Lailolá Safari Spanish School Tenerife teach you!
EVERYONE has the intuition that some languages are more difficult than others. For the native English-speaker, professional agencies that teach foreign languages have made it quite clear.
America’s state department reckons that Spanish, Swedish or French can be learned in 575-600 class hours (“Category 1”). Russian, Hebrew and Icelandic are more difficult (1100 class hours, “Category 2”). And Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin and a few others are in the hardest group, Category 3, requiring 2200 class hours. But what makes a language difficult?
If you’re an English speaker learning Spanish, you’re probably saying to yourself right now “There are plenty more than ten common mistakes…” Learn these and you’ll be halfway to conversing with taxi drivers in Tenerife or that cute museum tour guide in Seville.
- Pronouns Galore – In English, a sentence doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t include the pronoun. In Spanish the verb form clues listeners in on the pronoun, so actually saying the pronoun just isn’t needed. In fact, using pronouns often sounds strange or too formal to native listeners.
- Gender Confusion (Noun Style) English nouns don’t have a gender, so it’s often confusing when trying to figure out whether an inanimate object is “el” (masculine) or “la” (feminine.) The rule of thumb is that words than end in “a” are feminine while the rest are masculine, but if you rely on that rule then you’ll still be wrong more often than not because many words come from Greek.
- More Gender Confusion (Adjective Style) – Gender in Spanish is so confusing it deserves two entries! Another common mistake when it comes to gender is forgetting that an adjective must agree with the subject it is modifying. For example, la camisa blanco (“the white shirt”) would be incorrect because the adjective (blanco) should agree in gender with the subject (la camisa.) The proper way to describe the table would be to say la camisa blanca.
- English Adjectives – In English, we say “cold water” but in Spanish, those adjectives come after the noun, not before. The correct way to say cold water would be agua fría (literally in English, “water cold.”) It can be tough for native English speakers to remember this “backward” construction.
- False Friends – There are plenty of false friends between English and Spanish. They appear to mean the same thing in both languages, but they actually don’t. For example. Librero in Spanish means bookcase while it’s tempting for English speakers to think that it means library. One of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make is to incorrectly use the word embarazada. English speakers who think that word means “embarrassing” will be embarrassed to realize that it actually means pregnant!
- Confusing Ser and Estar – What could be so confusing about two verbs that both mean “to be”? Oh yeah, a lot. In general, ser refers to permanent states of being (physical appearance, personality, job, permanent characteristics of an object) while estar refers to more transient states of being (location, how someone feels right now.) But don’t stop learning there, because there are plenty of instances where you will have to choose whether to use ser or estar.
- Being Polite – There are plenty of pitfalls when it comes to being polite in Spanish. For example, it can be difficult to determine whether to use the tú form of a verb (informal) or the usted form (formal.) The general rule of thumb is to use usted with people who are older than you or have power over you, but its easy for native English speakers to choose just one verb form and then use it with everyone. This can lead to being too informal and irritating elders or being too formal and earning strange looks from peers.
- . Pronunciation Errors – Though words in Spanish begin with an “h” the “h” is never pronounced. For example, hombre (man) is pronounced “ohm-bre.” Confusingly, the “j” is pronounced like the “h” in English.
- Shying Away from Double Negatives – Double and even triple negatives are common in Spanish, though English speakers tend to shy away from double negatives due to long conditioning. For example, while “I don’t have nothing” is a horrible error in English, the literal Spanish translation, “No tengo nada” is correct.