3 Mistakes Spanish Learners Make and How to Avoid Them

The language learning process is full of many a pitfall, and if you are a native English speaker trying to pick up on Spanish, you have undoubtedly encountered your fair share already. Of course, you probably understand the importance of knowing a language like Spanish, one of world’s top three most important languages. And as nations like the U.S. become increasingly globalized and multilingual you know that having one more language under your belt will definitely benefit you both persquonally and business-wise.

Even with firm language goals in mind, it can become frustrating to feel like you are consistently dealing with the same mistakes and problems as you struggle to learn Spanish. It’s all too easy to give up on your language learning objectives when it seems that your progress is hampered by learning barriers. But remember: all students of a foreign tongue struggle with these at some point or another during the process. So before you throw in the towel, check out these 3 common Spanish mistakes and how to avoid them:

  1. To be vs. To have

One of the biggest challenges for Spanish learners is perhaps acquiring the initial skills to navigate around the terms “to be” and “to have”. In English we use “to be” to indicate things like age (“I am 25 years old”) while in Spanish “to have”/ “tener” is utilized instead (“Yo tengo 25 años”). Although this latter phrase translates literally to mean “I have 25 years”, the key is to not think of it in English terms. When you use literal translations from Spanish to English, the struggle to grasp the concepts becomes exponentially harder. Instead, commit to thinking fully in Spanish. Accept that these are language nuances you must learn and refuse to allow your mind to try to ‘logically’ translate and make sense of them in English. Doing so will lead to faster fluency.

  1. Tú vs. Usted

With many different titles for different societal stratums, Spanish is definitely a more formal language than English which constrains itself to the use of a few proper titles. One way in which Spanish exhibits itself as a formal tongue is through the use of “tú” vs. “usted”. If you’ve been studying Spanish for some time, you know that “tú” is the “you” term used for close friends or informal acquaintances while “usted” is reserved for those older or those you don’t know very well. Most Spanish learners start out using primarily “tú”, making it all too easy to forget that “usted” is also a vital part of the language. The key is to learn these two “you” terms side by side, forcing your brain to consider beforehand who you’re speaking to and which one is applicable. This way your mind is trained from the start to think this through and you won’t run the risk of offending anyone with the informal term when you should be using formal.

  1. Embarrassed vs. Embarazado/a

Our brains love to make associations between similar sounding words, causing us to believe that if they sound the same, they must mean the same thing. As a result, false cognates are one of the biggest and most difficult pitfalls to avoid for Spanish language learners. One key example is the use of the word “embarazado/a” to say you’re embarrassed. Yes, the two do sound the same, but unfortunately if you say “Estoy embarazado” you’re merely announcing to the world that you’re pregnant, which will surely be the cause of even more embarrassment than before. However, these situations are avoidable if you take the time to memorize which are the most common cognate errors. Then practice, practice, practice to cement these skills and make sure you don’t stick your foot in your mouth in the future.

Katie Collom writes on behalf of Language Trainers Online, a foreign language tutoring service specializing in group and one-on-one classes via Skype. Check out their language level tests and other free, online resources on their website or send them a quick inquiry for more information about their personalized course packages.

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Posted by mikebastin