2 Corrections for Common Mistakes

Happy Independence Season, Colombia! July 20th marks the day of our national independence and on August 7th we commemorate the Battle of Boyacá. We have had a long time to ponder on what being independent means, and today we are here to help foster independent language users. An independent language user is one who doesn’t need the help of a tutor to perform proficiently in any form of communication with accuracy and fluency. This independence is often the result of an instruction method that promotes learner autonomy, and a key characteristic of autonomous learners is the ability to self-correct. So, in order to aid you in the daily improvement of your language skills, here are a couple of tips to better clarity in your speech.

* * * THIS POST IS THE FIRST OF A SERIES OF THREE, STAY TUNED! * * *

  1. PEOPLE DO – PEOPLE ARE

A specter is haunting the world, the specter of grammar translation. Grammar translation occurs when you speak another language but you use the structures of your own. In local terms, you are speaking Spanish with English words. It is something far from unusual and in many cases frustrating. But there is no reason to despair; all you have to remember is that you are learning how to express yourself using a new tool. Probably the number one grammar translation event for English learners in the region is to go for “People is” and “People burps”.

This is very easy to understand because a collective of individuals (people) in Spanish is “Gente”, and “Gente” is a singular, female noun, “La gente”, it is conjugated as such: “La gente es”, “La gente eructa”. In English it would be equivalent to conjugate under the model of the pronoun “It” (singular, third person, neutral gender). Solution? Remember “People” is the plural of “Person”. One person, two people.  In this case the Spanish translation would be “Personas”, “Las personas”, plural, female noun.  “Las personas son”, “Las personas eructan” Conjugate the word people as if it were “They” (Ellos): People burp (They burp), People are (They are).

Is it clear? Show us an example of your own in the comment section.

P.S.: In English, there is one case when you use “People” as a singular noun. This is when you refer to the heritage and tradition of the inhabitants of one region. This is used mostly in rhetoric texts and political speeches. The Spanish equivalent for this word in Spanish is “Pueblo”. And as such, it can take a plural. “The Neogranadian people is taking advantage of this moment of effervescence and heat!” (¡El pueblo neogranadino está aprovechando este momento de efervescencia y calor! ).

Relax-O-Vision

Relax-O-Vision

2. FUN/FUNNY – SENSIBLE/SENSITIVE

Let’s start with FUN/FUNNY. There is one main reason for us to confuse these words sometimes: In Spanish, the words that go from adjective to noun (from characteristic to object) usually need an article. So, “Ella es muy mandona(She is very bossy) can transform into “La mandona llegó tarde” (The bossy one came in late). Traditionally, we know that “Fun” is a noun and “Funny” is an adjective. The fact is that both words can be used as adjectives (characteristics) used to describe people and/or situations. Now, there is a difference in usage here:

FUN is a combination of “Smart” and “Amusing”. This is generally a good thing to say about a person (You should date her, she is a really fun person – Deberías salir con ella, es una persona muy divertida) or a situation (That party was fun! – ¡Qué fiesta más divertida!).

FUNNY is something or someone that just makes you laugh. In English, a “Funny guy” (In Colombia we’d call this person “Chistocito”) is usually seen as a person who makes fun of everything and has problems taking things seriously. Not a great characteristic. Jokes are supposed to be funny, movies too and live performances of comedians.

Is it clear? Show us an example of your own in the comment section.

P.S.: “Funny” is also used to mean “strange, unusual”. “This poutin smells funny” – “Something funny happened to me on the way to the morgue”.

Then we have the SENSIBLE/SENSITIVE situation. Here we are dealing with our old friends the cognates. Cognates are words that look like words in another language. TRUE COGNATES look like the word and actually mean the same in both languages (The English “Chocolate” and the Nahuatl “Chocoatl”, which simply translates “hot water”, but was a beverage made with cocoa beans). FALSE COGNATES look like the word but have a different meaning in each language (The English “Library” and the Spanish “Librería”, which means “Bookstore”). This is the case of the words we will now see.

Basil is the official English Matsuri yellow bunny

Basil is the official English Matsuri yellow bunny

SENSIBLE is the description of a person who thinks before acting, one who judges dispassionately and chooses with justice and good sense. “I’ll ask Jedediah for advice; he’s a sensible and thorough man” (Le pediré consejo a Jedediah, es un hombre sensato e íntegro). You can also use this word to mention what the best thing to do is: “The sensible thing to do is…”

Basil the bunny is kindly designed by Diana Lucía Gómez

Basil the bunny is kindly designed by Diana Lucía Gómez

SENSITIVE describes a person who is close contact with their feelings, probably prone to emotional reactions. Do you remember the movie “Bedazzled” (2000) with Elizabeth Hurley playing the Devil? There is a part when Brendan Frasier’s character wishes he were the most sensitive man on the world and he cries every time he looks at the sunset. Well, that’s being “overly sensitive”.  “Don’t mention how you removed your own hernia with a wooden spoon tonight over dinner with Tallulah, she is very sensitive” (Esta noche cuando cenemos con Tallulah, no menciones cómo te extirpaste tu propia hernia con una cuchara de palo, ella es muy sensible).

Is it clear? Show us an example of your own in the comment section.

* * * THIS POST IS THE FIRST OF A SERIES OF THREE, STAY TUNED! * * *

2 thoughts on “2 Corrections for Common Mistakes

  1. Idk if you use this situation for another post, but people get confused with scared and scary. Also, the difference between property and propriety.

    • Yes! Absolutely right you are. I’ll definitely address both issues in coming posts. Thank you!

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