Common English Mistakes Spanish Speakers Make

Students who speak English as a second language sometimes have a hard time in their writing, even if they consider themselves fluent in English.  We grow up speaking and writing in one way, and adding a second language, especially later in life, can be really tough.  Things we’re used to doing in writing in one language may not work in another, and just directly translating things from one language to another may not be good enough.

The single most common second language in the United States is Spanish, especially in Texas, Florida and California.  People who grow up speaking Spanish at home, be it in the United States or elsewhere, can sometimes struggle when writing in English.  Here are some common mistakes Spanish speakers make when writing in English—some trouble-spots to watch out for.

Cognates

English and Spanish have plenty of words in common, or close to it.  There are lists upon lists of words that are either identical between the two languages, or simply have a different ending (i.e., delicioso and delicious or fantástico and fantastic.)  That’s a big jump to speaking English, but it can also lead to some errors, as there are many false cognates, or “false friend” words the two languages share, as well.  For example, the Spanish ropa and the English rope sound the same, and can be confused—but the right translation for ropa would be clothes; the Spanish for rope is cuerda.  Be careful of these “false friends”; there are some potentially very embarrassing ones like embarazada (pregnant) v. embarrassed (avergonzada).

Omitting the Subject

Spanish often omits the subject of the sentence—because the verbs change depending on the subject, you can infer who or what the sentence is about from the verb.  English doesn’t do that, so the subject always needs to be explicitly stated.  You’ll often see native Spanish speakers dropping subjects like “it” or “there”, because they’re unnecessary in Spanish.

Adjective/Noun Order

English almost always places the adjective before the noun, so it would be a “red balloon” and not a “balloon red”.  In Spanish, however, it’s often the other way around—a “globo rojo.”  Less-experienced English speakers may slide in those adjectives at the end, almost like an afterthought in English.  This is rarely correct, and is shared by many Romance language speakers, including French and Italian.

Gender Confusion

It’s always tough when a language uses a distinction that your first language does not.  In Spanish, the pronoun su is the singular pronoun, but in English, it can stand for “his” or “her” or “their” or “your” or “its”—English has a lot of words where Spanish just uses one.  As such, it’s easy for Spanish speakers to pick the wrong one when translating into English; it’s not a distinction that they normally have to make.  You can find similar expanding problems in the verb hacer (which means both “to make” and “to do”).

These are just a few of the more common mistakes; there are dozens of tricky sticking points between the two languages.  If you want to make sure you’ve cleaned everything up in your English, why not stop by Wordsmith Essays’ order page today?  Our team of international editors will help ensure that everything looks good in all your writing.  Check us out today!

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