Just No Good At Languages

Yesterday NPR had a program on cheating in school and a caller talked about how he cheated but only in Spanish class. Why? Because that was the one class he couldn’t make heads nor tails of.

If only I could have talked to that fellow, I would have asked him how the class was taught, what he was supposed to learn. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that it was all about “changing something on the end of the word.” Despite cries of protest from grammar teachers, we must realize that the great system and structure all of us language types see in the presentation of paradigms, most of it passes right through the brains of the ordinary person. Even those who gut their way through and make a decent grade are perplexed by the suggestion that they actually use the TL.

A video I show my students, The Child’s Guide To Language, has a line in it, “They become convinced they are just no good at languages.” I have often wondered why this does not bother my colleagues. They continue writing out the paradigm of demonstrative pronouns on blackboards throughout the country, convinced that if they do it just one more time, a whole class will flounce out of the room using demonstrative pronouns CORRECTLY,. After all, correctness, or as it’s known now, accuracy, is their only goal, not the ability to use the language.

That’s changing, but oh so slow(ly).

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