This article is written by one of the language teachers at italki Image by Horia Varlan (CC by 2.0)
As a Spanish teacher, it is quite usual for me to meet English-speaking learners that make similar mistakes in the course of learning Spanish as a foreign language. For the most part, the main reason is obviously that the grammar and vocabulary of their mother tongue and Spanish are completely different from each other. However, I have often noticed that mistakes are due to words that resemble each other very much in their written and/or spoken forms, but their actual respective meanings have nothing in common. In the case of the latter, language learners wrongly assume that the meaning is the same in both languages rather than think the target language may work in a completely different way.
In this article, you will find a list with very specific examples of the ten most common mistakes English speakers have made in my Spanish lessons. I have chosen them especially for you; read them, enjoy them and think about them:
1. English speakers usually say in the morning and translate it as *en la mañana. Sorry, but this is wrong! The correct form for this is de la mañana.
For example: I woke up at three o’clock in the morning.
Me desperté a las tres en punto de la mañana.
2. I often hear English-speaking students say *no me he realizado. This happens because there is a very similar verb in English (to realize) and learners assume that Spanish realizar means exactly the same. Not at all, guys! The correct answer is darse cuenta de (algo).
For example: I haven’t realized (that) Pedro was next to me.
No me he dado cuenta de que Pedro estaba a mi lado.
3. To move is another good example of a common mistake made by English-speaking people. In Spanish we say mudarse when we move to a new house. It is not correct to say *moverse.
For example: I am moving to my new apartment.
Voy a mudarme a mi nuevo apartamento.
4. You will have a lot of success, if you learn these examples carefully. It is not correct *tener mucho suceso. Instead of this word, which means event or incident, you have to use éxito.
For example: That cod dish is a resounding success.
Ese plato de bacalao es un rotundo éxito.
5. People from English-speaking countries usually dress in black/blue/white colour, but in Spain it is not very common to *vestirse en negro. Spanish speakers prefer to vestirse de negro/azul/blanco, to be honest.
For example: Bar always dresses in pink. She looks like Peppa Pig!
Bar siempre se viste de rosa. ¡Se parece a Peppa Pig!
6. I have also noticed that many English-speaking students sometimes confuse the use of prepositions, for example por and para. In English, we can say I’m here to see John; but *estoy aquí por ver a John is an incorrect translation for this sentence. The correct use should be estoy aquí para ver a John.
7. Let’s talk now about the common confusion between support and soportar. For English speakers, someone supports somebody else when the former wants the latter to succeed or win, either an election or a football match. But in Spanish, someone soporta somebody else when s/he likes the other person and enjoys his/her company. With the first sense, we say in Spanish apoyar instead of *soportar.
For example: Don’t you worry, I do support your decision.
No te preocupes, yo sí que apoyo tu decisión.
8. On TV, you can watch Two and a Half Men; it is a hilarious sitcom, isn’t it? Well, Spanish title translates as Dos hombre y medio. Spanish speakers usually need un día y medio para viajar hasta Francia en coche instead of *un y medio día.
9. Another common mistake is to use ask for when you are in a restaurant, and you want to eat something. In English, you can say I asked for a menu, but in Spanish you can’t say to the waiter *he preguntado por un menu. Rather than using this sentence, you’d better say he pedido un menú.
10. Last but not least, the confusion when using the correct order of the adjectives is also something to be noticed. For example, in English you can say I’d like to drink a hot chocolate, but in Spanish you can’t drink a *caliente chocolate. In this case, the correct position of the adjective is after the noun; like that: chocolate caliente.
These are the ten most common mistakes my English-speaking students make while learning Spanish. It is important to identify them in order not to make them again. Perhaps, you have recognised your own mistakes while reading. Now that you know them, try to fight against them.