Affective changes, the CPH, and memories of language learning

As I correct hoework assignments in which my trainees explore the relationship between emotions and the CPH, I’m reminded of my own middle school, high school, and college language learning experiences.

I studied Spanish for a year in middle school and for 2 more years in high school before switching to Latin. It was a big mistake, but my reasoning was that Spanish III would be too difiicult for me since I hadn’t learned any Spanish so far. It was better to start off fresh than to continue a more advanced Spanish course that I wouldn’t be able to follow.

In some ways I blame my emotions for slowing down my language learning although the real culprit is probably the grammar translation method and the teachers who used it.

I didn’t do well in middle school Spanish. I was afraid of making mistakes, a common problem for kids going through puberty, particulalry boys who have a crush on the teacher and a few girls in the class. Then I was caught cheating on a quiz.

I wanted a more efficient way to study the colors than the list of translations in my notebook so I labeled various book covers, notebooks, and my “Jaime” name tag (that name tag didn’t help my emotions since I ended up getting called “hiney”) with the Spanish words for the various colors. The teacher saw amarillo on my yellow book cover, took my quiz, and gave me a zero. That was discouraging, of course.

Anyway, learning Spanish was always stressful and never fun or interesting. I was never given a chance to overcome my puberty-related hardships (my desire to appear cool and smart, my shyness, etc.). When my parents decided I needed a Spanish tutor to get my grades up I went to her house and got tested on translations for a while. She wasn’t attractive like my middle school teacher and there was no one else there so I felt pretty secure. I still didn’t learn enough Spanish but I think I did learn something with the more comfortable environment.

Then it was on to highschool where the bully behind me would kick my chair (or me) while the teacher pretended not to notice. Talk about bad learning conditions. Eventually I stabbed his hand with my pen. He threatened to kill me but stopped kicking me. No surprise that I couldn’t learn in that classroom, is it?

Latin was far worse, but I’ll blame the Latin teacher I despised for that. Mrs. Dartmoth or Dortmouth or something like that.

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Comments (4)

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  1. daniel lucas says:

    I know that it´s hard learn spanish but is not imposibol. for example I speak spanish but i want know Chinese and try to believe me it´s more hard and difficult lern your language so don´t said that it´s not fun or stressful because it´s a beautyful languange

  2. James Trotta says:

    Thanks Daniel – I didn’t mean to imply it was impossible. Just that affective factors get in the way after puberty.

    Thanks Katie – please email link exchange requests and stuff like that to

  3. Thomas Quinn says:

    Interesting story. I remember my spanish classes, never really took to them. I believe we all had a tough time in middle school, especially with teachers unwilling to properly control the situation.

    Nice blog.

  4. Sue says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve linked to this post in my blog today …