Challenges for Spanish Speakers Learning English
Spanish speakers choose to learn English for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you are coming to the United States from South America and you want to put a hard-earned degree to work. Maybe you’d love to come to the United States from Mexico or Spain for medical school or to earn your four-year degree at a university. Before you can get into the university of your choice, you have to demonstrate your English language-speaking skills. Many of the universities in the United States will require you to earn a passing grade on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam. This test is widely used by many universities and professional institutions. If you want to pass the test, the only way is…to learn English!
As a native Spanish speaker, you face some unique challenges learning English (just like everyone learning a new language!) As an English speaker would have a hard time learning the customs and nuances of Spanish, and it’s the same for Spanish speakers learning English. Wouldn’t it be great to know some of the challenges you’ll face? Or wouldn’t it be nice to know you’re not the only one struggling with one aspect of learning English? Every language learner has differences between their native language and English they must overcome in order to gain fluency. You won’t be leaving your native language behind; it’s ingrained in you! However, you’ll feel as though you’re “relearning” the basics while you’re learning English. Don’t worry, this is normal.
Five Common Challenges that Every Spanish Speaker Faces when Learning English
Boy, we English speakers love to really confuse language learners. The sheer volume of sounds in both languages can be overwhelming. In English, there are twelve vowels and eight diphthongs, but in the Spanish language there are only five of each. Consonants can be a difficulty in the English language because of the similarity. For example, the consonants “V” and “B” make similar sounds when pronounced in the words “berry” and “very.”
That point above brings us to the spelling. There are MANY different ways to spell the same sounds in the English language. For example, the word “rough” and the word “fluff” have the same sound but are spelled entirely differently and have different meanings. The word “pair” refers to two of something, like a pair of mittens or earrings. The word “pear” sounds exactly the same but refers to the fleshy fruit and is spelled differently. Be patient and allow yourself to be come familiar with the English language and the vocabulary. You’ll soon learn the correct spelling of words by recognizing its intended use in a sentence.
In Spanish, the stress of each word or phrase is always regular and distinct. In the English language, most of the time the stress is on the first syllable of the word, but it’s not always the case. To make matters a bit more difficult, there are no marks to indicate where the stress should be in English. Then there are some words whose meaning changes entirely depending on which portion is stressed! Take for instance “Pre-SENT” (to show or offer something) or ‘PRE-sent” (a gift or current time). Spending time with other English speakers and immersing yourself in the language is the best way to catch on to the appropriate syllable emphasis for English vocabulary.
4. English Slang
Every language has their own slang phrases that make any non-native speaker go, “huh?!” Slang is heavily used in the English language, and one thing that makes this a difficulty for Spanish speakers is the fact that slang is always evolving with the culture. You’re unlikely to learn English slang in a textbook, but again – experiencing life with other English language learners or English native-speakers will help tremendously. We love this example for all the old and new slang terms (you might get a good laugh!) Slang is a cool opportunity to get to know someone else’s culture. Share yours from your Spanish-speaking country and get to know someone else’s favorites.
5. The Subject is…Required?
In the Spanish language, many times a subject simply is omitted. Spanish has more verb endings than the English language does, and therefore it is common for a sentence in Spanish to not need a subject. English grammar requires a subject for a complete sentence.
Learning English as a Spanish speaker is a brave undertaking. Remember that learning English takes study, practice, and then some additional study, and practice. Don’t give up! Classes and study are important, but so is experiencing English life. Dallas is a great place to learn English and you’ll have no trouble finding others to share in your journey. Have you run into some of these challenges while learning English as a Spanish speaker? If we didn’t cover yours, be sure to let us know either on social media or in the comments!
If you’re struggling on your own, check out applying to Excel English Institute to learn English at the right pace and level for you.