Don't take your carpet to class!! False friends spanish students say

Laura Anne

Publicado por Laura Anne

It's wintertime and this only means one thing: my students keep telling me about their toilet problems again. What is it with Spanish speakers? They share too much! Then they keep telling me how they ate lots of jam and had a lot of nice discussions with their families over Christmas. But I can't say I'm innocent of any mistakes! Only today I realized I have been using the word 'grano' for grain in Spanish. I realized this whilst doing the Metallica song Enter Sandman on at the end of class with a load of lawyers! Who knew there were so many Metallica fans working in law firms! Only in the head of Laura does ‘grain of sand’ translate as ‘grano de harina’. Which highlights another issue that I know full well I suffer from: never remembering the difference between flour and sand. Something quite important since I’m gluten free and live in Barcelona! Languages are a strange beast. Some words just don’t stick and it is sometimes impossible to know why. There are lots of scientific test done on how many new words people can learn in a day, which produce a nice clean figure. On my teacher training courses they advise no more that 8 which Rosetta Stone also favours. Other techniques using memory palaces suggest up to 200!! So if you are a self-studier, that gives you something to aim at!!! But my point is, before I started rambling, was that vocabulary is not learnt evenly and scientifically. It took me 2 years to learn the word ‘tienda’ and I used it every day. Another vocabulary block I had was for ‘knife, fork, spoon’ and only when I was studying my DELTA teacher training last year did I realize what the problem was. In Spanish, it is not said in the same order! ‘cuchara, cuchillo, tenedor’. At that time, I had been living with (good use of past perfect there) a Mexican who didn’t speak English. I had no idea they existed but it was a golden opportunity to practice my Spanish cutlery! And what I found was that drastic action was needed as I could not, for the life of me, remember the difference. So I invented hand gestures which he could understand. Cuchara was my cupped hand. Cuchillo was my hand pointed forward making a painfull eeeeeee sound like a knife cutting and for tenedor I put my arm straight up in the air like a tenor (Plácido Domingo) singing opera. It was a bit embarrassing when we were out in a restaurant, but it worked! And now there will be those among you who are saying that you do not have a set order to say cutlery in. Does ‘cuchillo, tendor, cuchara’ sound right? There are other examples of this type of set colocation which are much clearer for the Spanish Speaker such as black and white compared to blanco y negro. This blog started with talking about problems my students face with false friends and ended up with my issues with conjugations. It’s all me, me, me! The moral of the story is that languages have these funny grey areas that make learning them even more fun! Put your carpet down. You’ll have a lot more energy to learn those 200 new words today!


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Laura Anne

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Profesora en Tusclasesparticulares

Imparte clases de inglés, IELTS, FCE First Certificate in English y CAE Certificate in Advanced English

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