Posted on by Pablo Montoya

Learning English as a Second Language (ESL) in Spain

Man asking:"Do you speak English?" Last week, I read an article on the difficulties that the majority of Spanish high school students are facing in understanding spoken English.

According to data taken from the latest European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC), only 12% actually understand simple expressions about everyday topics.

Given such data, a simple question arises: What is wrong with ESL programs in the current educational system in Spain? From my own experience, two main reasons immediately occur to me:

1. Firstly, the quantity of English input that a student receives in class is extremely low. On average, the amount of time spent engaging in listening activities is 30 minutes per week.

2. Secondly, and as importantly, the quality of the English that students hear is quite poor because:
(a) Portable stereo systems have inadequate sound quality and can hardly be heard in the back of classrooms.        
(b) Exceptions aside, the pronunciation of non-native teachers is sometimes not quite up to standard. This fact, together with not hearing native speakers often enough, makes it hard for students to improve their listening skills.

Consequences of Dubbing

In addition, there are a few extra-academic factors, which definitely have an influence on the listening skills of high school students. One mentioned in the article is the dubbing into Spanish of movies and television shows.

This alone represents an additional obstacle to ESL students because, as a result, they are not being exposed to the English language as much as it would be desirable outside of class.

Benefits of Digitalization

However, I'm convinced that with the advent of media digitalization, the option to choose between Spanish and English audio tracks on multimedia content is giving students the chance to improve their language competence. I

It might actually be interesting to research a bit further: Will those students, who regularly watch content in English, do better than the 12% percent of students who understand simple expressions?

Bio: Pablo Montoya is both the writer and a speaker of our Spanish 1 course; he is also assisting us in developing our ESL course for Spanish speakers.