5 Common Mistakes in Second Language Acquisition and How They Affect Your Learning

5 Common Mistakes in Second Language Acquisition and How They Affect Your Learning

Did you grow up speaking a language that is different from the one your parents grew up speaking? This isn’t uncommon for people with families who immigrated to Canada or another country. It is also not uncommon to want to learn and understand your family’s native language in order to better understand yourself and your culture. 

But learning a second language that is part of your culture and trying to communicate with people who speak it can be scary. In fact, even just attempting to learn a new language for travel or fun can be scary when it comes to communicating with native speakers! Being afraid to make mistakes when speaking is incredibly common, but something all learners will struggle with. 

One way to help with this fear of mistakes is to become knowledgeable about common language errors that you could stumble upon when learning something new. Some language errors can be so hard to spot, you might not even notice them, which is why U+ Education is here to help.

Mistake 1 - Linguistic and Perspective Errors

A linguistic error happens when you lack knowledge of the rules of the language you’re trying to learn. 

Life can be busy. It’s hard to learn a full language in the little time that you may have available to dedicate to it. But when you don’t learn or practice enough in your free time, you tend to incorrectly implement rules. 

If you want to know more about what causes this common mistake, you can read more here. 

There’s also Perspective errors, where we assert false beliefs without knowing or understanding the process of the language we are learning. An example of this would be if you chose to learn a language that does not seem any similar to other languages you have had experience with. For example, I’ve been learning and studying Spanish since I was a baby, but learning French at school also helped me excel at being the best I can be in Spanish. I have now started learning Japanese, because some of their alphabet sounds like actual words in Spanish. For example, the word “kasa’’ (か差) in Japanese means “umbrella.’’ However, in Spanish it means “house,’’ and we spell it as “casa.’’ The pronunciations of both of these words are exactly the same. Even though you pronounce them the same does not mean they mean the exact same thing in both languages. Every language is unique in meaning no matter how many words they copy from another language.

Mistake 2 - Interference between your First Language and your Second Language

Your native language can affect your ability to speak in your second language. How can you avoid feeling embarrassed about this? 

You need to avoid negative interference. It’s when you apply rules from your first language that don’t apply to your second language. 

For example, I have Spanish as my second language and if I want to say, “I am five years old’’ in Spanish, it translates to “Tengo cinco años.’’ However, if you were to translate this, “tengo’’ literally means “I have.’’ You would never go up to somebody in English and say, “I have five years old’’ because that makes no sense. 

The fastest way to avoid negative interference is by writing down questions you have about the language you are studying, like on your phone or in a notebook that you carry around with you. Ask yourself what’s giving you the most trouble and make sure these questions get answered. This helps to compare your first and second language’s grammar, verb tenses, spelling, punctuation, and much more.

Mistake 3 - Unrealistic Expectations

Most people decide to learn languages at the wrong time and don’t even notice. 

The best time to learn a language depends on the person. Maybe your school offers it as a mandatory course or elective in your timetable. Maybe, you’re someone like me who’s about to travel to another country. Maybe you have a family that only speaks a language you can’t understand. All of these things have one thing in common; you are learning because there is a motivating reason. 

Having a  motivating reason  is key for language learning success. To help keep that motivation, it will also help to find engaging apps on your phone that you can learn from at any place and, any time. 

You might also want to try a language exchange or a language exchange app. These apps allow you to meet someone online who wants to learn a language you know by heart (perhaps your first language). You and this person can interact with each other for as long as you’d like online, and then arrange a place to meet in real life. Staying at their place for three months would help you learn their language, and at the same time, you’re helping them learn yours. Somebody from my family did this and it was a very meaningful opportunity where they can now speak full, fluent Spanish. 

If you are in high school a teacher might also be working with a company at your school that can allow you to travel to a country to learn your language of choice. Though keep in mind you are still a minor, so you will need your parent’s permission!

I would also recommend learning here at U + Education because it gives you the experience of engaging with someone who speaks the language, whether you learn your language through in-person or online classes. Our 1v1 classes offer a great personalized learning experience where you can feel comfortable and supported by someone who is there to help you grow.

Mistake 4 - Vocabulary

Once you learn a language that you fully understand and feel comfortable speaking in, your skills at learning another will increase. This is because it’s easy to recognize the rules and patterns of that new language you’re learning. Meaning, you will learn about the significance behind cognate words. These are words that are similar to another language. For example, in French, the word good means “bien.’’ In Spanish, “bien’’ also means good, but their pronunciations are slightly different. 

There are different sounds you expose yourself to when learning a second language, so you need to be able to pronounce these sounds, but it is important to learn to pronounce them individually. 

One way to do this is to write down the way a word is pronounced (cookie- “cook-eee,’’) and, from there, you can practice reading this note to yourself out loud to memorize the sounds. 

What’s the best strategy to learn this? 


Reading has all the levels you need in order to learn a language step by step. The texts will help you learn vocabulary at your level in order to assist you with memorization in a way that is easy and convenient for you to take notes. By doing this, you’ll also feel more motivated to continue learning your second language!

Mistake 5 - Students sometimes forget to learn grammatical rules one at a time, slowly

If you’re an Ontario student like me and had to take French since Grade 4, you may have noticed that teachers tend to teach you verb conjugations. Most of your courses were probably taken over by lessons where you wrote and conjugated verbs on paper for Je, tu, il/elle, nous, vouz, ils/elles. You probably also remember that you also had to remember certain verbs and forms suitable for your grade and would be tested on them during French tests. 

Oftentimes, students forget that this is one of the main strategies in helping you be successful in learning a second language. The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by this is to write down the list of verbs you are being asked to study. Then, write down the conjugations for these verbs, one at a time, on a flashcard, with the infinitive (the unconjugated form of that verb) on the opposite side. You can then use these flashcards to practice your verb conjugations!

Learning a new language takes a lot of practice and patience. It is also something that goes much smoother with help!

Here at U+ Education we can provide you with that help through our 1v1 classes where you get to work at your own pace with a dedicated instructor who is fluent in your chosen language.

So if you are feeling ready, why not take the leap and register for a class?

We wish you all the best on your language learning journey!

~ Shelley Debartolo

Start Your Language Learning Journey with U+ Education Today!

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