In my Spanish classes one of the most useful and wonderful phrases that the students have acquired so far is lo siento (I’m sorry).

Lo siento has to be high frequency, particularly for a novice level speaker in a foreign country. I know I was always saying it when I was learning Spanish in Chile as a teenager because I would miscommmunicate so often and frequently did not understand the customs.

In a TPRS class kids want to be able to express themselves. They are hearing so much and responding spontaneously so often that they understand that they want to respond more in authentic, unscripted ways, and rejoinders like lo siento allow them to begin to do that. (See previous blogs on Rejoinders here:

Being able to say lo siento is also a classroom management isssue because it has direct bearing on our daily routine and classroom discipline.  I teach them to say this phrase when they come in late. I tell them you have disturbed us already by being tardy. Do not compound it by giving some lame excuse. Please just say lo siento, sit down and join us. I will count you tardy, but you will have something far more valuable than a not tardy: my respect and that of your classmates.

This classroom procedure also teaches them something about life. I often think that my job is to teach kids about how to get along in life but I just happen to use Spanish to teach it. Learning to apologize and to expect that you will be forgiven when you do is an important life lesson and one that my students rarely seem to learn today. As Alan Jones, the dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of San Francisco said, “We live in an age in which everything is permitted, but nothing is forgiven.”  I want my students to learn that they can be forgiven when they mess up. Admit your mistake and move on. Accept the consequences, and also accept the pardon. Don’t blame somebody else. Important stuff that too many students don’t even have a category for any more.

Being tardy to Spanish class is rather insignificant in the grand scheme, but learning to admit a mistake and to accept a pardon is priceless.