Nobody likes to make mistakes when speaking a foreign language – it’s embarassing and can impede communication.
But have you ever thought about what causes you to make mistakes? Other than just not knowing the foreign language as well as you know your mother tongue…
Language teachers are trained to recognise errors caused by differences between their students’ own languages and the language being taught – we call them “transfer” errors. With a class of, say, Americans learning Italian, it’s predictable that students will all have similar problems.
With a “multi-lingual” class of students from different countries (a German, a Japanese, a French person, etc.), we expect a “rainbow” of mistakes and problems, in part caused by the differences between the language being learnt and the students’ own languages, which, of course, have very different grammar and vocabulary systems.
Lucia, a teacher at Madrelingua Italian Courses, has volunteered her list of typical errors by English speakers learning Italian. If that describes you, then studying this list should help speak more accurately…
(All of the examples are correct, examples with the same meaning are paired, so that you can see the contrasts which cause the errors)
ERRORS WITH PREPOSITIONS
Io abito A Bologna.
I live IN Bologna.
Tu vieni A CASA MIA.
Come TO MY PLACE.
IF, IN THE END..
Ho fatto tante cose e ALLA FINE sono uscita.
I did lots of things and EVENTUALLY I went out.
EVENTUALMENTE ci vediamo lì, se vieni.
We’ll see you there, IF you come.
Tutto DIPENDE DA come vanno le cose.
Everything DEPENDS ON what happens.
“VISIT” AND “FIND”
Una mia amica francese VIENE A TROVARMI.
My French friend is coming to VISIT ME.
Questo fine settimana VADO A TROVARE mio padre
I’m going to VISIT my dad this weekend.
IN REALTÀ, non ne so niente di questa cosa.
I don’t know anything about this, ACTUALLY.
ATTUALMENTE si parla di crisi economica dappertutto.
CURRENTLY, people everywhere are talking about the economic crisis.
Writing this reminds me of when my wife was in the maternity ward, waiting to have the labour of our first child induced.
“The doctor visited me today”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“No, it was painful”.
“Visitare” means “examine” in this context, and the conversation above is an example of how “false friends” can confuse things (“eventualmente” is a “false friend” too..)
We’re promised a “Popular Mistakes – Part 2 ” so… Watch this space!