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Clarifying Communication: 1

Updated: Jun 25, 2021



Sometimes English learners make mistakes which are caused by interference of the student's native language - interference means that the form they are using is influenced by how things are said in their own language e.g. the order of words, the vocabulary, 'false fiends' (words in their own language which are similar to an English word, but which are used differently/have a different meaning in English).



For example, Maria, who is Italian, is tired after her English lesson ...


Maria: "I go to bed now. Good night."




No, no, no, Maria!





Hi all,


I wasn't telling Marian not to go to bed. I was pointing out to her that her English usage was incorrect. Forgive me using the red 'No, no no!'.

It makes me sound/seem like an old-fashioned teacher, the type I had experience of in some classes at school, who would scrawl all over my homework using a red pen! I have to say, more in Maths or French homework than English. They didn't also add a nice, bright yellow smiley/emoticon though! Well, it was long before they were invented.


So, anyway, I just wanted to draw attention to the mistake in the sentence

in case you didn't notice it, or assumed Maria's was correct. It's not a big mistake, but one I find students and even relatively fluent speakers make sometimes. As I said, Maria is Italian, so saying 'I go' is how she would say it in Italian - 'Io vado'.


In future posts I will explain some of the most common errors i come across when speaking with non-native English speakers/learners and also which I see in their writing. They are often caused by interference of the student's native language - interference means that the form they are using is influenced by how things are said in their own own language e.g. the order of words, the vocabulary, 'false fiends' (words in their own language which are similar to an English word, but which are used differently/have a different meaning in English).


I'll add to his category as I think of them and when they come up in lessons.


So, for starters, let's look at the one above.


Maria says 'I go to bed now'. Which tense has she used? Think about it - then scroll down ....





 



Maria has used the Present Simple tense. As I said, she is Italian and in her own language, in that context, she would say 'Io vado' which translates to English as 'I go'. But it's not what we would say in English.


Let's look at a few ways in which we use the Present Simple tense in English.

  • A present state:.: It can refer to something that is generally true e.g. The sun rises in the East. It also refers to sates the could change e.g. He lives next door.

  • A present habit: eg. I go to work in the morning and do not get home until late. He plays tennis. Frequently we use it with adverbs of frequency - just like I have done in this sentence i.e. frequently. Other examples: I always brush my teeth in the morning. I never go to the cinema. I sometimes forget my glasses.

  • A present event: e.g. I accept your apology, I feel sleepy.

  • And two special ways we use it: 1.For the past: - this is called the 'Historic Present' and is sometimes used in telling stories, to make the past seem more like real life e.g. So, she comes through the door and I say to her, you're late, but she ignores me'. You sometimes find it use in this way in books.. 2. For the future to described fixed or planned events e.g. He arrives at the airport tomorrow at 9 p.m. When I grow up i want to be a train driver. Saying the present tense is sometimes used for the future may seem a little confusing considering what follows!

But, when Maria says 'I go to bed now', she is not using any of the above ways. She is talking about the future. it's something she is about to do, to do in a few minutes, even seconds, but nevertheless the future. So in this case she should use the Present Continuous (Present Progressive) tense.


"I am going to bed now."


Would you have or do you make the same mistake as Maria because of the influence of your native language? Let me know in the comments.


More about the Present Continuous tense.


Students are usually taught the Present Continuous tense as something, an action, that is happening now ... continuously, hence the term! e.g. At the moment she is cooking dinner. I can't talk now, I'm working.

But, the Present Continuous is also used for speaking about the future when it's a planned or anticipated action. e.g. I am going camping at the weekend. I am going to London next year.


And for an action that is going to happen immediately or very soon ... such as ...


I am going to finish now, because I am going to bed!


Which happens to be true!



In another post, I'll cover the use of the Present Continuous in more detail.


I hope this has been helpful.


Bye for now,


Steve