How My Spanish Classes Failed Me (And Yours Probably Did Too)

Updated: Aug 29, 2018

by Alexander Mackiel ||

I started taking Spanish classes in the 7th grade and continued all throughout high school. At my liberal arts college I even took two classes of Spanish freshman year.

And what did I learn? Close to nada.

Learning Spanish in the classroom felt like words going in one ear and out the other. Time, energy, and resources went right down the drain. I know some of you are probably thinking, “Well, you probably just weren’t motivated enough to learn.” But while I was not the most motivated person to learn Spanish, the issue was not just a matter of motivation. (Trust me, at times I really did want to learn.)

The problem was mainly how I was being taught.

Throughout middle school and high school, the format of my Spanish classes was virtually the same. Grammar first. Vocabulary words from a textbook. Reading. Writing. Listening. On the surface, it seemed that my Spanish professors were trying to methodically copy the way science professors taught their students. So why did this method work in science but fail me in Spanish?

Immersion > Drills

The missing element was the level of immersion necessary for learning Spanish. There is, in fact, empirical evidence suggesting that the best way to learn a second language is by engaging with that language in multiple sensory modalities, i.e., immersion (Macedonia, 2015).

Using language is the means and the end to learning a language.

Learning a foreign language simply can't be taught in the same way that science is taught because the technical elements of Spanish that we learn - the vocabulary and the grammar - need to be glued together through personal repeated use, exposure, and application.

But let’s think about mathematics for a second.

In math class, we learn the rules of algebra, how to use them, and are made to use them in and out of the class. The learning and the implication of concepts almost happen simultaneously. On the other hand, in my Spanish class, there was always a wide, disconnecting space between learning elements of the language - vocabulary and grammar - and practically using the knowledge we learned.

The implementation was something the teacher assigned us for homework. Students were just expected to be practicing Spanish around the house with their family or when talking to friends. But in all practicality, the implementation is what should be prioritized over everything else. Concepts are great for learning, but implementation is the key for remembering.

School Is Out. ¡Aprendamos!

There are new and more innovative ways to learn new languages that allow people to be immersed in that language. Lexiconvo is an example of an innovative way to learn a language in that it integrates a novel AI system and augmented reality into a single app that users can interact with in real time to learn a language. You also get old-school methods you’re already familiar with, like flashcards and human tutors.

Learning a foreign language is a goal for many people and there are right and wrong ways of going about it. It's not simply a matter of having enough motivation because a motivated baker without the right ingredients can’t bake bread. Lexiconvo is a tool that brings some of the most cutting edge and innovative features to the table, for mobile immersion.

If I could do it all over again, I know what I would do. Thankfully, it’s never too late to try again.


Learning Styles and Vocabulary Acquisition in Second Language: How the Brain Learns:

Alex Mackiel...

is a student at Carleton College majoring in English and Psychology and plans on attaining a Ph.D. in experimental psychology after graduation.

He has engaged in blog writing for very unique startups in different markets, including local business review, E-commerce, tech (AI & Machine Learning), social media, and Internet markets.


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