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5 Common mistakes Made by Spanish Speakers

10 Jul , 2015  

1. Not using the present perfect
This infamous mistake occurs due to the difference 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! Anytime you want to talk about how long you have been doing something, make sure to use the present perfect.

2. ‘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”’ 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, 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 not correct. Because we are talking about children and adults in general, we must say, “Children are more innocent than adults.” ‘The’ is generally only used for specific things.

How to help: 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’ such as, the environment, air, the brain etc. will also help you stay out of trouble. (avoid errors).

3. 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 go 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!

How to help: 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 ‘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.

4. Subject-verb agreement
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 and take 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.

How to help: One way to remember if a verb takes the singular or plural form is the 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’. For example, “everything has to go!” Here, “everything” is singular, so we must choose the verb with the “s”, or in this case “has” not “have”. You can find out more and practice with this great PDF. Big thanks to Nikki at Verbling for the insight!

5. Prepositions
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 languages 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 by learning all the prepositions by way of a list is the worst thing you can do. Learn a few prepositions a day in context.

How to help: Do not print out a giant list of 200 prepositions and start memorizing them. Your brain cannot handle this amount of rote information, 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 articles 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.

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