Native Spanish speakers will always "valorar" (appreciate) your efforts to talk to them in their language, and will help you to get better

Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s part of the fun of learning a language too! But why fun? Well, given that the only way to improve in any language is by speaking as much as possible, you’re bound to get things wrong and sometimes these mistakes can give rise to some hilarious situations. Native Spanish speakers will always valorar (appreciate) your efforts to talk to them in their language, and will help you to get better. However, if we can evitar (avoid) some of these typical mistakes, then you’ll be able to make yourself understood much more quickly. 

1. “Estoy embarazada” doesn’t mean “I’m embarrassed

This is a very common error and one that we need to sort out right away! In Spanish, estar embarazada means to be pregnant, so if you’re a woman and say this then you’ll probably get a response of “felicidades” or “enhorabuena” which mean “congratulations”. A man making this mistake will probably get some very confused looks! The right way to say “I’m embarrassed” in Spanish is “Me da vergüenza”. 

2. Lots of phrases that use to be in English use a different verb in Spanish

When you’re trying to learn Spanish, it’s important to remember that you can’t simply traducer (translate) everything word for word from English. This can get you into all sorts of problems, such as the one in our first common mistake! Let’s look at some examples with their correct translations and a literal version in English so you can see the differences.

English Incorrect Spanish Correct Spanish Literal translation
I am 20 Soy 20 (this doesn’t mean anything) Tengo 20 años I have 20 years
I’m too hot! Estoy demasiado caliente (which means ready for some loving!) Tengo demasiado calor I have too much heat
Let’s have a drink Tenemos una bebida (which means we have a drink in our possession) Tomamos algo Let’s take something

There are plenty more of these so try to learn these as expressions so that you can get your message across more clearly.

3. Using the verb “gustar” incorrectly

“Gustar” means “to like” but in Spanish we need to say that something is likeable to you, not that you like it. Normally, an –ar verb in the present is conjugated as verb without ar + o (i.e Hablo – I speak). However, this verb is reflexive and works differently. Let me show you an example:

  • Me gusta la nueva serie I like the new series (The series is likeable to me) – Don’t say Gusto la nueva serie.
  • Me gustan las manzanas – I like apples (Apples are likeable to me) – Don’t say Gusto las manzanas.

Another issue with this verb is when you’re talking about liking people. If you follow the rule above, you’d probably say Me gusta Pablo to mean I like Pablo. This, however, means you find Pablo romantically attractive! Now, that might be the case, but if you mean I like Pablo as he’s a nice person then we have to say Pablo me cae bien. It’s funny that a lot of these mistakes revolve around unintended romantic encounters, right?

4. Some words in English which are plural or countable are not in Spanish, and vice versa

Although we do have other blogposts about the topic of singular and plurals, it’s a good idea to remind you again about some common differences with plurals and countable/uncountable nouns from English to Spanish. Here are just a few examples:

English to wrong Spanish Correct Spanish and literal translation
People are – Las gentes son La gente es – People is
The news is depressing – Las noticias es deprimente Las noticias son deprimentes – The news are depressing
A piece of furniture – Una pieza de mueble Un mueble – a furniture
Some advice – Algunos consejo Un consejo – an advice

See what we mean? When listening to and reading Spanish, try to apuntar (make a note) of examples like these so you can avoid them when speaking and writing.

5. Articles a/the are used differently in Spanish

This is a big area, and one which you’ll need time to get used to. In Spanish, it’s much more common to use the articles for the, and sometimes they don’t use a/an where you would in English. Again, it’s probably easier just to show you a few times when this is the case.

English Spanish
I’m a teacher Soy un profesor
Marta loves chocolate A Marta le encanta el chocolate
They climbed Mount Everest Escalaron el Monte Everest OR el Everest
Cats are more intelligent than dogs Los gatos son más intelligentes que los perros

Hopefully, now you’re more consciente (aware) of these typical errors, you’ll be better able to correct yourself when speaking Spanish. Having said that, even if you do say something wrongly, it’s simply a chance to be corrected and learn the right way to say things. You should never tener miedo (be afraid) of mistakes!

Here at Hablamos, we’re waiting to help you lose your fear of speaking and correct your mistakes so you can feel more confident when out and about in the Spanish-speaking world. Hablamos - full-on Spanish!