Mistakes by we English speakers when we speak Spanish instantly mark us out as foreign, and the consequences range from sounding a bit more foreign, to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or completely embarrassing yourself (look up the Spanish for “I have a cold”…). While these mistakes are very easy for us to make, they are just as easy to rectify once you’re aware of them.
Types of mistakes
We can make various types of mistakes. We can confuse similar sounding words in both languages (known as “false cognates”, such as “estoy embarazada” and “I’m embarrassed” – NOT the same!). We can make grammatical mistakes, assuming that certain parts of grammar or collocation (the way certain words seem to always sit together, e.g “salt and pepper”)work the same in both languages, which can lead to mistakes such as “estoy frio”, instead of “tengo frio”. This works both ways, and you may often hear Spaniards say things such as “I have cold”, or “she has 23 years”. We can also make mistakes not in a strictly linguistic sense, but on a cultural/social level. Mistakes here can involve excessive politeness in restaurants, or not being assertive enough in other situations!