Top 5 Mistakes UBC Spanish Students Should Avoid

Spanish is currently the 2nd most popular and fastest growing language in the world. As a consequence, one would be well served to acquaint themselves with the fundamentals of the Spanish language. Employers are increasingly looking for employees with Spanish language competence. However, potential employees must be aware that mere familiarity with the Spanish language will not suffice. Spoken and written Spanish needs to be flawlessly executed so as to prevent the conveyance of an unintended meaning. The following discussion will outline some of the most common mistakes made by non-native Spanish speakers.

Not paying attention to phonetic

One of the most common mistakes made by Spanish language students is their approach to pronunciation. This is often attributable to the fact that students are restricting their learning to mere text-based translation. Whilst this approach is likely to enhance a student’s vocabulary, it fails to offer an effective overall learning experience. A student will be unable to correctly pronounce Spanish words without repetitively hearing the spoken language. Consequently, it is important that students listen and learn Spanish to facilitate a well-rounded education in the Spanish language. This includes listening to audio of spoken Spanish. Audio of this nature can often be accessed on Spanish language learning websites.

Getting tricked by false cognates

The English and Spanish languages share many similar-looking words. Many students fallaciously assume words of similar spelling to carry the same or similar meanings. However, it is often the case that pairs of words which appear to similar in-fact carry entirely unrelated meanings. For example; a student might reasonably assume the Spanish word “asistir” to mean “to assist”. However, despite its slight resemblance to the English word “assist”, it actually means “to attend”. This example demonstrates the perils that a student may face if they indiscriminately assume words of similar spelling to carrying similar meanings. Consequently, a student learning Spanish ought to be wary of false cognates.

Capitalization problems

The English and Spanish languages do not adhere to the same rules in regards to the capitalisation of letter. Capitalisation in Spanish is much less frequent than in English. It is important that students bear this in mind when writing in Spanish. A sensible approach would be to create, and then refer to, a list of words which would usually be capitalised in the English language but are not capitalised in Spanish. Examples include; composition titles, personal titles, religions, ordinal numbers and calendars.

Word-for-word translation

When learning a new language, there is a tendency for students to translate sentences word-for-word. However, this is not the correct approach, because different languages have different ways of arranging their sentences. Students need to pay careful consideration to the differences in sentence structure between the two languages and avoid thoughtless, word-for-word translation.

Improper use of Por & Para

Both the prepositions mean the same thing – “for”- but their usage is different. Many

“Por” and “para” carry the same meaning, namely; “for”. However, their usage is different and it is important that students become familiar with these differences. “Para” is used to in the context of a specific destination, whereas, Por is used for general movement or with regards to a location.

All the best or shall we say– Buena suerte!

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