Today I want to talk about 2 Mistakes English Speakers Make When Speaking Spanish.

Before moving to Medellin, I lived on the Atlantic or Caribbean coast of Colombia in a city called Barranquilla.
One night while in a movie theater and waiting for the movie to begin an American man was speaking on his cell phone in Spanish.

How did I know that the man was an American?

Well I didn’t know with absolute certainty that he was American. But from his Spanish grammar and his accent when speaking Spanish, there was no doubt in my mind that he was either an American or that he was from some other English speaking country.

What was it about his grammar and accent that made me so sure? Dos cosas.

Número Uno:

Native English speakers tend to use the Spanish word “a” – which means “at” in English – when a native Spanish speaker would use the word “en.”

While the gentleman was talking on his cell phone, I heard him say:

“Estoy al cine,” which literally means “I am AT the movie theatre.” But native Spanish speakers do NOT speak that way. They would say “Estoy en el cine,” (I am IN the movie theatre).


Some native English speakers may prefer to say” I am IN the movie theatre.” Others may prefer to say “I am AT the movie theatre.” You have a choice of which one to say in conversational English. But not in Spanish. When you are talking about your location as opposed to your destination, you have to use “en” in Spanish. Here are some examples:

Estoy en el cine.
Estoy en la casa.
Estoy en la tienda.

I did say that I knew he was an American by his accent as well. What was it about his accent that screamed GRINGO?

Número Dos:

He did something that I never noticed before that native English speakers have a tendency to do when speaking Spanish. He repeatedly left out an “e” sound where there should have been an “e” sound in Spanish.

Spanish speakers learning English do the exact opposite. They put an “e” sound where no “e” sound belongs.

Let me give you an example that many of my Spanish speaking friends make when speaking English.

They tend to say phrases that sound like “I speak espanish” or “I am especial.” They put an “e” sound where one does not belong.

The “caballero” (gentleman) conversing on his cell phone did the complete opposite: He failed to put an “e” sound where it belongs in Spanish.

When speaking Spanish he said words that sounded like “spañol” and “specialimente.”

It may sound minor to you. But I would not be surprised if he paid more for his taxi ride home because he told the cab driver “Yo hablo spañol” instead of “Yo hablo español.”