Why English students struggle to learn foreign languages

Posted on Sep 9, 2010

I have been teaching foreign languages to different people in different European countries but there is something very particular about British students.

Language students in this country unfortunately struggle immensely to learn foreign languages. Why is this?

Lack of motivation? English is too easy compared to other languages?

No. There is one and only reason for this and it is appalling;

The average student who comes to me to learn Spanish, Italian, Greek, Czech or Slovak has absolutely no idea what a language is about, has never heard of basic universal grammar rules and terms such as object, subject, syntax, but even worse, has no idea about the type of words of which a sentence is made.

Most people do not know where the verb is in the question we pose every day: “How are you?” in fact, a staggering majority of students answer my question “Where is the verb in this sentence?” as “hmmmmm… How?”….

Not only can they not locate an English verb in an English sentence but they have no idea about what a verb is, or what it does.

And this includes people with high skilled jobs, jobs with serious responsibilities, managers, businessmen, and so on.

How can we possibly expect anyone with this inexistent knowledge of their own language to understand and learn another one? How can they master the different endings of verbs when it comes to changing person, tense, mode etc? How can they possibly change anything at all if they are unable to even locate the word to be changed.

This represents a complete failure of the state education system and I feel terribly sorry to see how students struggle to overcome this, which often involves a lot of embarrassment for them and inevitably creates a huge lack of confidence straight from the beginning of their learning.

This national phenomenon is completely absurd and unnecessary; if only English teachers were allowed to actually teach English.

We are completely aware of this issue at the London Language Studio and always make sure we help our students to understand the principle of how their own language works as well as explaining the fundamentals of the language they embark on learning with us. It only takes a moment and certainly makes learning languages more pleasurable, less frustrating and definitely a lot of fun!