A good friend of mine once enrolled in a Spanish language evening class in the UK, determined and motivated. Within half an hour of the first lesson though, he got up and started to put his things away. Surprised, the teacher asked him what he was doing. He looked up sheepishly and said, “I’m in the wrong class”, to which the teacher assured him that his name was on the register. “Yes,” he replied, “but I didn’t know I needed an A level in English to learn Spanish.”
The problem is that learning a foreign language comes with a plethora of Metalanguage, most of which is alien to anyone outside of language learning. In Spain, almost everyone studies English at some point, either in school or in an academy. Even small children will know terms such as gerund, transitive verbs, pronouns, past participle, conjunctions, the imperative and the dangling participle. There is an endless stream of terminology that can make the entire process feel quite clinical and synthetic.
Anyone studying Spanish at an academic level to gain academic qualifications would have to come to grips with the metalanguage. We, however, are not aiming for that particular gauntlet but instead focus on conversational Spanish. We strive to keep things as applicable and light as possible. Metalanguage is kept to an absolute minimum, and entire days can roll by without reference to the preterite verb form or mention made of an independent clause.