English language common mistakes by nationality

As an English language teacher, I get the opportunity to meet students from all over the world. I often find common mistakes made by students from different nationalities. Below I’ve outlined some of the most common ones made by Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian speakers learning English. Do you find that you make the same mistakes?

Japanese

  • Japanese students often get the  /r/ and /l/ sounds mixed up so for example “rice” is pronounced “lice” or they have difficulty with the pronunciation of the /r/ sound – for example “really” is often mispronounced “learly”
  • Articles (a/an/the) and prepositions are a problem for Japanese students as they are not used in the Japanese language
  • Often adjectives ending -ed and -ing are confused
  • Pronouns are not used very often in Japanese so students often forget to use them in English. For example, they will say “read book” instead of “I read a book.”
  • Countable and uncountable nouns are often mistaken. In Japanese, one word is used instead of much/many

Russian

  • Students often confuse the present perfect and past simple, often choosing the past simple tense when they should be using present perfect
  • Prepositions in sentences are often confused or forgotten
  • Students often confuse “How” and “What” when they are asking questions
  • In Russian, some nouns are countable but in English they are uncountable (e.g. advice, furniture, luggage) so this always creates confusion
  • “Say” and “told” are often mixed up. For example, a student might say “He say me I am a good student” instead of “He told me I’m a good student.”
  • The verbs “do” and “make” often get confused
  • Russian speakers often use the pronouns he or she when they should be using it. 

Portuguese

  • The pronunciation of “I” often sounds like the contraction “I’m” even though students know the difference
  • Portuguese speakers overuse the verb “arrive”. Native English speakers often use the verb “get” instead of “arrive”. For example, “I got to work at 8” rather than “I arrived to work at 8.”
  • Students often use double negatives in a sentence – for example “I didn’t learn nothing” instead of “I didn’t learn anything.”
  • Students often use “to” with shopping – for example “I went to shopping” instead of “I went shopping.” That’s because in Portuguese, “um shopping” means a place where there are a lot of shops (a shopping mall/centre in English)

Italian

  • The /h/ sound is often silent when an Italian speaks in English. For example, “I’m very appy” instead of “I’m very happy.”
  • Italians often add a vowel sound to the end of every word in a sentence
  • There is often confusion between the /ɪ/ and /i:/ sounds. For example, cheap sounds like chip or beach sounds like bitch
  • Italians often stress their words whereas English speakers do not do this
  • In Italian, words are often spelt how they are pronounced. In English this is not the case which can cause difficulty for Italians in their writing

Spanish

  • Students often confuse “How” and “What” when they are asking questions, often overusing “how”
  • There is often confusion between the /ɪ/ and /i:/ sounds. For example, cheap sounds like chip or beach sounds like bitch
  • Students confuse when to use the verb “make” and when to use the verb “do”. I often hear students say “I did a mistake” rather than “I made a mistake” or “I do a cake” rather than “I make a cake”
  • When using tenses like present perfect, students often confuse when to use “for” and “since”
  • Both countable and uncountable nouns are often confused
  • In past simple negative, I often hear students say “I didn’t went shopping” when they should be using “I didn’t go shopping.” In negative past simple, students forget they should be using the infinitive verb and not the past simple verb
  • Often adjectives ending -ed and -ing are confused

If you need any help improving your General or Business English, please contact me to arrange an online lesson

One thought on “English language common mistakes by nationality

  1. English language common mistakes by nationality is very useful! It was good to read all them! I will pay more attention to them because sometimes I make some mistakes that have been outlined.

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