5 more common errors made by Spanish learners


Hola a todos :)

A couple of weeks ago I received some positive feedback about the blog regarding some of the common mistakes students make when they speak Spanish. By popular demand, this week we’ll look at more common mistakes that people who learn Spanish make:

1 – “Me gustaría preguntar una pregunta.” – I’d like to ask a question.

If we literally translate “to ask” and “question” in Spanish, it is “preguntar” and “pregunta”. However, we never say “preguntar una pregunta” because this expression is incorrect. We have a couple of options to express this in Spanish:

“Me gustaría hacer una pregunta.”
“Me gustaría preguntar algo.”

2 – “Mi hermana puede hablar español.” – My sister can speak Spanish.

In this example, the problem is “can”. When someone has learned something and has acquired a skill, like being able to play the piano, to speak another language or to surf, we should use the verb “saber” instead of “poder”. Thus, the sentence should be:

“Mi hermana sabe hablar español.”

3 – “Busco por mis llaves.” – I’m looking for my keys.

In this case, the mistake is attaching “por” to the verb. Many students translate “to look for” as “buscar por” (or “buscar para”), when “buscar” actually has the “for” built in. Buscar = To look for. The right way to say this is:

“Busco mis llaves.”

4 – “Mi madre es corta.” – My mother is short.

In Spanish, people are not short, people are “low” :). The correct way to express this is:

“Mi madre es baja.”

5 – “Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…Actualmente, no estoy seguro.” – I think I have bread in the house. Or maybe not…actually, I’m not sure.

The sentence above has a classic mistake. The word actually doesn’t translate as “actualmente”. It’s very misleading because it looks like a correct translation, but it’s not; it is a false cognate. “Actualmente” in Spanish means currently or nowadays. You have several options if you want to use the word actually when speaking Spanish, like “en realidad”, “en verdad” or “de hecho”:

“Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…En realidad, no estoy seguro.”


This is it for this week, everyone. I hope this blog entry helps you, and if you are still interested in a third installment of the mini series “common mistakes” (or another topic), let me know in the comments section for the blog on Facebook.

Besos y abrazos!



If you missed last week’s post: 5 common errors Spanish learners make

Common errors made by Spanish learners

Hola, estimados [email protected] :)

This week I’d like to talk about some errors that most students make. These erros are very common, because they are caused by the fact that English is the mother tongue of most of the Spanish learners that come to PBO. The problem is that students might not know that some structures that are correct in English, can’t be used exactly in the same way in Spanish. Let’s look at some of those mistakes:


1 – “La semana que viene estoy yendo a casa de mis padres.”

Next week I’m going to my parent’s house.

The sentence above in Spanish is not correct. In Spanish we only use the Present Continuous/Progressive (for example; I’m talking, you are sleeping, she is going) when the action is taking place in the present time. Therefore, using it for future actions is a mistake and we should avoid it. To express future actions, we have two options in Spanish:

“La semana que viene voy a ir a casa de mis padres.”

“La semana que viene iré a casa de mis padres.”


2 – “Después de tomé café fui a trabajar.”

After I had coffee I went to work.

In the case above, the problem is the conjugation of the verb “to have” in the past tense. In Spanish, verbs are never conjugated when they come after the words before (antes de) or after (después de), or any preposition for that matter, regardless of the time in which the action takes place. Instead, we use the non conjugated form of the verb:

“Después de tomar café fui a trabajar.”


3 – “Mañana tendré el desayuno y pasearé.”

This time, the problem is the fact that we are using the verb “to have” with a meal. In Spanish we don’t “have meals,” we have verbs that express the action of having breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Thus, we can use just one verb to express that. This is what you should say:

“Mañana desayunaré y pasearé.”


4 – “Me levanté a las 7 en la mañana.”

The mistake we see here is a small one, but I realized it’s hard to fix the habit of using it. Try to remember that in Spanish we never say “en” after a certain hour and before a time of the day. We should always say “de”:

“Me levanté a las 7 de la mañana.”


5 – “Lo siento, estoy tarde.”

When students are late to class, they usually say this. However, that is not the correct way to express that we are late. In Spanish, we are not late, we “arrive” late. Besides, in most cases we shouldn’t use the present tense once we get to a place, and we say that we are sorry for being late. We already “arrived”, so we use the past tense:

“Lo siento, llegué tarde.”


You probably know some of these mistakes, and I know it’s hard not to make them when we are talking. Try to challenge yourself to get used to not making one or two of the things we’ve looked at here today, and slowly you will not make those mistakes. In my opinion, the point is to pick only one or two and work on fixing the habit of saying those wrong. Over time, you’ll get used to saying them correctly, and then you can work on one or two other common mistakes. One step at a time, my friends! :)


Un abrazo a todos!


PS Join us on Twitter for sayings/expressions/idioms in Spanish!

A few weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English and French. This week, the topic is Italian!

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola una vez más a todos :)

The journey continues! Today the language is… Italian!

If you read the last blog entry, you might remember that I said I tried a language learning technique that consisted in reading books or texts in the target language. That method was supposed to only work with romance languages, and I tried it with French because I was taking French in high school. Well, I got a little ambitious and I decided I wanted to try it with Italian too. After Catalan, Spanish and French, it seemed easier to learn a fourth latin based language, and it certainly was. Some of you possibly know this already, but the more languages you learn, the easier it becomes to learn a new one, specially if the new one is related to one or more of the other languages one speaks.

I learned a lot by just reading. When I was in San Francisco in the year 2000, I bought an Italian dictionary, some books and a CD from an Italian pop duo called Paola e Chiara. I liked their album so much that I learned all of their songs by heart, which is a great way to learn too (and that’s why we sing a song in Spanish at PBO at least once a year). I was very excited about how easy it seemed to learn Italian. In fact, I thought I didn’t even need to practice it orally at all.

I never really thought about learning Italian seriously, until I got to my Senior year in college. As I said before, my major was French and my minor was German (even though the educational system in Spain is not as in the US). In my Sophomore year, I spent 6 months in Paris, and that stay helped me improve my French so much, that I wanted to repeat the experience in Germany in order to take my German to the next level. I applied for an exchange in Germany and… all the spots were taken. However, I was offered a spot in Forli near Bologna, Italy. I never planned to go to Italy to study, but I wouldn’t waste such a great opportunity! So I spent 9 months in Italy.

I loved the experience. It was better than the exchange in Paris. I lived with roommates from other parts of Italy, and we spoke only in Italian. In fact, Forli is kind of famous in Italy because there are many colleges and faculties there. The city is rather small, so there’s students in every corner, bar, café, restaurant, etc… Everyone comes from somewhere else in Italy and all of us were eager to meet new friends. That was such a perfect combination! I met lots of new friends and I spoke in Italian all the time. That’s when, again, I realized how little Italian I knew and how much room for improvement there was. As I said before: speaking is the key.

Obviously, living in a place where the language you learn is spoken everywhere is ideal, but most of us can’t do that. What is the closest thing to being in that kind of situation? Living your life here in that language. Use it everyday; read books, watch TV, listen to the radio, speak to people… everyday. When you make a language a big part of your daily routine, you learn so much faster. Now, don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to be immersed in it 24/7, but I’m sure you can commit to 5 or 10 minutes a day. That really helps. It’s way better to practice a language 5 minutes a day that 2 hours every 2 weeks.

I keep speaking Italian thanks to Caro. She introduced her Italian teacher to me and now we have a one hour class every Monday morning. Thank you so much, Caro! Gerardo is fantastic, isn’t he?

Anyways, I hoped you are ready for the next story because it is going to be about a very different language: Japanese :).

Hasta pronto!


If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English & French. check out his previous posts:

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in French

Two weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Two weeks ago he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, last week he wrote about how he learned English, and this week he will delve into how he learned French.

In case you missed either of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola queridos alumnos!

After a brief text last time about how I learned English over the years (and still learning!), it is time to continue with the language learned next: French.

I was 15 or 16 years old and in High School when I decided to take French as an optional language. I think the biggest reason was the fact that I had been in Paris when I was 13, and I met my uncle and his family there. It is a long story, but my uncle was born and raised in France. He knows some Spanish, but my parents talked to him and the rest of his family in French. That experience was probably the reason why I chose French.

I remember the first day of class: the first thing the teacher taught us was how to count to 10. Afterwards, we were supposed to count to 10 on our own, but we all started counting in English! Obviously, our brains were used to switching to English and only English as our foreign language, but with some practice we had no problem getting used to French.

That was my first time learning that language. A few months later, I read an article about a guy who had a theory on how to learn Romance languages (which are Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, plus some other smaller languages). He said that he learned by reading texts in those languages and by inferring the meaning of most of the words. I really liked his approach, because you didn’t have to go to class or find a teacher, so I started to read texts and books in French. I used the dictionary sometimes, but just when I thought I needed to know what a certain word meant. Otherwise, I would’ve been using the dictionary all the time, and that was not the point of his method.

I would say it worked for me, but maybe because I was attending French classes in High School, who knows. In any case, I recommend it to any student who has reached an A2 or B1 level. Be careful when you pick a text or a book, though; it should never be too hard for you. My advice is to choose something that you can understand at least 70% of what is written.

Anyways, when I decided to study Translation and Interpretation at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona in the year 2007, I had to choose two foreign languages. I picked French as the first language and German as the second one. Everyone else choose a combination of English and another language, but I wanted to take advantage of being able to learn new languages to learn something that was not English. Among all the freshmen, only another girl and I choose a combination without English (I think she chose German and French, in this order). I really enjoyed the 4 years in College, but the best part was the Erasmus Exchange Program.

For people who have never heard of this: the Erasmus Program is a very popular exchange program that allows European university students to complete a whole year of their studies in another European country. Students love it because during that year abroad, professors are usually very lenient with them. It is practically a year away from home to discover another culture, make friends and have a lot of fun. I enrolled in the program, and in my second year in college I went to Paris (however, I only stayed there for a semester).

During my stay, my uncle and my aunt were very kind and they let me stay in their apartment. I learned a lot during those 4 months. I was speaking French with my family in Paris, every day. I also had a part-time job in a restaurant, and I met some friends there.

After I came back to Barcelona, I visited my friends and family in Paris several times. However, in 2010 I left for South Korea and haven’t been back to France since then. What I do now to keep my French is to speak with my Swiss friend Tania. I met her through and ad when I was looking for private French classes in San Diego. We kicked it off and became friends very fast. We practice French and Spanish on Wednesdays. We chat in French for an hour and then in Spanish for another hour. As I always say: you need to speak it in order to keep it :)

Now, that was a long text! Feel free to comment or ask questions and stay tuned for my next blog :)

Besos y saludos,


In case you missed Octavi’s previous blogs on becoming a polyglot:

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Our in-house polyglot, on language fluency


Hola, queridos estudiantes.


After a long absence, your beloved teacher Octavi is back. Since the last couple of blog articles covered how to achieve fluency and what fluency really means for everyone, I would like to share what it means to me.

As many of you already know, I speak 7 languages. However, that doesn’t mean that I speak them all perfectly, of course. I speak 2 languages at a native level, Spanish and Catalan, and even in those two languages I have some doubts every now and then. I think that is pretty normal, though. In my opinion, English is the language I speak better after those two. Let me tell you that I make mistakes and forget words all the time, and I speak English every day! I started learning it when i was 8 and even now, 30 years later, I keep making mistakes of all kind. Does that mean I am not fluent in English? I wouldn’t say so, because to me fluency is not being perfect, but rather communicating effectively with others while being more or less accurate. In French and Italian I have no big problems either, but not using those languages in my everyday life makes it harder to get to a very advanced level. I am happy with where I am with my French and my Italian, and I know I will only be able to keep them at a certain level, but I still think that I am fluent thanks to the fact that both languages are similar to Spanish and I don’t need to practice them as much as my last two languages, Korean and Japanese. Obviously, Korean and Japanese are so much different from Spanish that just in order to speak them at an intermediate level you need to practice them almost everyday, and that’s what I do. I practice Korean and Japanese everyday, and even then my level is not as high as in any of the other languages I speak. Nonetheless, for a Westerner, I consider I speak Korean and Japanese at a pretty high level.

So what is it to be fluent? As you can see, the first thing to be considered is the language in question. Secondly, we have to think about what it means to ourselves. For some people, just being able to have simple conversations is going to be enough, while for other people being fluent will mean to be able not only to have conversations, but also to talk about any kind of topic, in any context or level (it’s not the same to talk in Spanish with a friend about your week and to give a speech about Biology in Spanish). Once you get to a certain level, being fluent really depends on what you want to achieve and how satisfied you are with your progress.

In any case, most of us need at least a couple of years to reach fluency. Mi advice is: don’t be too obsessed with getting to a certain level; enjoy the journey!


Saludos a todos,

Take advantage of us!

Today we’re on to the 8th of 10 tips for new language learners!

With today’s tip I would like to encourage you to take advantage of us.

What do I mean by that?
Well, Pura Buena Onda continually makes an effort to create a community where you can practice Spanish, not just a class that you go to once a week.
So take advantage of everything we have to offer, such as:
– Our daily interactive conversations on Facebook
– Our daily saying on Twitter
– Our monthly social club events BOSC events
– This blog with the weekly tip
– Our weekly newsletter that among other things features informative stories by our students who have advanced a level
– Our Instagram page with pics of our students, teachers, outings, etc.
– Our Pinterest page with resources, grammar lessons, jokes, etc.
– Of course there’s our annual 90-Day Spanish Bootcamp, the weekly optional homework, the trips abroad, etc. The point is that PBO is so much more than a once a week language class, and we want you to enjoy and take advantage of all of it!


Divide and conquer!


Today we will continue with the 5th of 10 tips for new language learners!


How quickly you want to learn a language is up to you. The more hours you put in, the faster you will learn. But, there’s a twist.


Divide and conquer!
Did you know that you retain more information if you study for less time more often than if you study for a longer period of time less often? In other words, let’s say that you’re going to dedicate 2 hours to Spanish each week outside of class. It’s actually better for retention purposes that you split up the 2 hours between 5-7 days (approximately 20-25 minutes/day), than if you split it up into 2 one-hour sessions for example.

For this reason, and the fact that you must be consistent when you learn a language, we recommend working on your Spanish for 10+ minutes every, single day. Have a few options for days that you have time (I’m a HUGE fan of journaling in Spanish & watching telenovelas) and a few options for the days you don’t (podcasts, audiobooks & talking to yourself are perfect for these situations).

You know you can squeeze in 10 minutes per day, if learning Spanish is a priority!


Please Spanish students, make mistakes!


As I mentioned last week, I started teaching a new conversation class for beginners to Spanish, which has inspired me to share a series of tips related to language learning.  These tips will be geared towards students that are new to the language learning process, but could also be beneficial to the veterans.


Tip #2 – Please, make mistakes!

Generally speaking, the last thing we want as human beings is to make mistakes.  We feel embarrassed, dumb, unprepared, etc. But when it comes to learning a language through conversation, mistakes are an important part of the process.  

If you’re putting yourself out there and trying to communicate, you’re going to make mistakes.  No one that is learning a language speaks it perfectly. No one. And if you actually want to learn to speak, you need to put yourself out there, therefore you will make mistakes.  

In addition to that, scientific research shows that we are more likely to learn from a previous mistake that we personally made, than from just being handed the correct information.  

So the next time that you think to yourself “I better not say anything because I’m not sure it’s right,” remember that perfection is not the goal in the language learning process; communication is.


Cognates are your friend!

Last night I started teaching a conversation class for beginners to Spanish, which has inspired me to share a series of tips related to language learning. These tips will be geared towards students that are new to the language learning process, but could also be beneficial to the veterans.

Tip #1 – Cognates are your friend!

Cognates are words that are similar in 2 languages, usually because they come from the same root or language (such as Greek or Latin).

For example:
Poem & poema
Climate & clima
Check & cheque
Salary & salario
Authentic & auténtico

When you are new to a language, cognates are your best friends. They’re easy to learn to use when you speak and to understand when you’re listening. Here is a list of 1000+ English/Spanish cognates:

One thing to be aware of is that there are false cognates (commonly referred to as “false friends”).

For example:
To be embarazada does not mean to be embarrassed, it means to be pregnant!
To molestar someone means to annoy them, not to molest them!
A fábrica is a factory, not fabric.
Recordar means to remember, not to record.
To be exitado means to be sexually aroused, not excited!

If you’re the type to study vocabulary, a list of cognates is an excellent place to start!


Are you embarrassed to speak Spanish to native speakers?


Practically every day I talk to a student who tells me how embarrassed they are to speak Spanish in front of native speakers. They are afraid to make mistakes and “sound like a five-year-old.”


It’s very easy for me or someone else to tell you not to be embarrassed, but that doesn’t mean that the embarrassment will suddenly disappear. However, there are a few things you may want to consider.


You are learning an entire other language!

This is huge! How many people can say that? I am pretty sure that in the world the percentage of people who are learning a foreign language is much, much smaller than the percentage of people who are not.


It took you years to learn your native language!

After all of the years you have working on your native language, there are still many many things that you do not know. How could you possibly expect to speak a foreign language perfectly when you have probably put in 1% or less of the time that you put into learning your native language?


Native Spanish speakers are generally thrilled and flattered when you’re learning their language!

They don’t care if you make mistakes. And if they do care, why should you? Do they speak English perfectly?  Do most people who learn a foreign language speak it perfectly?  Um, no.


Who doesn’t love to be the expert?

People in general love to teach others something that they know how to do well. Tell a native Spanish speaker that you are learning their language and that you would love the opportunity to practice with them, and they will feel like they are on top of the world!


Remember why you’re doing this!

Most people learn a foreign language so that they can better communicate with others in the world. You do not need to do it perfectly, you just need to do it.


Letting go of the embarrassment is by far the most important thing you can do during this amazing journey. It will free you up to put yourself out there, make mistakes, and learn from them, which will actually help you to improve your Spanish!  It will give you the opportunity to meet others and to learn about their culture. Learning a new language truly opens up an entire other world. Allow yourself that extraordinary opportunity.