Why I Failed Spanish in High School & Why Language Influencers Tell You This

Confession: I failed Spanish (or insert language) in high school.

As a Lingua Junkie, I am deeply embarrassed to admit this.

Actually, no I didn’t.

But, have you heard this line before?

Waa, I failed language in high school. Or college. I was a terrible student. I remember nothing! Waa!

This is a common line you will hear quite a lot from language YouTubers, language gurus, and people with something to sell you.

They will tell you how awful they were in school.

That they thought just weren’t cut out for languages… because of school and textbooks.

He conveniently leaves out that he went to school in China for his Chinese.
Hey Xiao, did you happen to forget HS chemistry and physics as well? Just asking.

And they totally don’t remember anything…

It was all school’s fault.

Good old “us vs. them”

And then something changed and now they are all fluent and they want to share a secret….

But before they share their secret method, they really, really, really need you to know…

They failed Spanish (or whatever) in high school because classes don’t work and use outdated parrot methods and that teachers suck.

And you will believe them if you didn’t know any better…

If you also struggled with languages… or forgot what you learned in school, you’re going to eat it up like ice cream…

If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t notice they’re using good old propaganda.

The good ol’ “us vs. them.”

Us vs Them: Come up with an enemy to blame — even better if they can’t fight back. Like a big… vague… enemy. And in the land of language learning, the enemy tends to be school and textbooks. How’s a textbook going to fight back? Or the “school” that they went to? They won’t.

But marketing tricks aside…

It’s an obvious answer.

And it has nothing to do with how the language is taught.

Nothing to do with the teacher.

Shocking truth revealed: High School kids don’t remember what they learned in High School Spanish… for the same reason they don’t remember High School Calculus… or Physics… and so on.

Because….

MOST AVERAGE KIDS DON’T WANT TO BE THERE.

MOST AVERAGE KIDS WANT TO JUST PASS THE CLASS AND LEAVE.

IF YOU JUST CARE ABOUT PASSING, YOU DON’T LEARN.

MOST KIDS DON’T CARE ABOUT LEARNING A LANGUAGE.

THAT IS WHY NO-ONE LEARNED ANYTHING… INCLUDING SPANISH.

No one remembers what the hell they learned in high school.

And this is not the school’s fault

Most kids don’t care.

Just like if you wished school taught practical skills like financial literacy — and even if they did — most kids would not care.

That’s why no one remembers anything.

If they cared, they would. Simple as that.

Unlike High School kids, adults wanting to learn a language are generally more motivated and serious. Because if you want to learn things after coming home from work, after your family commitments, and despite your back pain, god damn it, you care. You can’t be compared to a HS kid who wants to watch TikTok and grow out their broccoli haircut.

“Well wait, if only the teacher just made it more fun…”

“But school is not good for…

Shut up!

I hate to resort to name-calling but, dingleberry, learning ain’t done to you. Learning doesn’t work if all you do is show up and passively sit there. Learning ain’t sticking if you yourself simply do not care.

And trust me when I say this, most High School students don’t care.

As the book, Pragmatic Thinking & Learning, says:

Learning isn’t something done to you; it’s something you do.

The only reasonable excuse you’d have is…

  • If only someone had taught you how to learn
  • If only someone had taught you the joy of learning
  • If only someone had allowed you to not chase passing grades

And you can’t fully blame this one on school either.

It’s parents. Your environment. Your background. Your luck. Your luck with a particularly good teacher. Your experience with learning anything. And so on.

Anyway, I didn’t fail High School in Spanish.

And if someone tells you they did, they likely want to sell you a course by telling you “school bad.”

Done.

The Main Lingua Junkie

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