It is a fact of life that your maternal tongue will have a strong influence on your ability to speak a foreign language. I know, for example, that English, my maternal tongue, has always had an influence on my studies and use of both French and Spanish.
I have recently had the great pleasure to teach two Spanish speakers English on a one to one basis. For me it has been a most instructive exercise – I hope, also, that it has been instructive for them!
In this series of 10 posts, I will outline the top ten mistakes that, on this limited sample of two, I have noted that Spanish speakers make whilst learning English.
Top ten common mistakes by Spanish speakers – number 1
These blog posts are in no particular order, but perhaps one of the most noticeable features of a Spanish speaker speaking English is the influence of the native tongue in the following examples when spoken:-
Spanish speakers will probably have already recognized the difficulties here – in fact I have deliberately put examples in this sentence!
The difficulty is the sound sp. In English it is a clear sound with no “e” at the beginning. Spanish speakers find this sound extremely difficult to copy.
I always remember a friend who told me the story of when he was teaching English in Spain. He was trying to get the class to say the word “snake”.
He broke the word up into easier chunks.
“sss” he said. “sss” responded the class dutifully.
“nake” he said “nake” chimed back the class, again dutifully.
“Let’s put the word together,” my friend enthusiastically announced. He gave the example “snake”
The class then dutifully, but incorrectly, responded “ss e nake”! The desire to say the “e” sound was so strong that they put it in the middle of the word!
So, how to get round this problem – practise, be aware and copy. Easily said, more difficult to carry out.
Here are a few practice sentences. If you are a native Spanish speaker, perhaps you would like to say them out loud.
Also, to help even more, if you click on the sound file below, I have given British English examples for you to copy and practise with. Enjoy!
1. The Spaniard is from Madrid in Spain.
2. She is Spanish and speaks very good English.
3. The snake hissed at the Spanish teacher!
4. The lawyer from Chile enjoyed speaking English – but enjoyed speaking Spanish even more!
So there it is, potentially the number one most common mistake made by native Spanish people speaking English.
The sound clip is below.