⭐Learn SPANISH if your native language is ENGLISH

Learn Spanish if your native language is English

⭐Learn SPANISH if your native language is ENGLISH

Hello, Vivers! If you want to learn Spanish and you come from an English-speaking country, this article will interest you. For 25 years we have received hundreds of students whose native language is English at our School. They come from countries on five continents: Australia, the United States or Canada, the United Kingdom or Ireland, South Africa, the Philippines or Nigeria, among many others! As Center Accredited by the Cervantes Institute for the Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language, our School has teachers with extensive experience and the ability to detail the most important differences and similarities between Spanish and English, and give you some tricks and tips so that you can get the most out of your Spanish classes, whether online or in person. Let's go!

Recommendation: DO NOT translate this page into your language, stay in the Spanish version to better understand the article.

DIFFERENCES between Spanish and English

Yes it's true. English and Spanish have some differences. And... we have bad news: generally, these differences mean that as an English-speaking student you are going to have to get used to conjugating verbs or changing the gender of some words. What's that? We explain it to you.

The conjugation

We Spaniards conjugate verbs depending on the person we use. You already know that we have three people, singular and plural: I, you, he, we, you, they (we will talk about genders later). Well, each person will have their corresponding conjugation for each verb. For example, for the verb sing (to sing)

  • I sing
  • You sing
  • He sings
  • We sing
  • You sing
  • They sing

On the other hand, in English, only the third person singular can undergo changes. This happens with all verbs and all tenses of the Spanish language.

You or you? You or you?

Students who want to learn Spanish with English as their native language always ask us the same question: “Teacher, when should I use “tú” and when should I use “usted”?

In Spain, in general, we use TÚ or VOSOTROS with friends, family and even strangers as long as they are our age or younger; while we use YOU or YOU when we talk to older people, with authority figures (police, doctors, judges...) or in very formal contexts.

However, in Latin America this works differently and also depends on the country. In LATAM, generally, TÚ (informal) and USTED (formal) are used as in Spain. However, the form YOU practically does not exist and YOU are used for both formal and informal situations. Many of our students who come from the United States do not know the form of VOSOTROS, since in Mexico - the closest Hispanic country - this form is not used.

Gender: male or female

Our English-speaking students often find it difficult to learn which words are feminine and which are masculine, since, in Spanish, gender affects countless words: nouns, adjectives, possessives, numerals... And it doesn't matter if they refer to people, animals, objects. , places, etc.

While, in English, the gender difference in words appears only on some occasions when talking about people or a species of some type of animal. We give you some examples:

Social hierarchyKing
King (m)
CareersActor (m)
Engineer (m,f)
Professor (m,f)
Actor (m)
Engineer (m), Engineer (f)
Professor (m), Professor (f)
Dog (m,f)
Cat (m,f)
Rooster (m)
Dog (m), Bitch (f)
Cat (m), Gata (f)
The washing machine (f)
The microwave (m)
The table (f)
The restaurant (m)
The school (f)
The park (m)
Differences between genders in English and Spanish. How fun, right?

The false friends

If you are learning Spanish as an English speaker, beware of “false cognates”! False cognates or false friends are words that are similar in written form and pronunciation, but have different meanings. Here are some examples:

EmbarrassedPregnant (to be pregnant)
ConstipatedConstipado (to have a cold)
False friends english and spanish

Our Luis Vives teachers will be able to warn you about more FALSE FRIENDS, so that you take them into account and can avoid mistakes.

SIMILARITIES between Spanish and English

We have good news, really. There are also similarities between both languages, which will make it easier for you to learn Spanish if your native language is English.

Words ending in -TION/-CION

There may be more similarities between English and Spanish than we think, because although English is not a Romance language, it has a lot of influence from them. This can be seen in the words that end in -CION in Spanish. In English, we simply have to change the “C” to a “T”.

Similar words between English and Spanish

Finally good news! Because if your native language is English, you know more Spanish words than you think, just make a list of all the words that end in -TION and transform them into Spanish. Check if they are correct with a dictionary.


Although we may make mistakes when translating expressions literally from English to Spanish or vice versa, the reality is that many of them are the same:

I have it on the tip of my tongueI have it on the tip of my tongue
To be a chickenbe a chicken
Who wears the pantsThe one who wears the pants
Don't bite the hand that feeds youDo not bite the hand that feeds you
To kill timeKill the weather
Fingers crossed!Fingers crossed!
To be all earsBe all ears
To tighten one's beltTighten your belt
To be the black sheepBe the black sheep
Similar expressions in English and Spanish

If you want to learn expressions and sayings in Spanish, remember that you can listen to our podcast: Spanish in 10 minutes. Luis Vives' podcast with which you can perfect your Spanish by listening to real conversations.


Unlike in the FALSE FRIENDS section, we also have cognates that are EQUAL between English and Spanish. So, another good news! If you study Spanish and your native language is English, you already know many words in Spanish (even if they are pronounced differently):

Cognates between English and Spanish

Problems with PHONETICS

It happens with most languages: Spanish and English do not share all phonemes.

The Z and C of BEER

One of the sounds that is most difficult for those who want to learn Spanish when English is their native language is the pronunciation of the voiceless dental fricative or interdental sound. This sound is typical of the accent of the Iberian Peninsula, although in some regions of Andalusia and the Canary Islands, it has practically disappeared. In Latin American Spanish it does not exist either. This sound is represented by the letter z, and by the letter c when followed by eo i. In the International Phonetic Alphabet it is represented with this symbol: /θ/. Some words that have this sound in peninsular Spanish are: beer, city, thanks, shoe, zoo, juice, start, close, carrot, sky or belt.

Council: To pronounce this sound you must place the tip of your tongue between your teeth and blow lightly.

The double R of ROME

Another sound that is difficult for our English-speaking students to pronounce is that of the alveolar vibrating voice, graphically represented by a double ro or strong r at the beginning of a word or after a consonant, represented by the International Phonetic Alphabet in this way: /r̄/.
Some words that have this sound in peninsular Spanish are: dog, car, mud, Roma, Enrique, slate or river.

Council: To pronounce this sound, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth (in the part closest to the front teeth) and make it vibrate.

Sounds that do NOT exist in the English phonetic alphabet

The palatal nasal sound represented graphically with the letter ñ: some words that contain this phoneme are: mountain, child, cabin, Spain or sister-in-law.

In English there is no letter ü with an umlaut, which we use in the digraphs güe, güi, although it is pronounced the same, such as penguin and pingüino. In both the u is pronounced.

Mnemonic rule for phonetics and spelling

In English, consonants tend to be doubled in various contexts, however in Spanish this does not happen often. We often find our students' words written as follows in Spanish: officina, possible, cafettería, etc. These forms are incorrect since in Spanish neither f, sy nor t can be doubled.

To make it easy for you to remember which consonants can be doubled in Spanish, remember this name: CAROLINA. Only the four consonants that appear in this name can be doubled in Spanish. Thus, we have words like: action, dog, paella, innovative, fiction, car, key or perennial.

Carolina It is the name of a famous song in Spanish. If you want to learn Spanish through music, you can download the list we have created for Spotify with the 100 best songs in Spanish.

7 tips to learn Spanish if your native language is English

If you want to learn Spanish with English as your native language, there are many ways to improve your learning, here are some of them. In these tips you will see links to other websites and applications. These are links that we consider to be very interesting if you want to learn Spanish. You should know that Luis Vives does not use hidden promotion techniques within its web content. In fact, we are against these practices😁


“Read” is one of our favorite words. If you are not ready to read a novel in Spanish, we recommend this website, in which you will find readings graded by levels. In addition, these are accompanied by exercises and questions.


Yes. It is the best advice for learning a language. The best thing you can do is practice it as much as possible and the best way to do this is by talking. If you don't know any Spanish speakers, it's best to find one and you don't even have to leave your house. You can find a Spanish speaker who is interested in learning English and do an online exchange with them. For example in this website You can create a profile and look for an exchange partner and be able to practice speaking.

If you are very embarrassing, you can practice alone. It may sound crazy, but you could look for questions in Spanish according to your level, and think at home how you could answer these questions. This exercise is very useful, since when creating your speech alone at home you can take the opportunity to look up the words in the dictionary that you want to express and that you don't know how to say in Spanish. Then you could write down the words you have looked up in your notebook. This will enrich your Spanish lexicon enormously. In this website You have questions in Spanish classified by topic. Would you know how to answer them?

Download an App

Memrise It is one of the favorite applications for learning languages. In this application you can find real videos of natives speaking Spanish. These videos are accompanied by questions about the vocabulary you have heard. Language transfer It is an application that is especially good for English speakers since you can learn Spanish with explanations in English. On this platform you will find audios of real Spanish lessons completely recorded, meaning you will hear the teacher and the students and it can be good practice.

Take an in-person Spanish course

I am not only a teacher, I am also a French student. And, from my own experience, attending in-person classes is one of the best ways to improve your language learning. If you can attend Spanish classes in your city, it would be ideal. And if not, you could always take an educational vacation in Spain. In these courses Spanish is spoken all the time and you will be able to interact with other students who are in the same process as you. Oh, and if you want to study in Spain, of course, you must do it in our Madrid School, where else?!

If you live in Spain, sign up for courses on topics you like

Going to Spanish classes is perfect for learning the language. But, let's put it into practice surrounded by Spaniards! For example, if you like yoga, sign up for yoga classes in Spain. If you like doing theater, go to theater classes in Spanish, or painting classes, athletics classes... whatever your passion is! This way, you will meet Spanish people with whom you have the same tastes, you will make friends and practice Spanish.

Watch movies or series

Of course! Watching movies or series in Spanish helps a lot. On Netflix you can find a few, but we also leave you the link RTVE, the national public platform where you can find Spanish series and movies 100% online.

Listen to music

Do you like Spanish music? Thanks to Spotify or YouTube we can listen to the song and see the lyrics at the same time, which will help you understand them better and you can also learn new words. The most famous Spanish singers in the world at the moment are: Aitana, Rosalía, Quevedo, C. Tangana, Raphael, Abraham Mateo, Lola Índigo, Camilo Sesto, David Bisbal, Pablo Alborán, Nathy Peluso, Alejandro Sanz, Enrique Iglesias, Belinda and Rels B.

My experience as a Spanish teacher in the United States

Being a Spanish teacher at a Middle School in Bellevue, Washington state, was one of the best experiences of my life. I had never had students so young; They were actually preteens, between 11 and 13 years old.

Learning Spanish by my students

Most of them spoke Spanish quite well because they had studied in a bilingual (Spanish-English) Elementary School, so they were used to listening and speaking in Spanish. However, I will talk about some of the difficulties I encountered as a teacher.

There was a lot of interference between English and Spanish and many times they spoke to me in Spanish. I think that not even they themselves were aware and thought it was the correct way to speak Spanish. For example, to talk about their lunchboxes, they said luncheras, sleepear to sleep, apply to request.

Personally, sometimes (but very rarely) it could be difficult for them to understand me since, above all, they study Mexican Spanish and were used to other types of vocabulary that I, as a Spanish person, do not use. But on the other hand, it was also good for them to expand their vocabulary. He left a brief word difference table:

grab, takeFuck👀
HurryHurry up
Differences between Mexico and Spain

Neither did you know the form; They do not study it directly there and it rarely appeared in the manuals. They used the variant you. But I always talked to them about you so that they would get used to Spanish from Spain and learn the corresponding verbal forms.

Where is Spain?!

One of the things that surprised me is that many of them didn't know where Spain was🙁They thought it was somewhere in Latin America, near Mexico😅. So I made sure to show them on a world map where Spain and its most important cities were.

I also had students who came from Latin America or who were born in the United States but whose parents were Latino. Although this could be an advantage, I encountered a cultural problem and that is that many children of Latinos refuse to speak Spanish because they have been taught that it is a language of “low prestige” or for “very physical and heavy work that requires no one wants to do,” so these Latino students told me they didn’t “know how to speak Spanish” when I knew they did 😂.

However, and despite the difficulties I encountered, it was an experience that enriched me as a person and as a teacher. I would repeat it again with my eyes closed.

If your desire is to learn Spanish and you are an English speaker, I hope I have helped you. My name is Cristina López, and I am a Spanish teacher at Luis Vives Escuela de Español. Until next time!


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