I have been teaching English for 17 years now, and only the past three years I have been teaching English to Slovenian people, mainly adults and mainly conversation.
When I started teaching in Slovenia my point was to never use the Slovenian language as I was taught that this was the best way to teach anyone to speak better and faster.
But my students kept making the same mistakes over and over again and I could see that they didn’t even understand some basic grammar structures.
I am against learning grammar rules by heart and then never using them properly, but in order to explain these structures I had to compare them to Slovenian and learn Slovenian grammar more thoroughly.
I try to focus on the speaking, but we know that speaking comes from reading, listening and grammar. However, common mistakes are various, not only grammatical and here they are:
1. Wrong pronunciation of “have”, “love”, “victory”, “everyone”.
Because the sound “v” in Slovenian is pronounced as “w” ( for e.g. domov is pronounced domow), they pronounce the above-mentioned words as /haw/, /law/, /wiktəri/, /ew-rē-(ˌ)wən/ etc. Almost every student does it and it’s really difficult to break that habit.
2. Not using articles.
There are no articles in Slovenian, so Slovenian people have found the solution: they don’t use them whatsoever. It’s really difficult to explain to them the usage of indefinite article for example. Also, I once quarrelled with a Slovenian colleague about my usage or articles, she claimed that I use too many, and I thought she didn’t use enough. Some examples of common mistakes Slovenians make when omitting the article are: “Price is 40 Euros”, “She’s teacher”, “I have dog”, etc.
3. Avoiding/not using the Present Perfect Tense.
I have mastered present perfect by explaining it hundreds of times. This tense doesn’t exist in Slovenian so it can be understood and explained only as a concept in English. Like for e.g. “I have lost my key.” “I have been to England three times.”
4. Using Present Simple and Present Continuous.
Although Present Simple is the first tense to be learned when you start learning English, many students do not use it properly. Complete confusion of both tenses is very common so you have mistakes such as: “I learning English”, “My father watching TV every evening”, etc.
5. Modal verbs.
There are many more modal verbs in English and it is a real challenge to explain the difference in meaning is Slovenian as it only has a few modal verbs or they are expressed with different sentence structures. For example: “He must have been ill.” (Gotovo je bil bolan), then a very, very common mistake: “Do you know English?” instead of “Can you speak English?”, “He maybe was in the cinema” instead of “He may have been in the cinema.” (Lahko, da je bil v kinu). And that would be enough for now, modal verbs need a special article which is in the making.
6. Using singular instead of plural.
Many students do not use plural when they have to. I honestly have no idea why. If you can think of a reason, please let me know.Plural should be very simple concept (according to me, don’t shoot me).
7. Wrong word order in the sentence. This is one of the biggest mistakes students make and I think it is due to the fact that Slovenian has cases and a very “strange” word order ( according to me), whereas English has the simple Subject + Verb+ Object word order.
8. “Ye” instead of “Yes” and “Ne” instead of “No”.
I have heard it many times. I have no idea where it comes from.
9. Saying “one” instead of “a”.
“I have one brother” instead of “I have a brother”. Again, it’s the issue of articles.
10. Starting the sentence with verb or using the verb-subject for affirmative sentences.
For example: “Yesterday went to the cinema with my father” instead of “Yesterday I went to the cinema with my father.”
11. Saying “Enjoy (Uživaj/Uživajte)” or even “Good luck (Srečno) instead of saying “Good bye”, “Have a nice time”, or “Have a nice trip”. This is a direct and literal translation of typical Slovenian greetings in English and of course it’s wrong.
12. Prepositions used after a verb in general wrong ones. For e.g. “Go in the bathroom.” instead of “Go to the bathroom”, “Talk with him”, instead of “Talk to him”, and many more.
13. “Eating lunch/ drinking coffee/smoking a cigarette” instead of “have lunch/ have coffee/ have a shower/ have a sandwich/have a cigarette”, everything with the verb “have” be it a verb phrase or simply an auxiliary verb seems to be a real challenge for Slovenian students.
14. Conditional clauses. Totally wrong. The conditional clauses in English are really illogical and difficult to explain. I need to write another article only about that, however this example shows the most common mistake when using conditional sentences: “If I win the lottery, I will travel the world”, instead of “If I won the lottery I would travel the world. “
15. “He haven’t” or “he don’t” instead of “he hasn’t” or “he doesn’t.”
16. Too long sentences which is normal in Slovenian.
Also, using too many commas everywhere in the sentence which is a feature of the Slovenian language, and a very difficult one to learn I have to admit. I can’t provide an example. When in doubt, just avoid commas.
17. Good Bye! OK! Don’t worry! I’ll pick you up at the bus station!
Using exclamation point at wrong places just because it’s used like that in Slovenian. In my first years in Slovenia, I thought people are shouting at me or were angry with me because they used exclamation mark a lot, but that wasn’t the case. It’s simply used more and for different purposes in Slovenian.
18. Saying the time like “fourteen and ten”, for ten past two p.m. (14:10).
19. Starting an email like Dear Sirs, and then continuing in the next line with a small letter as it is done in Slovenian.
20. Confusing the second person “you” in singular and plural.
It seems like they still can’t believe that it can be so simple and actually the same form for singular and plural, since Slovenian has a dual number and plural and so many different suffixes. Yes, in English it’s the same.
21. There is/There are not used. Instead of the direct and literal translation of the Slovenian: “In England have” or “we have” use “There are many castles in England.”
22. “I’m boring” instead of “I’m bored” or “I’m interesting” instead of “I’m interested in geography” etc. Please just don’t say that you’re boring because I’ll leave.
23. “You work here?”, “She speak English?” instead of “Do you work here?” and “Does she speak English?”
Composing questions with auxiliary verbs, making questions in general is difficult in English. Also questions in all tenses are challenging as in English they have different rules.
24. Numbers, oh the numbers. A Slovenian student will read the number 56 like “sixty-five” as in Slovenian these numbers are read inversely. Or should I say in English they are read inversely? However the case, you say the first digit and then the second one in English.
25. “In Monday” instead of “on Monday” etc. The only advice I can give you when it comes to prepositions is learn them by heart ( na pamet!).
Cheer up! It’s not the end of the world. It’s just English, I know it’s illogical, has no strict and clear grammar rules, but hey, at least you’re not learning Slovenian, which is, sorry but, way more difficult than any other language I came across.