learning Spanish

  • In the school method the most important are the textbook and the teacher. The lessons are centered around grammar rules, not on real life situation and set of words of practical use.
  • Grammar material is the most important issue to learn, words and phrases play a secondary role.
  • Grammar is taught and learnt by a large number of exercises and drills, while the teacher controls carefully the learning process.
  • In every lesson vocabulary comprises a set of words used for describing a situation that is practically never to happen and these words are of no practical use. Very often students are required to learn long lists of words that are even not part of any text and for this reason are quite difficult to learn.
  • Grammar-translation method is based on translation to English. Spanish is seldom used for communication in class or for explanation. Instead English as a native language is used during most of the time and every new word, text or sentence is to be translated into it, rather than applying the new phrases in a real-like situation. Every new grammar structure is translated and explained in English, no matter how much that is possible.

School method for learning Spanish is intended primarily for developing reading and writing skills in Spanish. It pays almost no attention on conversational  Spanish language – listening and speaking, including pronunciation.

That’s why most of the students who have gone through a course of this method practically cannot speak Spanish, and their listening skills are severely underdeveloped. Their pronunciation is not only far from perfect but they often mispronounce some words.

This method is useful for teaching dead languages like ancient Greek and Latin that are not spoken today and only exist in written form.

Benefits of learning spanish with school method

  • The method does not require essential teacher qualification. It does not matter whether the teacher masters Spanish or not, whether he’s got enough language practice in listening and speaking Spanish.

The communication is in English and the main point is to explain a grammar rule or a phrase by means of English language, to make a translation.

No through knowledge of Spanish language specifics is needed – details are not important since everything is considered from English language point of view.

The teacher is expected to control the learning process, so he is just expected to know well the lists of words and grammar rules – so that to explain them and to control the progress of every student.

No long experience with the Spanish and no communication skills with various kinds of people are required and estimated. There is no need to explain the language specifics, precise pronunciation and practical rules that can only be mastered after years of practice among native Spanish speakers.

  • Things are easy to comprehend as they are explained in English, so that everyone could understand the Spanish language structure and phraseology. The keyword here is “understand” – which means developing reading skills. “To understand” does not mean “to apply”, to implement in practice – so it does not develop your speaking and listening skills, and it does not develop fully your writing skills either. Practically only the reading skills are developed.

Disadvantages of learning spanish with school method

  • The school method does not develop your speaking and listening skills, and does not prepare you for a real life situation.
  • Learning process is centered on grammar, and grammar is taught in the most incomprehensive way.
  • The vocabulary that is taught comprises words and phrases that are generally seldom used in real life situations when communicating in Spanish. What is more, vocabulary is never taught alone, but always along with a huge bunch of grammar rules.
  • The learning process is centered around a teacher and limits very much the idea of self-training.
  • All the lessons are centered around English and not Spanish. Spanish is taught by translation, the idea is to force association, comparison and thus explanation by English, no matter whether possible or not, whether useful or not or whether this would help you learn and understand better Spanish or not.

The school method for learning spanish is definitely obsolete. It has nothing to do with effective learning of conversational Spanish. However it was the main reason for lots of other methods to be developed afterwards. Most of these methods play a key role in creating Spanish language programs that really make learning Spanish fast and easy.