Sat. Feb 29th, 2020

Why do we Spanish people find it so hard to learn English? – The province

The recent publication of a Eurostat and Education First report has once again warned of the poor average level of English among Spaniards. According to that study, the 45.8% of people aged 25 to 64 did not know any foreign language in 2016, a fact that has hardly improved since 2007, when it stood at 46.6%.

In the same period, for example, Portugal reduced that number by 20%, while Italy went from 38% to 34% and Greece from 43% to 33%.

But why is it so hard for us to learn English?

In Spain there are different historical and cultural factors thatThey make it persist a delay in the extension of the knowledge of the language that today is still the main international language. Here are some of them:

The power of Spanish

Contrary to what has happened in smaller countries, the enormous diffusion of Spanish in the world He has managed to prioritize our language over others. For example, when addressing a potentially so large area, the Spanish translations of any type of publication, literary or scientific, they have always had a guaranteed success.

Dubbed movies

The same has happened in audiovisual field. The preference for movies and series dubbed has generated not only an entire industry, but also a custom and an inertia that is now difficult to stop.

English, a pending challenge for many Spaniards. Photo: Shutterstock

On the contrary, in other countries the visualization in the cinema and television of productions in their original language and with subtitles has been an incentive and a lever from the earliest ages for the understanding of foreign languages, especially English. By depriving ourselves of it, we have lost capacity to listen and understand pronunciation better, a key part of language knowledge.

Fear of ridicule

The same problems that make English sound like such a strange language also make the approach in education complicated. It is here that it appears so many times the fear of ridicule when speaking to others.


The educational systems themselves have not helped. Teaching English in Spain is relatively recent (in many cases, French was taught decades ago). In school, in addition, during the time of the EGB (Basic General Education), the study of the foreign language, usually English, did not begin until 12 years old. Subsequently, with educational reforms, education has been advanced and extended, and even bilingual models are encouraged.

But neither has the model helped, more focused on theory and less on practice and conversation.

The idiomatic distance

Even with all of the above, there are strictly idiomatic characteristics that make it difficult to study English. Although it is true that we share a non-negligible part of the vocabulary and grammatical forms or that the verbal forms are simplified with respect to Spanish, the fact that it is a questionn language that "is not written as pronounced" It complicates things when we approach it from a Romance language, a difficulty we share with other European countries.

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