Monday, June 15, 2009

...extremely common mistakes Brazilians make when they write English.

There are many reasons why my students get things wrong in English writing. Sometimes its ignorance, sometimes its bad luck, sometimes its laziness, sometimes its because their language skills are not great in Portuguese so they lack the skills to transfer them to English. For example, a sentence without a verb has often more to do with not forming sentences in any language than a misunderstanding of English. And then, and this is where my students draw my sympathy, its because they try to create a construction in English but their Portuguese (whether consciously or not) interferes. This, as the pros call it, is L1 interference. And here are 5 very common examples that I've noticed in my short-lived career as an English teacher.

1. My sister borned in Sao Paulo. In English, unlike Portuguese, we use the verb "to be" before born: He will be born, I was born etc. Also, students typically guess the pass tense as ending in -ed, hence "borned".
2. I got an information and a research about a good weather. Uncountable nouns. Information, research and weather are all countable in Portuguese, but not in English. When I teach students we can have "a piece of" uncountable things like luck, luggage, furniture, information and research they are always totally astonished.
3. The taxi was late and I lost the plane. In Portuguese the verb "perder" means both lose and miss. Its just one example of several verbs which don't map exactly to English (see also: know/meet).
4. His mother was arriving soon - he was waiting for your mother. In Portuguese, we have "seu/sua" which cover the bases of all of "your, his, her, their" - context usually helps decide who is being talked about. Unfortunately, students often try, as in Portuguese, to just use one word to fit and they usually choose "your".
5. I was deceptionated and exausted. This is really two problems rolled into one. In Portuguese, to be "decepcionado" means to be disappointed (and has nothing to do with being decieved). This is an example of a false cognate between the two languages and students who don't realise this will often try and paste across the Portuguese word with an English ending (=deceptionated). Also, English spelling his highly irregular compared to Portuguese, so having to spell words like exhausted which includes an erroneous silent "h" is asking a lot.

When students get these wrong frequently, I blame the teacher!

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