Top 5 Spanish mistakes

The 5 worst mistakes that Spanish speakers make in English.

We all want to speak English better, and each language has its own problems which speakers inherit when they are trying to speak English. Japanese speakers might put the words in a strange order that does not work in English. Even very good Russians will not use articles when they speak in English. Spanish students, too, have their own inherent problems, and here are the ones that stand out the most.

#1 I am agree

This is probably one of the most common and one of the worst mistakes Spanish speakers make. Estoy de acuerdo does not translate exactly. If you were to translate it literally you might say ‘I am in agreement with you’. But this sounds like you are in court or a political council. We just say ‘I agree’, ‘she agrees’, ‘we agree with each other’, ‘I don’t agree’ or ‘I disagree’ etc.

#2 I have been in Rome

A funny thing happened when I was watching an old Alfred Hitchcock film one day. The main character said “but I have never been in Paris”, and I was shocked. This sounded completely wrong to me. People don’t speak like that. At least, now they don’t. They did, years ago, but he estado en Roma has changed and in English we are actually using the verb go because we are talking about travel. So, the correct way to say it is with to. I have been to Rome. I am going to Rome, I went to Rome, I have been to Rome.

#3 Is

Also one of the most dreadful mistakes you can make is to translate es as is. In English es is two words: it and is. Spanish verbs include the subject within the conjugation. Is sunny, is happy, is good? These all sound awful. It is or it’s. Repeat one hundred times.

#4 I didn’t do nothing

In English we use the principle of double negatives like mathematics. I didn’t do nothing means that you did, in fact, do something. There are lots of interesting plays you can make on this, as Lewis Carroll does very well in Alice in Wonderland. However, when you say this it sounds really bad. You didn’t do anything. Learn how to use everything, something, nothing and anything and you will be a pro.

#5 The people is

In English people is the irregular plural of person. One person, two people, many people. In general, English nouns do not take the definite article (the) unless they are referring to a specific group. E.g. The people in France, the people in the room, the cars in the street, etc. So, if people is a plural then it does not use the. Try to remember this one.

#BONUS Take a beer

This is not the most serious of mistakes, but it is very common and if you say it correctly you will already be better than 50% of English speakers from your country. In English we have a beer, or a coffee, or a cup of tea, together, or alone. We have breakfast, dinner or lunch. We have something to eat or drink. If you take a beer at a bar, it sounds like you are going to steal it; take sounds like you don’t have permission. Don’t be a thief.

 

Written by James R. McCance for Aston School