EFL/ESL for Spanish Speakers

As a novice EFL teacher, your first job will probably be somewhere in the US – so don’t be surprised if your first EFL classes consist mainly of Spanish speakers. So, what should you, as a novice EFL teacher, be aware of when teaching Spanish speaking students?

Here are just a few useful grammar tips worth remembering.

Spanish speakers often experience confusion in the use of the present continuous (progressive) and the present simple: writing ‘He mows the lawn’, when what should have been written is ‘He is mowing the lawn’. This confusion is also seen in the use of the present simple instead of the future simple: ‘I visit you tomorrow’, instead of ‘I’ll visit you tomorrow’. This situation can be dealt with by explaining clearly the use of the tenses and the subsequent thorough drilling in their use: this, however, is not as easy as it sounds.

The formation of interrogative and negative forms is also a problem: this is due to the absence in Spanish of auxiliary verbs in such forms. Consequently, the student may write sentences such as ‘Who you see?’, ‘I no know him’, etc. The problem here is not insurmountable: just drill the student thoroughly in the conjugation of the various tenses.

Another important point concerns the omission of the subject: that’s a no-no in English – but it’s allowed in Spanish. You’ll often find the student writes sentences such as ‘is very hot today’, ‘was late for work’, etc. Merely point out that this isn’t allowed.

Additionally, the pronoun ‘it’ can also cause problems when used as the apparent subject of a verb as in, for example, ‘It snows’, ‘It is too early to get up’, etc. A few examples should sort this problem out and get them comfortable with these sorts of expressions.

In Spanish, the adjective follows the noun. Just tell them that in English it’s the other way round – we do it the right way here!

Possessive adjectives and pronouns cause problems because Spanish equivalents such as ‘suyo’ (his, hers, yours, their, theirs) and ‘su’ (your, his, her, its, theirs) have multiple meanings. The best way to deal with this problem is by thoroughly drilling the student in the use of the possessive adjectives and pronouns.

Usted no habla español!  Don’t worry about it – just remember these useful grammar tips, and your students will soon be talking and writing good English.