Do High School Classes Really Help You Learn A Foreign Language?

My Experience 101

I am currently a student in highschool. I am taking spanish as one of my classes. I always wanted to learn a foreign language so taking this class seemed like a great idea. My school also requires a foreign language for graduation and many colleges want you to take those classes as well.

I first started taking spanish a little bit in sixth grade. We learned some basic things like the days of the week, numbers, weather, colors, etc. It was actually pretty easy to remember simple stuff like that and I feel like I still can recall things from that little class. I did not take any more spanish classes throughout my middle school years. I decided on trying rosetta stone, duolingo, and other language apps.

Language App vs Classes

So now looking back, I want to see if I learned more using apps or learned more in my classes. I learned a lot of fundamentals on the apps. I learned alot about gender words. I learned more food, clothes, feelings, and family names. Strange enough, I didn’t learn many important common words. If you have ever tried to learn american sign language (like me!) you will see that the 1st words taught are common words. I learned like, need, want, have, etc. The apps don’t focus on that in the beginning. It wasn’t until I got in the class that I started learning more conversational Spanish. By conversational I mean saying more than ” hi how are you, the apple is red”.

In class, we focused on learning a diverse range of things. It seemed like spanish 1 was alot of review of things I already learned on the apps. I was able to pick up on more spanish though. I feel like they really equip you for reading spanish but not actually listening to it. I mean I SUCKED at understanding Spanish speakers ( I still do!). I could barely understand basic spanish speaking. We should really focus more on oral speech for highschool.

You really have to be self driven yourself in order to actually learn stuff. I practiced multiple times on my own. I watched videos and practiced reading. We got homework but it was really easy to just google translate and never actually learn anything. My teachers really mainly speak English. It kinda seems just like a poor attempt of trying to educate us about other cultures. In spanish 2, I finally learned how to say things in past and future tense. We focused alot on sentence and grammar structure.

In School, they did teach more about foreign cultures and traditions that you don’t really learn on the apps. You learn about the countries and their traditions. We learned how to say nationalities and things like that.

The Flaw

I found this on quora and it is so true.

High school language classes don’t teach languages the way you learn them

Think about it:

  • You listened and spoke in your native language 3-5 years before you learned to read it.
  • As you learned to read it, you slowly learned how to form words and sentences in written form.
  • 2-4 years later, you started on grammar.
  • Then you started reading books in it.
  • And then you started on composition in it.
  • And then, finally, in your high school years, you developed complex argumentative skills in written form.

But, day 1 of high school Spanish, and they have you picking out your “spanish name”. Then you’re memorizing the alphabet. And then, you jump immediately into grammar. You had 7+ years of speaking a language before someone asked you what a verb or a pronoun was, but, this is week 1 material for a foreign language.

I think that highschool classes really have potential to be more helpful. A new strategy must be found and then maybe teens will actually learn a second language easier. I still don’t speak spanish that well and maybe I never will. Learning language like any ordinary class just doesn’t seem like it will work for me.