Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Common Errors in Students' Spanish

by Ann Abbott

In my previous post I shared what motivates my Spanish community service learning (CSL) students when they choose the prompt they will reflect upon in their essays.

Here I'd like to mention some of the common errors in the Spanish they used to tell me their answers.  Learning a second language takes a long time and is very unpredictable.  When will a person learn to use the subjunctive?  What kind of subjunctive?  Does direct correction help or should we recast our students errors? I certainly remember the exact moment when someone in Spain told me, "It's 'gracias por,' not 'gracias para.'" And I don't think I ever made that mistake again. Yet how many student compositions have I corrected and students continue making the exact same errors--not because they're lazy, but because it just hasn't clicked.

I asked students "¿Cómo escoges el tema de tus ensayos de reflexión?" Here are some mistakes students made.
  • Escojo. Many students forgot (if they ever knew?) to change the "g" to a "j."
  • El tema. Many students used "la" instead of "el." This is so hard. Same as "el problema."
  • Después de leer.  In English we would use the gerund (After reading all the prompts...), but in Spanish you need the infinitive. Many students used the gerund in Spanish instead.
  • Never end a sentence with a preposition. We´re not supposed to in English, but we do. In Spanish, you just cannot do that. So a sentence that in English would be ¨I choose the topic that I have the most to say something about¨ would be ¨Escojo el tema sobre el que tengo más que decir.¨
I have smart, engaged and responsible students. Even when they work in the community with native speakers,  expressing themselves correctly in a second language takes a lot of effort and attention.  And our expectations have to be reasonable.

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