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What difficulties do native Spanish speakers encounter when studying English pronunciation and grammar?

Diary submitted by Julia A, Erasmus+ internship in Valencia

   As a teacher, it becomes quickly obvious that the native language of a student can have a strong impact on their ability to learn English as a Foreign Language, and therefore requires important cultural awareness. Knowing the tendencies of students stemming from different languages can really help to narrow down the focus of certain classes and be more effective as a teacher.  This reflective diary will present the main errors which have stood out in class, in terms of pronunciation and grammar. These mistakes are all common for students which know Spanish as a first language. It will also make a comparison between native Spanish students and native French students, and their common mistakes tied to their first language. 

    What stood out the most in class were the common pronunciation errors. Firstly, Spanish students have trouble distinguishing between the y and the j sounds, as well as between the b and the v sounds. This is because the Spanish language makes no distinction between the first two sounds. The same occurs in the case of the last two letters. This means that both pairs of letters will be pronounced the same, while in English they have very distinct sounds. Another tendency of Spanish students is to place an -e in front of any word starting with an -s. This is due to the fact that, in Spanish, words will always begin with -es; examples which were common in class were 

-Espain and -stay. Lastly, in terms of grammar, a very common mistake amongst Spanish speakers is in the use of the preposition -to. The Use of English classes revealed that prepositions misplaced or misused very often. This is because prepositions in Spanish are already very complicated, and therefore having to adapt to a second language in which prepositions are also quite numerous and complicated becomes harder than usual. In comparison with native French speakers, it becomes clear that common mistakes tied to the first language is a concrete reality. For example, the -th sound does not exist in French, making it very hard for French people to pronounce words such as thorough, think, this and that. Instead, they often pronounce it as a -z sound. Another pronunciation problem often encountered when French students study English is the -r sound, which in French is pronounced very differently. 

    In general, many of the difficulties produced by the native languages of Spanish and French in the study of English stem from the fact that English is a West Germanic language while both Spanish and French are Latin languages, also known as Romance languages. For this reason, both tend to have similar problems regarding pronunciation and grammar, in particular in regards of short and long vowels. What is important to emphasize is that being aware of these tendencies and common mistakes tied to the mother tongue of the student can be of great help for a teacher preparing lesson plans. In my case it was!

Bibliography:

-“Pronunciation Problems For Spanish-Speaking Learners Of English.” TEFLnet Pronunciation

Problems For Spanish Speaking Learners Of English Comments,

www.tefl.net/elt/articles/teachertechnique/spanish-speaker-pronunciation-problems/.

– “Common Problems For French Learners Of English.” The TEFL Academy Blog, 19 Feb. 2018, www.theteflacademy.com/blog/2018/02/common-problems-for-french-learners-of-english/.

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