Why can’t we learn a language at school?

As far as I know, almost all the school systems in the world require learning of at least one foreign language (besides English, in non-English speaking countries). And yet, no one learns to speak fluently the foreign language they have been learning for years. Why?

In primary and secondary school, I ‘learned’ the German language. I had a few teachers, but the one who taught me in the secondary classes kept the hour as follows: dividing the board in two. On the first part she wrote a +, and on the second one a -. Anyone who spoke during the hour received a minus. Those who answered the questions the teacher asked were written in the plus column. That’s all. The grades were given in a random system: Although I was the only one who spoke fluent German, I had a semiannual average of 8 (out of 10), because of the constant quarrels I had with the teacher. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I was teaching at the second best high school in my country.

Bypassing this small passage of personal frustration, there are many people who are unable to learn a foreign language after years of learning at school. I think there are three major reasons why this happens:

1. The school system as a whole does not work properly

Given how fast our society is progressing, the school system is becoming more and more obsolete. A school system based solely on textbooks with many pages and boring hours will be less and less effective as time goes by. Have you ever wondered why textbooks produced by publishers such as Teach Yourself, Colloquial or Hueber are not used in schools? I have often asked myself this question, and I’ve found only one possible answer: these resources are too ‘casual’ to be used in schools.

2. Grammar

Have you ever opened a school textbook for German? All of them have a lotĀ of grammar. A seventh grade student who follows such a textbook religiously will eventually know the passive diathesis and the two types of Konjunktiv, but will only learn about 300 words. And even those 300 words are probably on a huge list at the end of the book. It’s absurd! Children need to learn the musicality and structure of the language, not just grammar. Of course, I agree that grammar is very important, but especially for a child, it’s much more important to know how to speak the language than to know the grammar in detail.

3. Psychology

Children won’t learn a foreign language because they get bored at school. It’s so simple. Boredom during class hours makes inattention and negligence become a common thing, and that’s a very bad thing, especially for a growing child. The motivation to learn the language extracurricular cannot exist if the school system cannot teach it effectively. Children associate the language learning process with the class time. And if the class is boring, children will most likely associate the language learning process with boredom. Exactly like I did 10 years ago.

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