Common mistakes romance language speakers make in English

by | Mar 13, 2018 | Online education, Tips for Students

 Common mistakes romance language speakers make in English

The most common mistakes that speakers of the romance languages make are possibly more familiar to me (as an ex-TEFL teacher in Spain) than other people. Spending a year and a half teaching in Barcelona taught me a lot about Latin-rooted languages and how they are structured. Simply by listening to the way people spoke made me realize that Latin speakers all make very similar mistakes when speaking in English.

One obvious difference between English and romance languages is the grammar genders, but this is more of an issue for English speakers attempting to learn romance languages. In my experience, Spaniards are not very forgiving when it comes to mixing up the “gender” of an inanimate object!

Although I moved on from TEFL teaching after a year and a half to find a new job, the mistakes made by romance speakers when they speak in English have really helped me in my learning of Spanish and Catalan. This knowledge has also opened the door to the other romance languages too, as they share such similar structures. And, of course, they have given me some laughs over the years too.

If you’re a native romance language speaker and you do not make any of the errors in the list below, then you must be a super human language learning machine…or a total fibber!

Common mistakes romance language speakers make in English

 Mixing -ed and –ing: I am so boring!

The rule is –ed is usually a temporary state. Being bored will not last forever, but being boring is less curable.

A film, a book or an activity can be interesting or boring, even if this is just an opinion. Being influenced by the entertainment value of the book or film, you become interested or bored.

Incorrect // Correct

I am so boring // I am so bored

This book is very interested // This book is very interesting

I am concentrated //  I am concentrating


 Distinguishing between countable and uncountable nouns

News, as a word, is especially misleading. It ends in an “s”, which of course looks like a plural – but it’s not. Well, some would argue that it is, but to keep things clear, let’s say that it’s not. News is an uncountable concept that needs to be split up into pieces if you want to insist on making it countable… like cheese. E.g. I’ve got a bit of news.

Incorrect // Correctcommon mistakes in English

A candy // A piece of candy

I have a new // I have some news   

Give an advice // Give (some) advice   OR Give a piece of advice


 Missing out prepositions: Listen me!

The majority of English verbs don’t need a “to” between them and the pronoun. However, there are some tricky exceptions. Here are the most commonly misused examples.

Incorrect // Correct

Explain me // Explain to me

Say me // Say to me

Listen me // Listen to me


 Using “how” for everything

Whether it be cómo, comment, como, come, cum or any of the other Latin variations, how is a very useful word in romance languages. In English how is not as handy.

As a speaker of a romance language you will need to fight the urge to repeatedly use the word how and (more often that not) substitute it for what. The most common examples are shown below.

Incorrect // Correct

How does it look like? // What does it look like? (OR “How does it look?”)

How is the word in English? // What is the word in English?

How do you call……? // What do you call?


 Confusing to make and to do

This is a really difficult concept to get your head around as a native speaker of a romance language, as most Latin based languages have a single verb that covers both the English verbs, to do and to make. For example in French you say, faire, in Spanish, hacer and in Italian, fare.

Generally, do is used more to describe actions or jobs, whereas, make can often be substituted for verbs, like create or produce, to describe the result of the action.

Incorrect // Correct

Do a cake // Make (bake) a cake

Do a mistake // Make a mistake

Make sport // Do sport


 To be agree

Unless your name is Agree then you should NOT be uttering the words “I am agree.” It makes no sense in English so a direct translation from a romance language is not recommended.

Think of agreeing as more of an action that you do (here we go with make and do again…) rather than a state that you are in.

Incorrect // Correct

I am agree // I agree

I am not agree // I don’t agree (I disagree)


 Having years

Even worse is “I have 18 years old’’. This is a structure that most people learn quite early on their English learning mission, so as a mistake it is usually cleared up fairly swiftly but it still slips out of the most accomplished English speakers… I even said it myself once, and I’m English.

Incorrect // Correct

I have 18 years //  I am 18 (years old)


 Fun and funny

improve your English

Most speakers of romance languages speak with confidence when using fun and funny, safe in the knowledge that fun is clearly a noun and funny is simply the adjectival form of it. Little do many of them know that they are incorrect in their assumption. The English language has laid yet another trap for those who attempt to master it.

Fun is the noun – yes. However, it is also an adjective. My advice would be this: if you’re not sure just use fun because it’s usually correct and sounds less strange if you use it incorrectly.

Funny is a very specific adjective and is only for comedy and things that provoke laughter, so horror films and football are very rarely funny but often fun.

Incorrect Correct

Watching horror films is funny Watching horror films is fun

The football game was very funny The football game was very fun

The comedian was so fun The comedian was so funny

So please, don’t be boring…

Language learning is no easy task but with all of today’s online resources for learning a language you have no excuse. Anyone attempting to gain a new language should be encouraged in their mission.

So to make it fair (and fun!) here are the most common mistakes made by English people learning Spanish.