Linguistic Difficulties Spanish Speakers Face When Learning English

Most people tend to believe that the English language is among the ones that can be learnt easily. Definitely, it is not as hard as the Chinese or the Greek language, as it is founded on the Latin alphabet. Thus, it shares common characteristics with many Roman Languages. As the most common second language to be learned, with so many professional and cultural incentives for becoming fluent, English is often touted as being one of the easiest foreign languages.

There are, however, plenty of aspects of the language that can be harder to grasp than it would first appear.

Pronunciation in English

Pronunciation is the one aspect in English that many learners recognise as one of the most challenging features when first starting out. The unique sound/phonetic system used in English imposes linguistic obstacles on the learning process.

In short, the number of sounds in the English language exceeds the number of vowels, consonants and their combinations that exist in the language. Consequently, one letter, a diphthong or any combination could be pronounced surprisingly differently in various words. Correct pronunciation and spelling is an ongoing issue not only for non native learners but also for those who are native speakers. Perhaps not surprising, considering English has 205 spellings for its 44 sounds.

Teaching English in Spain

It has been widely argued that Spanish people have a low-level command of the English language. In acknowledgement of this fact, the Spanish state and educational institutes have been trying to implement policies that will reverse the status quo. Bilingual schools, the increase of private businesses that offer English language classes to adults and children, academies and agencies that provide in-company lessons, are some of the initiatives taken to deal with this issue.

These efforts are, no doubt, a step in the right direction. However, in order for an educational program to be successful, it is necessary to search for the reasons that have attributed to the problem and determine specific issues learners face.

Typical Problems Spanish Speakers Face

Broadly speaking, there are some identifiable issues that most Spanish speakers tend to struggle with in their quest for English fluency. Plenty of learners make the same pronunciation and, thus, spelling or orthography, mistakes. These include, for example:

1. They tend to forget to pronounce the –s ending in 3rd person, singular, of verbs in Present Simple (play-s, arrive-s, watch-es), although they are aware of this when they write it down.

2. They tend to overuse the preposition to especially after modal or auxiliary verbs (must to go, would to go) or to misuse it when other prepositions should be used (to home instead of at home).

3. The letter/phoneme u is quite confusing. They will usually pronounce it ʊ (put) in words such as bus (ʌ), cut (ʌ) where it has a different pronunciation.

4. The phoneme j like in the word job appears to imply difficulties for the Spaniards. The will often pronounce it as in the word yet.

5. Sometimes, they will pronounce the silent l in words such as would, talk.

6. They will use the Present Simple when they are referring to events in the past.

7. They find it hard to distinguish between Present Simple and Present Continuous.

8. The diphthong th in words such as through, though, thought, this.

Conclusion – Determining Specific Problems Helps Combat Them

Generally, Spanish learners seem to have difficulties with the words that include silent phonemes. They tend to pronounce every single letter or phoneme because in Spanish the pronunciation is much easier and straightforward. Conclusively, to overcome these linguistic difficulties is not an easy task and the older a person is the more challenging it becomes to deal with them. However, once the problems are identified, it becomes easier to focus additional efforts on eradicating them.