The high school I attended was small and rural, but it was large enough to have two options for students who wanted to study a second language. I chose Spanish over German without a moment of hesitation. It seemed far more useful given how many people there were in that area who spoke Spanish as their first language.
Getting to know our new teacher was exciting at first. She seemed to love the Spanish language, and she spent a lot of time showing us why she felt that way. We spent one class period picking out psuedonyms for ourselves from a long list that she’d given us. I chose Lucia because it was the closest approximation to Lydia I could find.
The cracks were whispers at first. There were rumours of our teacher having health problems, although no one knew exactly what was ailing her. One day she disappeared without warning. I thought it might be a temporary absence at first, but she never came back. As an adult, I completely understand why the school administration protected her privacy so completely. At the time, though, it felt like they were ignoring us and stonewalling all of our reasonable questions about what happened and why we weren’t learning anything anymore.
None of our substitutes spoke Spanish. Most of them were only around for a few days before the next one showed up, so everything ground to a halt as the months flew by. We studied the same sections over and over again. When we did move onto a new section, the temporary teachers didn’t know how to pronounce any of the words we’d already learned, much less the new and unfamiliar ones. Eventually a longterm substitute was found just before the year ran out, but she didn’t speak the language either.
We had a fluent teacher the next year. She was nice, but she didn’t seem to understand how fragmented and disorganized our first year of study had been. Her lessons sometimes included words and grammar rules that we had never been taught. This would have been totally fine if the lesson had been about showing us how to use them, but they often assumed we already knew all of that information. That made it difficult to understand what she was asking us to do.
More and more classmates dropped the class as the semesters rolled by. I stayed until the end of my Junior year, but I only ended up retaining a few words and phrases.
I’ve been studying Spanish lately, so these memories are coming back. It’s never too late to start again. Maybe this time I’ll actually learn how to read and write the language!