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Common English errors made by Spanish speakers

This is the second part of my explanation of some of the most common errors made by native Spanish students together with advice about how they can be corrected by the teacher.

Part one can be found here.

8: Comparative and superlative adjectives
In Spanish comparative and superlative adjectives are formed without changing the adjective.
Literally translated a Spanish comparative would read “Carlos is more tall than Miguel”.
And the same but with a superlative, “Carlos is the more big”.
Comparative adjectives are formed with the Spanish words “más” and “que”. This can create additional confusion as the word “como” for “as” in Spanish when creating the comparative leads some Spanish students to substitute the word “like”. This leads to constructs such as “Carlos is the big like Miguel”.
With the superlative in English we use “most” with long (3 syllable +)  adjectives but add “est” to short adjectives. Spanish learners find “ed” and  “ing” adjectives confusing. Spanish students need time to practise with the adjectives and of course, as with everything in English, there is a long list of irregular words when we are looking at superlatives.
“Long, longer, longest” might be easier to understand than “good, better, best”.

9. Possessive adjectives and gender confusion
“She is reading his (instead of her) book.” In Spanish the possessive “su/sus” agrees in number but not in gender. Consequently Spanish students have a tendency to try and create agreement between the subject and the object of the sentence. They need to be taught that in English the possessive indicates the person possessing the noun.

10. Apostrophe for possession
“The house of my grandmother”. Spanish uses the word “de” (meaning “of”) to indicate possession. Consequently the notion of using the apostrophe to indicate possession is confusing. This needs explaining together with the rules for how to write the apostrophe if for example the word is plural.

11. Negatives
Negatives are often incorrectly structured by Spanish students. You may here sentences such as “I no like the pizza”, or even double negatives such as “I no have no books.”
The reason for the mistake is that in Spanish there is no use of auxiliaries or contractions to form negatives. Double negatives are possible in Spanish. Consequently students need to learn which auxiliary verb to use in which situation and how to form the necessary contractions.

12. Question tags
Spanish students struggle to construct questions in English. “You like the ice-cream, yes?” Spanish doesn’t repeat the auxiliary verb in order to make a question tag. Spanish uses what in England is often referred to as “upspeak”, raising the tone of the voice at the end of a statement to turn it into a question. The other standard part of Spanish speech is to add a word at the end of the statement to help in converting it to a question, for example, “yes”, “no”, or “true”.

Great English mistakes made by Spanish speakers
by Peter Harvey

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Filed under Teaching English to Spanish speakers