Monday, June 4, 2018

10 Most Common Mistakes Spanish People Make in English

We are all agree that making mistakes is part of the learning process. The Spanish people is aware of some of the mistakes they make when speaking or writing in english, and no matter wich drills are used in class to correct those mistakes, students seem to repeat them again and again. 

Despite of the fact that most of them learn English since many years ago, some mistakes seem to be rooted in their linguistic repertoire and I would say they feel /comforteibol/ making them. Thus, we can to argue that the solution to this problem does not depend only of the teacher but there are other factors involved such as L1 interference (negative transfer).
The factor of negative transfer makes us to think that certain mistakes are more likely to occur on speakers who share the same L1. Let's have a more closer look at the 10 most common mistakes Spanish people make.

All teachers must have seen their students saying or writing despite of. This is due to a negative transfer since in Spanish we say a pesar de, and the preposition of is explicit. This also causes hypercorrection with the connector in spite of as most students tend to drop the preposition of

Verb patterns
Spanish students are taught in early stages of their learning process that the verb like is followed by a noun or another verb in -ing. When presented with another structure with like such as would like, some students tend to overgeneralize and use a verb in -ing as well. On the contrary we can see an example of hypercorrection when students use an infinitive after look forward to instead of -ing

Using the definite article when talking in general is probably another example of negative transfer as the definitive article is widely used in Spanish, even in situations in which we would not use an article in English.

Modal verbs
A common mistake is also using infinitive with to after modal verbs such as can or must. This may be due to overgeneralization since students feel that there should be to before an infinitive as with most verbs.
Infographic made with

Subject-verb agreement
People is is a very frequent mistake among Spanish speakers. In Spanish the word people is often translated as gente which is followed by a singular verb.

Another example of overgeneralization is using a double comparative with a short adjectives (more faster). This is quite frequent in early stages but it is then corrected.

-ed/-ing adjectives
Confusing -ed and -ing adjectives is also very common. Spanish students tend to simplify and use -ed adjectives for everything and say things like the film is bored.

Now let's have a look at the top three mistakes. The ones that probably annoy teachers the most, or at least me:

Using the verb to be before agree is something teachers are used to correcting at different stages. This is due to negative transfer as it is traslated in Spanish as estar de acuerdo with the verb to be explicit in the structure.

Certain words ending in -able such as comfortable and vegetables are pronounced by Spanish people like table. This is due to a wrong hypothesis that makes them think all words ending in -able are pronounced that way.

And finally it is time for my favourite: using the present simple with since and ago. This structure is very common in Spanish (Vivo en España desde hace 5 años) and students copy the structure in English word by word. Usually the also mispronounce the word since saying something like /sains/.

We can see students making these mistakes at different levels so we can assume they are also examples of fossilization.

There are also some other recurrent mistakes that didn't make this top 10 list but that could be included as well:

- Using the preposition of after the verb depend as they would say in Spanish.
- Dropping the first -h- from the relative pronoun which (wich). Obviously this is only found in writing.
- Saying for to + infinitive or for + -ing when using the infinitive of purpose: I went to the park for to see my friends.
- Using the verb have when talking about their age: I have 34 years old.
- Using the verb lose (sometimes loose) when miss should be used: I'm late because I lost the bus.
- Using to infinitive after make me or let me: My parents make me to tidy my bedroom every week.
- Saying use to + infinitive to talk about present habits. This mistake usually happens after explaining used to + infinitive to talk about habits in the past.

If there are any other mistakes you think are worth mentioning or should be on the list please add you comments below.

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