5 language tips for Spanish speakers

5 language tips for Spanish speakers
Tags: tips

Our Marketing Manager, Kieran, lived in Mexico for a couple of years, where he taught English to university and high school students. In this blog he is going to give you a few tips on how to avoid some common errors that Spanish speakers make. We are sure you will already know many of these but it is always good to be reminded. 


1. Know your false friends!

A lot of the time, words in English and Spanish are similar because they have the same Latin or Greek root. For example, station is estación, finally is finalmente and telephone is teléfono. But what about words such as actually, disgrace and deception? I remember my students misusing them all the time.

Actualmente is not the same as actually, instead we would say currently or at the moment. Another common mistake is thinking that decepción has the same meaning as deception, when in fact the correct translation is disappointment. These are probably things that you already know but when speaking quickly, we think less about the language we are using and that's when false friends pop up. The list goes on and on but have a think about how you would say the following words in English asistir, casualidad, pretender and pariente.


2. Avoid using the present tense when talking about the future.

Spanish speakers often use the present tense when talking about actions that will take place in the future. It is usually in informal speech and you might hear something like "te lo doy mañana". As a result my students used to make the mistake of using the present tense and they would say things like “I give it to you tomorrow”. In English, however, we always use the future tense so we would say "I'll give it to you tomorrow". This is a really hard habit to kick, especially with low level students.


3. Use the present perfect

In Spanish you might say "llevo 3 meses en Londres" or "estoy en Londres desde hace 3 meses" but when saying the same thing in English, you can't translate literally. This is where we need the present perfect and this was a very common mistake among my students. In English we would say "I have been in London for three months" (have + past participle). Have a go yourself with another sentence in Spanish... how would you say: "Hace una semana que Elisa trabaja aquí".... Remember to use the present perfect (have + past participle).


4. People are

If I had a penny for every time I heard "Mexican people is", I would be a very rich man! The word people is always plural. Take a look at the following statements: English people are helpful, Mexican people are kind, Japanese people are welcoming.


5. Differentiate your long and short vowels

This final tip is more about pronunciation than grammar or vocabulary and if you already know all of these words, then you're doing very well! For those of you who really want to improve your accent, this is very important and pronouncing long and short vowels correctly will help avoid confusion. Say these words out loud: “Ship” and “Sheep”; “Lick” and “Leak”;  “Fit” and “Feet”.

The first word in each of these pairs has a short vowel and the second has a long vowel. While many learners do know the difference, when it comes to speaking they often forget to lengthen the vowel sounds for words like sheep, leak and feet. Usually this type of mistake is harmless and the person you are speaking to will understand what you're saying from the context but you should really pay attention to this kind of thing when doing a speaking exam. Let's try turning this example on its head, imagine a British person learning Spanish and not accentuating the difference between words that are written the same except for an accent. For example, irá vs ira; práctico vs practico and cepillo vs cepilló.

We hope you have found these tips useful and we are sure you knew many of them already. Are there any other common errors that you can think of? If there are, we'd love to hear from you.



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