Native Spanish speakers who are learning English often have problems with the different pronunciations of these words. They can be confused in both listening and speaking. However, some are likely to cause a bigger problem than others. I’ve tried to reassure my friends that, as they already have a bit of an accent, we will understand what they mean to say.
A Short List:
- Kitchen and Chicken
- Sheet and Shit
- Beach and Bitch
- Wander and Wonder
- Bear, Bird, Beer, and Beard.
- This one even has a game associated with it. Each word has a corresponding hand motion. The speaker has to match the name with his or her partner’s hand motion. The one for Bear is as if you had a bear paw and were batting something. The one for Bird is as if you were flying. The one for Beer is as if you were drinking a beer. And the one for Beard is as if you are stroking your beard. Try it yourself!
- When –ed is at the end of words, it is sometimes pronounced as with the e as its own syllable when we would drop it and directly say the d.
- I’ve also noticed confusion in the meanings of the words earn and win. In Spanish, they are both ganar. Sometimes those learning English will say, “How much money do you win (at your job)?”
- Another common problem is using the word to make for situations that need to do or to have. In Spanish, the verb is often just hacer, which translates as to make. Some common sentences are, “Let’s make a party!” or “Let’s make yoga!”
(The correct version being, “Let’s have a party!” and “Let’s do yoga!”)
The worst part about this one is that sometimes I catch myself saying it the wrong way too because I’m trying to match the speaker’s level of English!