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I’m a High School Student and Suck at Spanish

Most of my readers are either college students (like me), teachers or working people that just want to learn Spanish. I never thought there was another important group of readers.

Today’s advice is going to be useful for college students and people that take classes as well, but it’s specifically written for high school students.

So… hey mate. What’s up? Going through a tough time, aren’t you? You hate the government for killing people in Iraq, you hate your parents because they don’t understand you and you hate school because all teachers suck. Wow, your life blows. No wonder 90% of you is really insecure, it sucks being you, being a teen.

And worst of all; the government, your parents and school force you to learn some dumb language. Let it be French, Spanish or German; you all shit on them. They suck. Also, it’s very well possible that you’re only reading this article and site because you want to pass Spanish class. Well mate, here you’ll find the answer.

No, I’m not going to teach you any Spanish, simply because I think you are kind of right. Most classes suck. You’re not 5 anymore, so why is that idiot teacher forcing you to sing a stupid children’s song? Indeed, he S-U-C-K-S! Like… really hard.

So here’s my advice. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you. But if you have some guts, you’ll actually learn something and have fun. Okay, here it goes.

Demand fun
The biggest problem with classes is that there is no fun. Remember the verb tables? The boring textbooks? The pathetic children’s song, sung by American kids with a worse Spanish accent than you have? Screw them!

Demand The Simpsons in Spanish. Demand Spanish rap music. Demand comics in Spanish. Demand sexy pen pals from the Dominican Republic.

You’re supposed to learn something, right? So step up and tell the teacher how you want to learn! Gather some classmates and start a mini-riot. Refuse to cooperate with the teacher. Go far to get fun in class.

Ask questions
Don’t you just sit in class doing nothing. Now that you’ve got fun, you should actually make an effort to learn something, so ask questions.

Now, personally I’m a bit allergic to studying grammar and investigating how every tiny thing the Spanish language works, but that’s not the only thing you can ask.

Prepare yourself for class and ask questions about the words and expressions you encountered. Heck, you should look up stuff yourself and ask your teacher when you can use it. Look up slang and use it in class, but don’t forget to ask when you can use it or not.

I remember having a student who was a big fan of reggaeton, and boy did he ask questions. Now, most of what he asked was plain vulgar or at least slang, but he was learning Spanish.

Don’t ask for words, ask for sentences
Asking the meaning of cool expressions is fine, but teachers often have to teach a certain amount of vocabulary as well.

Unfortunately, many use word lists. Long, boring word lists. Lists that make you want shoot yourself, that long and boring. But because boredom is impossible in your ideal class (and you deserve the ideal language class), there’s no way you’re accepting those, are you?

So ask for context. No, don’t ask. Oblige your teacher to provide an example sentence for every word he wants you to learn. At least one sentence. For. Every. Freakin’. Word. He. Wants. You. To. Learn. ¿Me entiendes? ¿Sí? Good.

And oh, not just sentences. Fun sentences. Jokes. Weird expressions. Just things you’ll remember, otherwise you and your classmates will continue failing class.

Speak Spanish in class
Your accent probably sucks, but don’t you worry. Although I generally believe that you should shut up and just listen to your teacher, it’s better speaking some Spanish with a shipwrecked accent than no Spanish at all.

The key is to listen carefully to your teacher (especially when he/she is a native) and imitate his speech. Don’t think you’re an idiot when you try to imitate one’s accent and way of speaking, you’re only a moron when you keep talking with a thick accent that no one will understand.

Do fun things at home
It’s easy to bash other people, but how is your attitude? Maybe you’re just sitting in class, trying to sabotage as much as you can. Now, this can be fun but it’ll also cause you to fail Spanish.

But now that you have some fun in class because your teacher finally uses bad-ass materials, it’s time for you to take action.

It’s never a bad idea to do some Spanish in your free time. That can be doing homework, but I shit on homework as much as you do. No, doing homework is not really fun (although it’s possible to make it less a pain in the ass – although I don’t know how), you need something real.

Most serious learners immerse themselves in Spanish, but Spanish is probably just another school subject for you. Still, there’s some really cool music around in Spanish. And the girls man… WOW. Watch some movies with Penélope Cruz. Even if you understand nothing she’s still smokin’ hot.

So, music. Metal, pop, punk, rap, reggaeton; everything counts. When it’s in Spanish, it’s good for you. This way you’ll have both fun and learn something outside class.

Be creative
To finish this long-ass post I have one final tip for you: be creative. I gave you some good pointers to get you started, but I’m sure there are many more ways you can improve Spanish class yourself.

Life’s a bitch, especially when you’re in high school. In fact, I hated high school 3/4 of the time; I only enjoyed my senior year. Why? Because that last year I decided I had to improve the boring classes myself, and it worked.

Now that I’m in college professors ask us how to improve their classes all the time. There’s nothing wrong about taking advice from your students. Teachers reading this should realize that. And for the students I wrote this post for: don’t forget to remind your teacher that the goal is that you learn something, so you should be able to enjoy class. And oh, don’t forget to tell him/her that some weird kid from the Netherlands told you there’s nothing from with teachers accepting advice from their students.


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A Spanish teacher by trade, Ramses is a true language learning addict. He started and The Language Dojo, and isn't even thinking about quitting language learning; it's in his blood!


Matthew January 12, 2010 at 1:20 am


Two things. 1- I was forced to "learn" Spanish for two years in high school. The only thing I remember is "donde esta el baño." In the last four months of self-study I've learned more Japanese (mostly through TV) than I did through two years of forced Spanish. 2- At my old job a coworker wore a stupid shirt that he claimed was made out of Egyptian cotton. From that day on everyone teased him by called him Ramses. I'm not sure why I told you that… I think about it every time I read your site I guess, haha. Don't forget to update about how French is going for you, I'm curious about how easy it must be going from Spanish (I've heard estimates claiming 50-80% crossover between the languages, except for pronunciation of course).


Livonor December 31, 2012 at 2:36 am

Uatiii??? Matt learning japanese?? I guess I’m lost in the spacetime again…


Matt December 31, 2012 at 2:53 am

I’m not studying Japanese!


Matthew January 12, 2010 at 1:25 am

Typo – I meant "…everyone teased him by calling him Ramses." My stupid fingers never do what they're told. 🙂


WC January 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

I was 'forced' to learn Spanish in HS as well, though I actually really wanted to, so they didn't have to do much 'forcing'. At this point, I remember a handful of phrases like 'here's your change' and a few songs. I actually remember more of Jingle Bells in Spanish than English. I've been at this same point since pretty much the end of HS.

I've been studying Japanese on my own for about 2 years now at what I think is probably the slowest rate possible and actually retain anything. I can read any shonen manga and understand what's going on, even if I don't actually understand all the words.

That's quite a difference.

Anyhow, my point was that I -wanted- to learn Spanish, but the HS classes made me think they were going to force Spanish down my throat, so I didn't put any effort into it outside of class. On the other hand, I have put -less- effort into Japanese daily and have -way- more command of the language than I ever did in Spanish.

Short version: It isn't enough to just study in class. If you want to actually use the language, you need to start getting natural input immediately.


Ramses January 12, 2010 at 9:54 am

Oh people tease me, but I just can't change my name. My become I'm an attention-whore at times I don't care :P.

I'll give you an update about my French project soon. It's just a bit on the backburner because of the last exams of this year. But I can tell you it isn't always easy to do French. Pronunciation is really a pain in the ass. But I am surprised by how much my Dutch helps; Dutch has MANY French loanwords for common things and it's just incredible how much that helps me.

Same for me in college. I had some really cool classmates, but they gave up because they didn't speak any Spanish after a year of majoring Spanish. When I told them they actually had to do some massive work at home they thought I was crazy. Pity that I'm still cruising through college and they lost a year switching majors (and that I speak Spanish, of course).


Monocian January 14, 2010 at 3:40 am

Hello Ramses,

I've been reading your blog since June '09, and still I remember that you once talked about imitate native speakers. Can you tell me and others how do you imitate their accents 😕

Thank you! x3


Ramses January 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

I think I've covered that once in Imitate, Imitate, Imitate, but maybe I'll write a follow-up post to exactly describe how to red rid of your accent/get a good accent.


Grenzonix November 14, 2010 at 6:24 am

haha, luckily este ano for level 5 Spanish, mi maestra nos da dulces and goes over some slang. And we have a sexy estudiante extreni desde Chile. Es lindo. Estoy allegre. Class passed. Escuchando y memorizing un poco Spanish letras de canciones helps mas que nada para mi porque man do I have a bad memory. Vocab, slang, common phrases it's all there and using music as sound memory is how I remember. What many teachers need to practice is that sus estudiantes no aprenden el mismo. Some are better hands-on, reading, oral listening, visual y otros necesitan their senses to remember, como sound(music) and smells (comida cultura). It's not like all teachers want us to fail, apart from those few psychos, and you're right. Us students need to voice up and give suggestions and not to sit back and be observers.

It's my senior year and I hope by the end that my Spanish skills aren't as terrible as Peggy Hills.


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