A rough guide to Spanish for ESL teachers

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Spanish is one of the romance languages, and it is spoken primarily in Spain and all of Latin America with the exception of Brazil.

Like Brazil, the whole of Latin America is a popular ESL teaching destination, and novice ESL teachers should familiarize themselves with a few aspects of the Spanish language if they hope to teach Spanish speakers more effectively. Here are a few points worth remembering.

1. Spanish ESL learners (SESLLs) may initially experience some confusion with the use of the use of ‘a’, ‘e’, and ‘i’. The consonants ‘h’, ‘j’, ‘r’, and ‘y’ may also cause problems because they are named differently. Visit: http://www.studyspanish.com/pronunciation/alphabet.htm

2. SESLLs may wrongly punctuate English interrogative and exclamatory sentences/phrases in the Spanish style: ¿What is he doing? ¡What a car! Additionally, Spanish does not use quotation marks: this could be a problem when it comes to punctuating direct speech in English.

3. Spanish is a syllable-timed language; thus, SESLLs may face great difficulty in acquiring a native English accent. See: http://www.personal.reading.ac.uk/~llsroach/phon2/frp.pdf

4. SESLLs may experience great difficulty in the production and perception of the different English vowel sounds, e.g. they may not be able to easily distinguish the sounds in words such as ‘ship’ and ‘sheep’

5. The phonemes ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ are different in English, but in a Spanish word they may be pronounced either way without changing its meaning, e.g. chimenia (chimney) may be pronounced chimenia or shimenia. See: http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/82_commonarticulation.pdf

6. SESLLs often experience confusion in the use of the present continuous (progressive) and the present simple: writing ‘He reads a book’, when what should have been written is ‘He is reading a book’. This confusion is also present in the use of the present simple instead of the future simple‘He visits you next week’, instead of ‘He will visit you next week’.

7. Spanish does not admit of auxiliary verbs in the interrogative and negative forms, and this may result in errors such as ‘Who she sees?’‘I no know her’.

8. Omission of the subject is allowed in Spanish, and this may result in errors such as ‘Is very cold today’, ‘Was late for school.

9. The pronoun ‘it’ when used as the apparent subject of a verb, for example ‘It rains, ‘It is too late to go’ is problematic for SESLLs.

10. In Spanish, the noun precedes the adjective.

11. Spanish word order generally follows the subject-verb-object sequence; however, emphasized words are normally ‘relegated’ to the end of the sentence.

12. Spanish has only three double-letter combinations ‘cc’, ‘ll’ and ‘rr’ and because of this, SESLLs often wrongly reduce English double-letter combinations or double single letters.

13. Phrasal verbs are difficult for Spanish learners.

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