Spanish Speakers Learning English: Common Pronunciation Errors


Spanish speakers!

Can you tell the difference between reading ‘I’m starving’ and ‘I’m ehstarving?’

What if you were to hear it? Do you think you could you tell the difference then?

This is a pronunciation error that repeatedly comes up for Spanish speakers learning English.

It’s hard to consistently use letters in English differently than how you’ve been using them your whole life in Spanishand it’s nearly impossible when you can’t pinpoint these errors.

Below we outline some common mistakes for Spanish speakers, from Madrid to Monterrey, and tips on how to smooth out your speech.

Words Beginning With ‘S’:

‘I am from Spain’ vs ‘I am from Ehspain’ ; ‘I’m starving’ vs ‘I’m ehstarving’

Cause of error: As many words in Spanish begin with ‘es’, Spanish speakers sometimes unconsciously use the ‘eh’ sound before English words beginning with ‘s’ .

Helpful tip:

  1. Practice saying words beginning with ‘s’ by emphasising the ‘sss’ sound.
  2. Practice running the previous word into the ‘s’ word: ‘I’mssstarving’- Leave no room to come up for air in between the two words.
  3. With practice, you can shorten this ‘sss’ sound until it sounds natural.
Who’s up for sssoup, sssteak and sssorbet?!

 

The ‘Y’ Sound

‘I was there last year’ vs ‘I was there last jear’

Cause of error: Transferring from some dialects of the Latin American Spanish ‘y’ sound (also the English ‘j’ sound), to the English ‘y’ sound.

Helpful tip: Remember ‘y’ in English is a soft sound, made primarily using your lips.

Compare this to the ‘y’ sound in Latin American Spanish (Example: ‘Yo’) here it is a sound made primarily with your tongue.

Mountain Fountain

‘I love the mountay-ns’ vs ‘I love the mountains’, ‘Let’s get a drink at the fountay-n’ vs ‘Let’s get a drink at the fountain’

Cause of error: This is a tricky one English pronunciation loves to twist and turn: some words in English have ‘silent vowels’. These are vowels and vowel combinations that don’t necessarily follow regular pronunciation rules. This is a very common error for Spanish speakers, as in Spanish nearly every letter is always pronounced.

Helpful tip: Words like ‘mountain’ and ‘fountain’ are pronounced more like ‘moun-tin’ ’ , and ‘foun-tin’

We do not pronounce the ‘a’, nor over pronounce the ‘i’. It’s a soft vowel sound.

But English loves to confuse: There are many other words ending with ‘ain’ (abstain, pain, refrain) which do not follow this soft vowel rule: which need full pronunciation of all vowels.

 

Heavy horses

“Does my ‘h’ sound stand out?”

Cause of error: Over-pronunciation of the ‘h’: Directly transferring the ‘j: jota’ sound from Spanish to the ‘h’ sound in English.

Helpful tip: The ‘h’ in English is often very soft. Instead of the ‘h’ sound coming all the way from the back of your throat, concentrate on the sound coming from the middle of your tongue.

 

It’s the subtle common errors that make the difference between being perceived as an advanced English speaker, or as a Spanish speaker learning English. Book a lesson today with LingoLoop to get tailored tutoring in English pronunciation!

5 Signs You are Turning into a TOEFL-Wolf!

Studying English can really transform you!

Have you met the TOEFL-Wolf? It’s an English student who has been studying for the TOEFL exam. Slowly, they transform into an English-language beast! It can be contagious, so let’s see if YOU are turning into a TOEFL-Wolf.

 

Here’s a little test:

 

Your friend asks, “Are you coming with us to the movies this evening?”

How do you answer?

 

  1. Yep, see you there.
  2. Bananas
  3. Yes I am coming with you to the movies this evening!

 

Did you answer (c)? Beware! You might be turning into the TOEFL-Wolf!

Preparing for any big day can be scary, but preparing for language exams like the TOEFL or IELTS can be so stressful that your daily habits start to change. Your friends might ask you, “Why don’t I see you anymore?” or “Have you been sleeping poorly?” or even “Why are you so hairy?” Ok, ok, maybe that last one is just for were-wolves, but getting ready for the TOEFL can also transform you!

 

So, get ready! Here are the signs that you’re slowly changing into a TOEFL-Wolf!


You can never have too many complete sentences, right?

You answer even basic questions with long, complete sentences.

 

“Hey, are you coming with us to the movies tonight?”

 

Normal person: “Yep!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Yes, I am coming with you to the movies tonight!”

 

“I’m ordering dinner, do you like Chinese food?”

Normal person: I do, sounds good!

TOEFL-Wolf: “Yes, I will order dinner with you and do like Chinese food because Chinese food is delicious!”

 

The TOEFL speaking section has two parts, and both ask you to listen to a short recording and then respond with your own thoughts and ideas. You have 45 seconds to speak your answer, which is actually a lot longer than you may think. To take up more response time, and to keep your answer focused on the question, you can use language from the recording in your answer. Just try not to repeat the recording word-for-word; the exam is trying to judge your speaking, not your memory!


You can have 6 opinions on 5 restaurants, but don’t expect anyone to want to listen to them.

You give your opinion on EVERYTHING.

 

“Hey, I’m ordering pizza, what kind do you want?”

Normal person:“Cheese and pepperoni, please.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Cheese is the traditional topping, but I personally think that sausage and onions are better for a dinner pizza, since the meat is more filling and the onions are a delicious vegetable.”

Both the speaking and writing sections on the TOEFL ask for your opinion on different kinds of information. It might be something as familiar as “What was your favorite game to play as a child? Why?” or it could be as complicated as “Listen to this lecture on globalization and give your opinion on how a country can be successful in the modern business world.” Either way, you need to be ready to have an opinion and talk or write about that opinion. So, you can practice by having opinions on EVERYTHING.

Your friends might decide that they no longer want to ask you where to go for dinner because you take at least 10 minutes to write out your opinions on several different restaurants and, by the time you’re finished, everyone has decided to just quietly leave without you.


You’ve got headphones coming out of your ears! I’m practicing idioms today.

You suddenly have pairs of headphones in every jacket pocket, every bag, every pair of jeans you own. You use them to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, not music.

 

“Hey, you always have those things in your ears, listening to something, do you have a new playlist?”

 

Normal person:“Yeah, I love this new album!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “I don’t listen to music anymore. Have you heard of this podcast call “The Moth”? I’m listening to a Great Courses lecture too, it’s about shark DNA.”

 

The listening section on the TOEFL is one of the most variable. You might listen to conversations, lectures, or classroom discussions on anything from school habits and customs to specific lecture topics from a university class. Trying to follow all these different topics in your daily life can be difficult. However, listening to topics from a lot of different sources can help you prepare. Listening to music can be nice to help with rhythm, but it’s better to listen to people talking, not singing, to practice for the exam. The questions on the listening section come in lots of different styles. So, don’t just pay attention to WHAT you hear, but also HOW it’s being said and WHY the person is saying it.

You may start to develop super-natural hearing. DO NOT offer your opinion on the conversation you can hear in the other classroom, even if you wrote it down.


How did I get here? Why am I holding a pencil? Who are you?

You start to wake up at strange times, in strange places.

 

We’re going out tonight, there’s going to be karaoke until 1am! Do you want to come?

 

Normal person:“Yeah! I’m going to sing  the Rolling Stones!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “No, I go to bed at 8pm and get up at 5am and practice eating breakfast and getting into my car before 6am.”

 

Why do you always beat me to class? What time do you get here in the morning?

 

Normal person: “Oh, I’m an early-bird, class starts at 8am so I get here at 7:30.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “I’ve been in this chair since 9pm last night.”

 

It’s no secret, getting a good night’s sleep before a test can help your brain A LOT. Usually, the TOEFL exam is given on Saturdays, so you might start missing out on Friday night fun, or staying up late. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this forever, but it’s a good idea to get into the habit about a month before the exam so that you’re comfortable.

 

On exam day, if you’re driving, make sure you have a friend ready to give you a ride if you have car trouble or get a flat tire. If you’re going to take a taxi, call the taxi company and book in advance, then call again the night before to confirm. Try to think of everything, and plan for it – this will help minimize your anxiety, and let you focus on the exam. You’ve already prepared for everything else, so there’s nothing to worry about but your fantastic English skills!

 

You might start keeping snacks in your pockets. This is also normal, and eating is allowed during the break in the middle of the exam.


When all your friend start to call you “Teacher”, your transformation is complete!

You begin correcting your friends and asking them questions about things they’ve already said.

 

“Do you want get ice cream after class?”

 

Normal Person:   “Sure, sounds good.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “No, it’s ‘Do you want TO get ice cream’.”

 

“I just tried on this jacket. I think I like it, but I might get the green one instead, since it’s warmer and I don’t have a lot of winter clothes.”

 

Normal Person: “Good idea, I hate the cold.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Which jacket did you decide to get? Was it:

a) The warmer jacket

b) The more beautiful jacket

c) The cheaper jacket

 

If you reach this stage, there is no turning back: you have become a complete TOEFL-Wolf!

 

To prepare for the reading and listening sections, it’s a good idea to think about both what is being said and what it means. If someone says they’re going to do something, think about why and how, not just what they are doing. Remember, the TOEFL is testing your language understanding, not just your memory, so don’t expect there to be an option like “d) the green jacket”. The test doesn’t want to know if you can repeat something, but if you can comprehend it.

 

___

 

Are you a TOEFL-Wolf? Would you like to learn the wild ways of this English exam? Talk to a LingoLoop tutor today to begin your transformation!

How Should I Order My Adjectives?

Look at the bottom of this article for the answer!

Sometimes we need more than one adjective to describe something. This is because objects can be similar to each other, but not exactly the same.

For example, imagine there are three cars:

  • All three cars are silver
  • One car is old, and two are new
  • One of the new cars is German, and the other is American

If I ask, “Which car is yours?” you would need more than one adjective to answer the question.

If you answered, “It’s the silver car,” I would be confused because there are three silver cars.

If you answered, “It’s the new silver car,” I would be confused because there are two new silver cars.

If you answered, “It’s the new silver German car,” I would not be confused because there is only one of those!

So, using more than one adjective can avoid confusion by creating a more specific answer.

When we use more than one adjective, we can remember how we order them with the acronym: N.O.S.A.S.C.O.M.P (it kind of sounds like “nose-as-comp”).

Number
Opinion
Size
Age
Shape
Color
Origin
Material
Purpose

So, for example, let’s take an easy noun, like “desk”. You might have:

Number – one
Opinion – ugly
Size – big
Age – old
Shape – round
Color – brown
Origin – American
Material – wooden
Purpose – classroom
………………..desk!

We almost never need more than three adjectives to describe something, but it’s good to know the order we should put them in if we do.

Most problems occur with the last three types of adjectives: Origin, Material, and Purpose.

Origin is where the noun comes from. Maybe you have a “Swiss watch” or a “Korean cell phone” or a “German car.”

Material is what the noun is made of. Maybe it’s a “metal chair” or a “porcelain dish” or a “plastic toy.”

Purpose is what we use the noun for. Sometimes, this adjective becomes so important we actually add it to the noun: this is where we get words like “teacup” (a cup used for tea) or “bathroom” (the room you go to for a bath). So you might have a “paint brush”, or a “coffee mug” or “snow boots.”

Origin, material, and purpose can be tricky because all of these things can be nouns on their own.

Try to remember: when one word describes another, the word that IS is the noun, and the word that DESCRIBES is the adjective. Do you have boots, or do you have snow? You have boots, but they are made for the snow. So, you have “snow boots.”

Ready to talk more about the order of adjectives? Try one fun 50-minute new Western digital English conversation class today!

As promised, the quiz answer is B because “beautiful” is an opinion, “new” is an age, and “silver” is a color. Check back for another quiz soon!

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LingoLoop Announces Partnership with the International Rescue Committee

Learn English Online IRC

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the launch of our pilot program to offer free online English lessons to refugees.

 

The IRC is the leading humanitarian organization dedicated to the cause of refugees. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programs and those of its partner organizations.

 

In cooperation with the IRC’s Los Angeles office (IRC-LA), we are offering free online English classes to refugees who are in the process of resettling in Southern California.  Refugees will have an opportunity to learn English from LingoLoop’s expert tutors and interact with other LingoLoop customers in our small-group classes.

 

As a company dedicated to empowering people through education, we are extremely proud to help realize the dreams of those greatest in need.  Aspiring to become a double-bottom-line enterprise, we hope that this pilot will evolve into a core part of our business over the long term.

 

#RefugeesWelcome

What’s a Gerund?

Learn English Online Gerunds

Although the term “gerund” may sound unfamiliar, we use them in English everyday.

A gerund is simply a verb that acts as a noun.

Gerunds are fairly easy to find because they always end in “ing

Here are a few examples –

 

Learning English is hard.

I enjoy running.

John likes singing in the choir.

Have you ever thought about flying an airplane?

In each of these examples, the words ending in “ing” are acting as nouns, not verbs.

 

Can you find the gerunds in these sentences? (Hint: some of the words that end in “ing” are verbs, not gerunds!)

I go swimming every summer.

Driving a car is difficult.

Thinking about reading makes me tired.

She is enjoying baking.

 

Use your words!  Learn English online with our expert tutors.

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