Are you a Spanish speaker trying to learn English? We know that some parts of the language can be tricky to master. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! In this blog, we’ll go over the top 10 common mistakes that Spanish speakers tend to make when learning English, and give you some tips on how to avoid them.
1. False Friends
A mistake that Spanish speakers often make in English is getting confused between false cognates, also known as “false friends.” These tricky words may seem similar in both languages but actually have different meanings. It’s easy for Spanish speakers to think that these words mean the same thing in English and end up using them incorrectly.
Spanish speakers will often think that a word like Actualmente translates directly to the English word Actually, but as we can see below false friends have a slightly or completely different meaning.
2. Pronouncing words incorrectly
Did you know that English and Spanish have some pretty unique differences when it comes to their sounds and spelling? That’s why it’s crucial to focus on how to pronounce English words properly. One helpful tip is to listen to native English speakers and try to copy the way they say words.
Spanish is a phonetic language. This means that the same combination of letters will be pronounced the same way in each word. English is not a phonetic language. This means that the same combination of letters can have a different pronunciation, depending on the word. This can be confusing a frustrating for learners, but you can use an online dictionary to hear the pronunciation of common words and learn those. A good example of this is ‘ough’, which is pronounced differently in:
Another pronunciation difference is that when groups of vowels are together, in Spanish they are each distinctly pronounced, whereas in English, we tend to ‘reduce’ vowels/groups of vowels to a weaker sound called a ‘schwa’. Click on the audio symbol on the words here to hear ‘information’ and ‘información’. Notice the difference in pronunciation of ‘ion’ in the two languages.
3. Using the wrong verb tense
Spanish and English have different verb tenses, it’s easy to get them confused sometimes, but don’t worry! One way to improve is by practicing how to use the correct verb tense in the right context. Additionally, pay attention to the verb tense that native English speakers use when they talk. This will help you get more familiar with how verb tenses are used naturally in English.
In English, the present simple tense is made up of just the subject and the verb, eg:
I agree with you.
The present continuous uses the subject, the verb to be and the gerund (verbing):
I am writing a blog post.
Spanish speakers have a tendency to mix these two and say something like, ‘I am agree’, when ‘I agree’ is the correct form.
4. Overusing literal translations
If you’re a Spanish speaker learning English, you might sometimes try to translate word-for-word from Spanish to English. However, this can sometimes result in awkward or incorrect phrasing. A better approach is to try and think in English and use English idioms and expressions. This way, you’ll start to communicate more naturally and fluently.
“Deja que te presente a mi amigo” in English:
Let me present you to my friend → Wrong choice
Let me introduce you to my friend→ Right choice
5. Using prepositions incorrectly
As a Spanish speaker, it can be difficult to know which preposition to use in different situations. One helpful tip is to practice using prepositions in the right context. Also, try to pay attention to the prepositions that native English speakers use in their conversations. This will help you get a better understanding of how prepositions are used naturally in English.
They will meet in Wednesday.
They will meet on Wednesday.
6. Neglecting to use contractions
Spanish doesn’t use contractions like “don’t” and “can’t,” as a result, Spanish speakers may sometimes forget to use them in English. But don’t worry, you can work on using contractions to make your English sound more natural and conversational. One way to practice is by noting how contractions are used in natural English in TV shows, movies, songs etc and then trying to use them in your speech.
I do not like juice→ I don’t like juice.
I cannot play today→ I can’t play today.
7. Using the wrong word order
English and Spanish have different word orders, so if you’re a Spanish speaker you may find it challenging to arrange words correctly in English sentences. It’s a common challenge! The good news is that you can improve by practicing how to construct English sentences with the correct word order. You will notice this in question forms in particular:
Estás interesado en aprender inglés?
Are you interested in learning English? – Right order
You are interested in learning English? – Wrong order
8. Misusing phrasal verbs
You might find phrasal verbs a bit confusing. One way to improve is by using phrasal verbs in the right context while speaking or writing in English. Start by learning the most common phrasal verbs, start small and keep at it, and you’ll soon be using phrasal verbs like a pro!
9. Misusing adverbs and adjectives
Spanish and English use adverbs and adjectives differently, so Spanish speakers may struggle with where to place them in English sentences. Practice using adverbs and adjectives in context, and pay attention to how native English speakers use them. In Spanish, adjectives come after nouns. In English, adjectives come before nouns.
Un cachorro adorable
A puppy cute→ Wrong order
A cute puppy→ Right order
10. Failing to practice speaking and listening
Finally, the most common mistake Spanish speakers make when learning English is neglecting to practice speaking and listening. Practice speaking English with native speakers, and listen to English as much as possible to improve your understanding of the language.
Here are some good places to practice your listening skills.
Learning English can be a challenge for Spanish speakers, but by avoiding these common mistakes and practicing regularly, you can improve your English skills and communicate more effectively in English.
And if you want to improve your speaking, come and join us for a class in Everest Language School 🙂 and remember there are lots more great English language resources on our blog.