“I was never any good at school” has been said to me many times. It doesn´t matter how long ago it was, and in many cases we’re talking about nearly half a century, our school experiences mark us for life. If the teacher told us we were good for nothing or if we failed the eleven plus, we can live with that sense of uselessness for the rest of our lives, and it can affect our attitude towards learning the Spanish language.
Nowadays there is more awareness in educational circles that intelligence can take on many different forms. Now we talk about emotional intelligence, spatial intelligence, visual intelligence and many other types which were completely unrecognised in the old type of schooling. Likewise, there are a whole range of different learning styles: some people learn better by hearing, others by seeing images, others by getting physically involved in an activity. The idea that everyone can learn equally well by sitting behind a desk and listening to a teacher, or that everyone can demonstrate their intelligence by writing down answers on a piece of paper has been discredited, even though many educational systems still operate in exactly that way. In addition, there is now recognition of learning difficulties such as dyslexia which years ago was considered a sign of stupidity or lack of interest.
Many of us English speakers labour under a further disadvantage, which is that we were not taught the grammar of our own language at school. Those who went on to study French or Latin have an advantage, whilst many others never got beyond “a verb is a doing word and an adjective is a describing word”. This is in complete contrast with people who have had a Spanish education, where basic grammar is taught at primary school and language analysis to quite a complex level at secondary school. This can be a problem if you have a younger native Spanish teacher who may not be aware that you don’t have the same understanding of grammar as they do. In that situation, unfortunately it is all too tempting to put the blame on yourself for being “thick”.
There are so many proven benefits to learning language, and other new skills, in later life that it would be a great shame to allow such past experiences to hold you back.