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Teaching English to Spanish Speakers

Teaching English to Spanish Speakers | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The accelerated growth of English as a global language has made people from all around the world realize how important this one is nowadays, even in our everyday life we find English words and content wherever we look, technology, movies, tv, business, and internet are only some of them. Therefore, people from different nationalities around the globe, show a lot of interest in learning the English language. This time we are going to focus on Latin and Hispanic students and the challenges that these Spanish speakers encounter when learning English.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Dayana M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Differences between Spanish and Latino Students

People assume that the term Spanish speaker is a synonym to the words Hispanic and Latino, however, Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, whilst Latino refers to people who are from or descended from Latin American people, let’s take Brazilians as an example, they are Latino but not Hispanic. There is a total of twenty Spanish speaking countries in the world, each of them possesses different ethnicity, traditions, expressions, accents, vocabularies, etc. Spanish speaking students face different linguistic challenges in English depending on where they come from, for instance, Spaniards and Colombians do not have the same pronunciation issues.

Spanish city

Also Read: How do I apply for a student visa to legally teach English in Spain?

Common roots

Something we must denote first is that English and Spanish share the same Latin or Greek root for many words, these words are called cognates and they present similar spelling and might have, in most cases about 90% of the time, the same meaning in both languages. This fact represents an advantage for Spanish speakers, since they can simply identify and know the words meaning from their knowledge based on their native language, however, there may be differences with Brazilians and spelling. Cognates may seem like a great advantage for Spanish speakers when learning English, but they also represent a disadvantage, many false cognates confuse students, when two words sound alike but their meaning is different as we can see in the case of “embarrassed” and “embarazada”, or in the case of “fabric” and “fabrica”.Something we must denote first is that English and Spanish share the same Latin or Greek root for many words, these words are called cognates and they present similar spelling and might have, in most cases about 90% of the time, the same meaning in both languages. This fact represents an advantage for Spanish speakers, since they can simply identify and know the words meaning from their knowledge based on their native language, however, there may be differences with pronunciation and spelling. Cognates may seem like a great advantage for Spanish speakers when learning English, but they also represent a disadvantage, many false cognates confuse students, when two words sound alike but their meaning is different as we can see in the case of “embarrassed” and “embarazada”, or in the case of “fabric” and “fabrica”.

spain sea view

Also Read: How much can I earn teaching English in Spain?

Challenges in English

Spanish speakers tend to find difficulties with English phonemes’ pronunciation, a phoneme is the smallest unit of sound, a single sound as part of a word. These problems are caused by the differences between the two languages' sound systems, letters in Spanish are read and pronounce the same way they are written because this language only has one phoneme for each letter in the alphabet, however, the English language has plenty of phonemes, words are not pronounced as they are written and sometimes they do not follow the main pronunciation rules, there are many exceptions. Furthermore, Spanish only has five specific vowel sounds, on the other hand, English has up to fifteen different vowel sounds. Spanish speakers commonly find hard to pronounce words that end in a consonant such as regular verbs in the past form e.g. played, worked, etc. or words that end in a consonant “t”. Also, words that begin with the letter “s” followed by a consonant like specific, street, snake, etc. In Spanish, they usually have the letter “e” before an “s”, this fixed knowledge can cause misspelling and wrong pronunciation.

It is frequently normal that an English class full of Spanish speaking students becomes noisy, unlike other students from countries with different cultural roots like Japan or Thailand, Hispanic students show more confidence and willingness to speak out in front of others, than those who were raised based on strict discipline and silence as an essential part of their culture. Spanish speaking students do not seem too afraid to make grammar mistakes while talking in English, they are mostly confident and love to share stories based on their native countries, which is very helpful to develop speaking skills and fluency.

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It is a great experience to teach Spanish speakers, it could turn into an interesting fun lesson for both students and teachers, these students are very collaborative and enjoy sharing their experiences in class which helps to create a nice friendly atmosphere as long as we teachers take the time to learn a little bit from them and their cultural roots for a better understanding and approach.

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