Ten Common Mistakes in Spanish Learners Make

Here are some tips on how to avoid some of the ten most common mistakes in Spanish, made by learners of Spanish.

Spanish is a beautiful, expressive language. But as with any language, it has its peculiarities.

A challenge every Spanish learner faces is training oneself to think in Spanish terms.

It’s normal for a native English speaker to try to form a phrase in Spanish the same way it would be spoken in English, or to pronounce Spanish words with an English bias.

But these tendencies must be addressed and corrected early.

The sooner you learn the "Top Ten" common mistakes in Spanish made by Spanish learners, the easier it will be for you to avoid making them.

If you follow these guidelines, your Spanish will sound more natural and authentic.

Common Mistakes in Spanish #1:
Placing an adjective before a noun.

In English, we put the adjective first.

In Spanish, it’s the other way around – the noun comes first.

Dog Brown

Here is an example:

brown dog in Spanish is:

perro marrón

Perro means “dog” and marrón means “brown.”

A literal translation from Spanish to English, then, would be “dog brown.”

To avoid making common mistakes in Spanish like this one, simply remember this like ‘Charlie Brown’ the cartoon character.

CHARLIE the NOUN, comes before the BROWN.

It even rhymes!

Here is another example:

cold water in Spanish is:

agua fría

where agua means “water” and fría means “cold.”

Again, you have to place the noun first and think “water cold” before translating into Spanish.

Spanish Learners' Common Mistake #2:
Confusing the verbs Ser and Estar

Both translate in Spanish as "to be," however, each means something completely different.

Ser is Permanent

Ser generally is taught to be used with permanent or intrinsic properties in Spanish:

Soy la madre de Juan.
I am John’s mother.

Somos profesores de ciencia.
We are science professors.

Estar is Temporary

Estar typically is generally taught to be used with temporary conditions or transient qualities in Spanish:

Estoy contento hoy.
I am happy today.

Estamos comiendo nuestro desayuno.
We are eating our breakfast.

These are very simplified rules so be careful...

[... and learning these concepts in this way can actually lead to confusion!

DO NOT leave your learning of SER and ESTAR at just this! It is important to thoroughly learn and understand the basic fundamentals of these two common verbs which are the source of endless common mistakes in Spanish!

For a thorough and easy-to-understand discourse on this topic the best course on this very detailed and tricky topic is one called Understanding SER and ESTAR in Spanish - Editor].

Spanish Learners' Common Mistake #3:
Using señora instead of señorita, and vice versa.

These are not interchangeable.

Señora means "Mrs." and
señorita means "Miss."

Spanish Learners' Common Mistake #4:
Confusing "a" and "o" word endings.

Every Spanish noun has an associated gender.

"a" ending is usually feminine

Generally, nouns that end with "a" are considered feminine, such as:

la lluvia which means:
the rain in Spanish.

la mesa which means:
the table in Spanish.

"o" ending is usually masculine

Nouns that end in "o" usually are masculine, such as:

el caballo which means:
the horse in Spanish

el techo which means:
the roof in Spanish

Gender confusion is probably one of the most common mistakes in Spanish, and this one is best overcome if you can learn the word's gender when you learn the word.

An extremely effective technique is the one used in the 200 Words a Day! Excelerated Spanish learning courses where they give you a cartoon picture of the word being learned, and incorporated into it is a cartoon character to match the gender of the word. i.e. a feminine word will feature a FEMALE and a FEMALE NATIVE SPEAKER'S voice.

Likewise a masculine word will feature a MALE main character and a MALE NATIVE SPEAKER voicing the audio. Click for more...

Adjectives in Spanish must reflect the gender designation of a noun.

For example, "white" is blanco.

But it’s incorrect in Spanish to say la mesa blanco.

You have to say:

la mesa blanca

One of the most common mistakes in Spanish #5:
Pronouncing the letter "h".

Don’t pronounce the letter "h" as you would in English.

In Spanish, the "h" is always silent.

hamburguesa sounds like "am-burr-guess-ah"

Learners' Common Errors in Spanish #6:
Mispronouncing the letter "j".

In Spanish, the letter "j" sounds like the English "h."

jamón (the "j" here is pronounced like the English "h") so it sounds like 'hamon'.
ham in Spanish is jamón

jugo (the "j" here is also pronounced like the English "h" so it sounds like 'hugo' like the famous writer...)
juice in Spanish is jugo

Spanish Learners' Common Mistake #7:
Ignoring accents.

One little accent can completely alter the meaning of a word!

So pay attention to accents.

Here is a classic example:

esta (pronounced "EH-stah," with the stress on the first syllable) means:

Esta casa es muy bonita.
This house is very pretty.

está (pronounced "eh-STAH," with the stress on the second syllable) means:
is , (from the verb 'estar')

Ella está muy cansada.
She is very tired.

This is one of the most common mistakes in Spanish, that is made not just by learners, but also by people who have been using the language for some time.

Spanish Learners' Common Errors #8:
Stretching out vowels.

There are no long vowels in Spanish. Every vowel is short, so don’t stretch words out unnecessarily.

Hola, which means “hello,” is short and simple.

It’s not pronounced “ohhhhh-lahhhhhh.”

Spanish Learners' Common Blunder #9:
Treating “ll” as “l.”

The Spanish “double-l” is never pronounced like the letter “l.” How it is pronounced depends on the country or region you visit.

It may sound like the "j" in "just."

Or it can sound like the "y" in "yes."

Or it can sound like the "ly" in "sillier"

But it never sounds like "l" in "lake."

llevar sounds like yevar or jevar or lyevar.
to take or to carry

llave sounds like yave or jave or lyave.

butter is la mantequilla.

A great way to remember this one...

...is that mantequilla sounds like MAN TO KILL YA!

So, to remember this one the Excelerated Learning way the 200 Words a Day! system, which uses cartoon pictures combined with the easy techniques of the world's memory masters, is to imagine a lady saying to her daughter, "If you don't eat your butter I shall get a MAN TO KILL YA!!


Hey, but you won't forget that word if you can remember MEMORY TRIGGERS© like this... and learning with cartoons makes remembering the visualizations of the MEMORY TRIGGERS easier, because the mind NEVER FORGETS A PICTURE. Every visual snapshot you have ever taken is stored in the world's most amazing computer - your brain.

For people in a hurry, that like a bit of humour while they learn the 200 Words a Day! system is ideal, and it gives a unique cartoon picture MEMORY TRIGGER with each and every word - including la mantequilla.

Vocabulary learning is 5 times quicker and more effective. A great way to help avoiding some of the most common mistakes in Spanish!

In that example, the 200 Words a Day! PC course gives you a cartoon of the mother saying to the daughter and these characters hold a further MEMORY TRIGGER to make learning easier...

...and that is the GENDER TRIGGER©. These courses use female characters in their cartoons for feminine words to help remind you that the word is a feminine word. Click the link for more on the 200 Words a Day! Excelerated Spanish learning.

Common Mistakes in Spanish learning #10:
Saying “rr” too softly.

The Spanish “r” is stronger than the English “r.” So when you pronounce words like




you need to roll the "r" off the tongue. It actually can sound like a 'duh' to some English speakers! Common mistakes in Spanish like this are overcome with practise. Listen carefully to tapes, course material, your Spanish teacher and Spanish speakers.

For words with "rr," such as




....don’t be shy about tripling the strength of your "r" sound!...

... a bit like the purrrring of a cat, or the brrrrr of a motor-mower.

So it is a TRIPLE ROLL of the letter 'r'.

Pronouncing 'rr' is different to 'r' in Spanish

It is important to learn to differentiate between the pronunciation of the 'rr' and 'r'.

Here's a good one that combines both "rr" and an "r" and is good for "r - rr" pronunciation and differentiation.

la carretera
which means highway in Spanish.

[ - Another hint on this word and how to avoid making this little blooper which is one of 10 most mistakes in Spanish. As happened to me. I was pronouncing both sets of "r" as "rr" when saying the word la carretera. My Argentine friend Eduardo said, "You sound like an Italian when you speak Spanish like that!"

You see the Italians tend to TRIPLE ROLL the letter "r"!

So, if you want to 'sound Spanish' and not 'sound Italian' when saying la carretera be sure to TRIPLE ROLL the "rr" and give the "r" one roll! Practise it and you will know what I mean.

So, the Italians make common mistakes in Spanish that are a little different that the common mistakes in Spanish made by native English speakers!

- Editor.

by Graciela Sholander
Graciela is a native Spanish speaker and native English speaker, who is a writer and Spanish teacher based in the USA. She has compiled these 10 most common mistakes in Spanish for your FREE learning pleasure.

For more on avoiding 'Learn Spanish' common mistakes click here.
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