Posted by: janecronin | August 10, 2016

I’ve always been a bit thick

“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.


  1. This, Jane, is superbly stated and, as usual, written in your wonderfully clear and concise style. Thank you for making at least one Silvery feel better.

    • You’re very welcome!!

  2. Dear Jane.

    Thank you for your very informative and interesting blog. This is the first blog of yours that I have read, apart from the articles you have written in both Costa Calida and RTN newspaper.

    Ever since reading your Spanish teachings in the Costa Calida, I have been hooked on your every word and I’m always happy when you ‘correct our grammatical errors’ and, I’ve been using it the correct way but, disappointed in myself when I’ve been party to the terrible errors in Speaking Spanish.

    Then, along came your Blog! I’m so pleased that you have been able to so perfectly highlight this very (to me) embarrassing situation. I feel very ashamed to say I don’t fully understand the English Grammar, so to then take on the Spanish grammar is just a nightmare for me.

    I’ve recently decided to try again to learn more Spanish and to be fluent in the language and had partially decided to give your course a try. My biggest concern was the fact that I find learning and fully understanding the grammar very difficult and, I had planned to contact you to ask your opinion on which of your courses you would suggest for me, bearing in mind my lack of knowledge in terms of my grammar. In my head I had decided to start with the listening course as, as much and as hard as I try, I find it very difficult to understand the Spanish when they are in full flow, especially on the phone. So I know I want to do an intensive listening course but, do I do this first or do one of your courses first and if so where do I start.

    I’ve tried so many courses and, have wasted so much money trying to learn Spanish that this time I really want to get it right. I like the idea of your course as it not just about repetitively learning words and phrases which you rarely get an opportunity to use but, your course appears to be more interactive and there appears to support from yourself.

    I can communicate in Spanish at a fairly good level but I know it’s not anywhere as good as it should be. So, I don’t think the beginners course is not for me. What do you suggest. I would really appreciate your advice.

    Kind Regards Donna

    Sent from my iPad

    • Hi Donna, Thank you very much for your message. Based on what you’ve told me it’s a little hard to gauge your level, but it might not do you any harm to start off with the Step by Step Spanish general course – starting either with Volume One or jumping straight on to Volume Two. This course is actually based on the articles you have been reading in the papers, so it consists of re-reading them in blocks of 10 and then doing a short test which I then mark and discuss any difficulties with you. There is then a short dictation before moving on to the next block of 10 articles. There is also an audio file so you can hear the pronunciation of the expressions used in the articles.

      Having said that, if you prefer to stretch your listening ability, then the Step by Step Listening course is ideal. The part that would be missing for you is the grammatical explanations which you say you also need. However, as you send back each text, any grammatical errors become evident and I will always give you help with them, although that’s not the same as a course which explains the grammar in more detail.

      I’m not sure if my advice is helping or confusing you! If you want to consolidate the grammar first, go for the general course. If you’re really more interested in the speaking/listening element, and what to text yourself without a lot of reading, go for the listening course. To give you an idea of content of the general course, this link tells you what is in each volume.

      With best wishes,


  3. I think this describes me perfectly x

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