Top 5 Mistakes Spanish Speakers Make in English
When learning a new language, everyone makes the same mistakes. This is the fun part of learning a language! When you make mistakes you can learn from them and take your language skills to a whole new level.
Most articles discuss common mistakes made by English learners, but none of them discuss how to actually eliminate those mistakes for good.
Here are the top 5 mistakes Spanish-speakers make in English, why they happen, and how to get rid of them forever!
1. Missing subject
This mistake happens because the subject in Spanish isn’t always necessary. In English, however, it most definitely is! "Es importante estudiar todos los días" is correct in Spanish, but when we try to translate this, many people say, "is important to study every day." Can you find the mistake? It should say, “it is important to study every day.” In English, you must specify the subject. "It" may be a small word, but it makes a big difference!
In order to always remember to include the subject, you have to train your brain and your mouth to get used to saying "it," or another subject. You can do this by practicing the most common phrases in English that require the word "it" before the phrase. Practice saying these out loud, writing them down, and using them in conversation. For this particular error, simply understanding why this error happens and being aware of it will help you tremendously. Check out this video, which will help you never forget the subject in English.
2. Not using the present perfect
This infamous mistake occurs because of differences in sentence construction used in Spanish. When we’re talking about how long we have been somewhere in English, we say, “I have been living in Ecuador for 3 years,” or “I have lived in Ecuador for 3 years.” However, in Spanish, this is not the case! In Spanish we say, "llevo 3 años en Ecuador.” Completely different! Any time you want to talk about how long you have been doing something, make sure to use the present perfect.
It is so easy to make this mistake! How do you get rid of it? Simply practice asking and answering questions using this format over and over again. You can find exercises and more information here.
Before you know it you’ll sound like a native!
3. "The" or no "the"?
One of the most difficult aspects of learning English is the lack of rules. I know, English would be so much easier if we just stuck to (obeyed) the rules! The confusion with "the" or no "the" is always problematic for Spanish speakers because the use of "the" (el/la/los/las) in Spanish is much more common than in English. Think about it for a moment. If we were to talk about children and adults in general using Spanish, we would say, “los niños son más inocentes que los adultos.” This is a perfectly correct sentence in Spanish. However, “the children are more innocent than the adults” is technically not correct, because we are talking about children and adults in general. Therefore, we must say, “children are more innocent than adults.” "The" is generally only used for specific things. Learn more about using "the" correctly here.
The next time you read an article or watch a video, make sure to notice the use of "the" in context. Underline the use of "the" and analyze why it is being used. Learning the most common mistakes with "the" will also help you stay out of trouble (avoid errors). Here is a helpful list describing when not to use "the."
Oh, prepositions! Prepositions may be the most disliked part of the English language for many learners. When faced with a difficult challenge such as prepositions, you have two options. Option one is to become extremely frustrated and decide that English is crazy and give up. Or, you can accept the fact that learning a language is a process, not a marathon, and learn these little monsters one relaxed step at a time. Prepositions are simply different in English and Spanish, and learning all of the prepositions by using a list is the worst thing you can do. Learn a few prepositions in context every day.
Do not print out a giant list of 200 prepositions and start memorizing them. Your brain cannot handle this amount of rote information, and, not to mention, that’s super boring! English can be exciting, I promise. Instead of memorizing a list, start to listen for prepositions in videos and find them in the articles that you read. Once you find a prepositional phrase, then you can look it up and discover different ways to use it. Focus on only a handful (few) prepositions at a time, then move on once you think you’ve figured them out.
Finally, we have reached our last and most common mistake. An example of this mistake would be, “everyone love that movie.” The correct sentence is, “everyone loves that movie.” "Everyone" is a singular noun, even though it includes many people. We call these collective nouns. A collective noun is a collection of things taken as a whole that takes the singular form of the verb. Other examples where we use the singular form of the verb in English is with the following collective nouns: anybody, somebody, anyone, everybody, someone, anything, everything, something, etc.
One way to remember if a verb takes the singular or plural form is: all words that end in –one, -thing and-body are singular. Another way to remember is: if the subject is singular, choose the verb ending in "s." Let's take, “everything has to go!” as an example. Here, “everything” is singular, so we must choose the verb with the “s," or, in this case, “has," instead of “have." You can find out more and practice with this great PDF.
Whew! That was intense. I recommend reading through the five mistakes again and see if you can eliminate them from your vocabulary. Remember, learning a language is a process that takes time. Focus on the positive and be consistent.
About the Author:
Nikki has a Masters degree in Education and is TOEFL certified. She currently lives in Ecuador where she teaches both Spanish and English. Before moving to Ecuador, Nikki taught English to adult immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taught over 800 teachers through workshops, tutoring, and individual group classes. She considers herself an expert on preparing students for their TOEFL exam, and is very excited about connecting to English learners from all over the world on the Verbling platform.
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