Stage 9 Stage 10 Stage 11

This week´s blog is about common mistakes. When we are learning a new language we are bound to make a lot of mistakes, but this will happen less frequently as we progress in our studies. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is using false friends in a second language.

A false friend is a word that sounds like or resembles another word in another language. For example, the Spanish word ‘codo’ means ‘elbow’ in English and the English word ‘code’ means ‘código’ in Spanish. It is easy to see how and why a person might confuse these words when speaking in their second language.

The only way to correct these mistakes is to learn by them. There are many more false friends between English and Spanish that we must look out for, for example, the Spanish word ‘actual’ which means ‘current’ in English and the English word ‘actual’ which means ‘real’ in Spanish.

Download Exercise

Other false friends include

Spanish English
Carpeta (Folder) Carpet (Alfombra)
Chocar (Strike) Choke (Ahogar)
Largo (Long) Large (Grande)
Lectura (Reading) Lecture (Conferencia)
Nudo (Knot) Nude (Desnudo)

Another common mistake that is made by language learners is the incorrect use of the infinitive after an Auxiliary Verb. Most of our students here at Callan School Barcelona are Spanish speakers and so I often hear them using the Infinitive after an Auxiliary Verb in English just as they would in Spanish, but this is incorrect.

When we have used an Auxiliary Verb we should follow it with the Infinitive without ‘to’. For example, “I must study for my exam”. A lot of people think that they should use the Infinitive with ‘to’ immediately after the Auxiliary but this is wrong. We do not say “I must to study for my exam”. We say “I must study” Do not use the word ‘to’ in this case.

There is one exception to this rule and that is the Auxiliary Verb ‘ought’. After this Auxiliary Verb we use the Infinitive with ‘to’. For example, we say “I ought to go to the doctor”. Notice that in this case it is correct to say “ought to”. This is the only Auxiliary Verb in English that we can follow with the ‘to’ Infinitive. After all other Auxiliaries we must use the Infinitive WITHOUT ‘TO’

One of the biggest mistakes that I notice with students here in Barcelona is the incorrect pronunciation of words that begin with the letters ‘b’ and ‘v’. This is because in Spanish they have similar sounds but in English they are completely different.
For example, the word ‘vino’ in Spanish, which means ‘wine’ in English, begins with a ‘b’ sound and for an English speaker it sounds like “beeno”. However, if a word begins with the letter ‘v’ in English then the first sound is “vivv”. For example, the word “volunteer” begins with a ‘vivv’ sound, not a ‘bee’ sound.

One of the most common examples of this mistake is when a student uses the word “very”. If I had €1 for every time I had to correct the pronunciation of the word “very”, I would be a VERY rich man. Spanish speakers often pronounce this word with a ‘b’ sound and say “berry”, but this is totally incorrect. It begins with a ‘v’ sound. If you pronounce this word as “berry” then you are saying the name of a fruit.

This is why we must be careful how we pronounce words, because if we mispronounce a word, we might not make sense or we could be saying something completely different.

You should take note of these common mistakes and make sure that you don’t make them.

G. Harman

Download Exercise

Glenn Harman
Latest posts by Glenn Harman (see all)