“The uses of the reflexive pronoun se (yourself, yourselves, oneself, himself, herself, itself, themselves) are complex.”
Why is it we so seldom see a statement like this in an elementary Spanish textbook? I got this out of my favorite Spanish grammar book, next to Ramsey, an elementary textbook titled Modern Spanish, from the Modern Language Association, published in 1960. I am not arguing that current elementary textbooks, even college level, should go into dissertations on the clitic se, but some sort of advisory concerning the complexity of some of these grammar issues would help students understand that learning a language is not like a STEM subject where rules build on rules, procedures on procedures, etc.
The MLA book is a lot for teenagers; even college students would struggle. But having used Ramsey, Butt & Benjamin, and others, I find the MLA explanations almost magical (I wish I knew who was responsible for those; there’s a list of consultants and an advisory committee, of the administrative staff and publishing committee, the editorial staff working committee and the authors of dialogs and original readings but no clear mention of who wrote things like, “Where English has is (was, etc.) ed, Spanish may use ser =do if the reference is to the happening of an action, but must use estar do if the happening is over and only the result is referred to.” This is followed by a three paragraph essay on the topic, including, “The construction with ser competes with the reflexive and is somewhat infrequent in speech. It is usually limited to subjects that are not viewed as being so helpless or unimportant that they can be easily pushed around.” Examples are given for the latter: religion and people in general; of those who are helpless or unimportant: “the wounded” and “the door”.
Why do I think it wise to let students in on this even though they can’t yet absorb it all? My own experience with studying languages is that when I look at a rule that then doesn’t seem to match with what I read or hear, I decide to drop the whole thing until I can clarify what is going on. That’s why I’m on my thirtieth year of studying Urdu and still have trouble reading Harry Potter in it.