Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

16 Common Mistakes Non-Native English Speakers Make

I am more than 100% sure I've said some things completely wrong in Spanish (and French), mostly because I can see the people I'm talking to crying from laughter after I say it. Some mistakes we just can't seem to stop making, even though we know they are wrong before we say them!

Well, since I am here teaching English and practicing it with those who want to, I also get to hear funny things, like butchered expressions and grammar errors. Now that I've lived in Europe for almost a decade (wow, that makes me feel old) I put together a list of mistakes that I hear A LOT. Some of them so much, that I don't even recognize them as mistakes half of the time. The majority are latin-based mistakes (speakers of Spanish, French, Italian, etc.), but a few are universal to all non-native English speakers that I've met.

1. We will see us - We will see each other. This is not foreshadowing of a mirror that will be arriving in the future. The "us" is substituted for "each other" in many other sentences too.

2. I wait you - I wait for you. Because the word "for" is built into their verb, they leave it out when speaking English.

3. Say me - Tell me. This is just because "say" and "tell" are the same word in other languages, so they had a 50/50 chance and picked wrong. 

4. Explain me - Explain to me. This is not an existential question, the "to" is built into their verb.

5. Ask to me - Ask me. So this is like the inverse of the one before.

6. Look to me - Look at me. Just more of the above. The list of these is actually quite long, but I'll stop here. (You're welcome) 

7. I lost the bus - I missed the bus. First time I heard this, I was like, "Well, where did you put it last?"

8. I win you - I beat you. I am not some prize to be won! Ok, maybe I am, if you're nice.

9. I have played vs I played - So the British use the "have + past tense" a lot more than Americans. We (Americans) use it more for emphasis or when listing things in the past, but to describe an action in the past, we like the simple past tense. I am sometimes corrected by non-native speakers when I leave out the "have". Silly Rabbits...

10. "i" is an "e" sound - This is very latin, and because this is so prevalent, I now introduce myself as "team", because it's easier for them to understand.

11. Really a lot - Very much. "I like this movie really a lot." Though it makes sense, it just isn't right.

12. Sympathetic - Nice. It is amazing how sympathetic nice people seem to be. But really, they are just nice, and we know nothing of their sympathy.

Mistakes only the Spanish make

13. Fun vs funny - In Spanish, they are the same word "divertido". In English, a movie is funny, but going to a movie is fun. 

14. My fathers - My parents. Because "padre" is both "father" and "parent" in Spanish. This also applies to "abuelo/s" (grandfather/ grandparents) and "tio/s" (uncle/ uncle and aunt/ uncles/ uncles and aunts) and a few others.

15. Saying "es" in front of all S words. "He say me to go to a esspecific place to get my essport clothes because they loo-ked good on the esstatue (mannequin)". I love the Spanish accent.

16. Saying -ed in past tense. "I explain her that I am ti-red because I wor-ked at the escinema where I clea-ned the theaters after the movie essho-wed". I took this one verbatim from a Spanish person I made up in my mind. 

Bonus (updates from comments)

17. "Borrow" vs "lend". "Can you borrow me 5€" really should be "Can you lend me 5€" or "Can I borrow 5€".

18. His vs Her. "his" belongs to boys and "her" belongs to girls. One of the few times when English has more ways of describing something than other languages.

19. Possessive speech. "The house of my father" instead of "my father's house". I actually have been doing this one lately.

20. Placement of "is". "Do you know who is he?" instead of "Do you know who he is?" 

21. More + adjective + er. Things do not get "more easier", they just get "easier". However, things do get "more structured" (more + p.p. of verb).

22. One vs. A. "I'm going to buy one car" really should be "I'm going to buy a car". It seems in many other languages, "one" and "a" are the same word, but in english, it's only used for quantity.

What do you think? 

This list is based on my experiences and I'm curious if you agree of disagree. For the native English speakers, what fun misuses of English have you heard? For the Spanish and other non-native English speakers, how do you feel about these, and how foreigners misuse Spanish or (insert your language here)?

Thanks for reading! For more on my life in Navarra, check out VEN con TMax.

(some of the images/videos used in this post are from other sources and not my own)

Location: Pamplona, Navarra, España


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