A few weeks ago I launched my second ebook, The Top 85 Mistakes Brazilians Make In English. Today I’m going to give you eight examples of the mistakes included in this book.
If you’re studying English in Brazil and ANY of these are new to you, I’d advise you to go to the Amazon store and buy this book asap. Why? Because there are 77 more examples of mistakes Brazilians make very often in there, and these include mistakes that are likely to make a native English speaker laugh. Some of them are going to sound sexual, could embarrass the person you’re talking to or some just sound very, very funny!
I’ve been asked a number of times if there is a physical copy of the book, and unfortunately, at the moment there is not. However, if you have a smart phone, a tablet or a computer, you can download the Kindle app (here) and buy your copy very easily.
I’ve also heard people commenting that they don’t like reading from a screen….and I get it. I studied English Literature at University and I am a huge fan of physical copies of books too. But here is the thing, if you just read and memorise three or four of these common mistakes a day from your electronic device, you’re actually going to be saving your English teacher a lot of work…and you’re going to sound a lot more native in the process too!
I didn’t just write The Top 85 Mistakes Brazilians Make In English for students either. Ask any native English teacher working in Brazil and they’ll be able to tell you of a time they were asked a question in class that they just couldn’t answer. These are the types of questions that seem so easy to explain, until the time comes to have to do so! Questions like:
- “Teacher, what’s the difference between ‘to’ and ‘for’?”
- “Why can’t I say ‘I will finish the report until 9pm’?”
- “What is wrong with saying ‘I’d like another days off work’?”
All will be explained within the pages of the book (available here)…
Clint Eastwood is famous for playing characters in Western films who enjoyed a drink at the local saloon. Saloons are those bars frequented by cowboys (with a whole lot of tumbleweed blowing around outside). So a Brazilian should avoid saying that they get their hair cut in a saloon, instead, they should say that they will go to the salon.
A salon is a place women tend to go to as these places are also where you could also be able to use the services of a beautician. Alternatively you could go to a hairdressers (a hairdresser usually specialises in female cuts but may also be trained to cut male hair) and if you’re male, you might want to visit the barbers/barber shop (a barber usually specialises in male haircuts, shaving necks and trimming beards).
“I’m going to the salon/hairdressers/barbers to have my hair cut”
I once had a student say this phrase in class, and my natural response was to look at them suspiciously. Why? Well if you’re using the adverb too it suggests that you have a bit of a problem! Let me explain. If you’re driving down the road at 68kmph and the speed limit is 70kmph, you’re not breaking any rules. You are driving fast but you have not crossed that legal line and gone over the limit. Here we would say, “I am driving so fast”. But if you drive at 71kmph then you have crossed that limit and are driving too fast.
Allow me to give you another example, you’re in a restaurant and you’ve eaten so much. OK, this isn’t an ideal situation, you might feel a little full and maybe you will need to open the top button of your jeans. However, if you’ve eaten too much then a limit has been exceeded and it sounds like you have a problem. Maybe you need to vomit, maybe you need to sleep or maybe you will feel very uncomfortable for some time after.
But let’s go back to Mariah. You can say that you like her so much but if you say the word too a line has been crossed and maybe there is a problem. Maybe you try to go to all of her concerts; maybe you cry tears of happiness as soon as you hear Dreamlover or maybe you can quote all the words to her film Glitter. Either way, the use of the word too here tells me that you recognise your affection for Mariah is a problem.
“I like Mariah Carey so much”
We were in four is a direct translation of the Portuguese “nós fomos em quatro.” In English we would say “there were four of us.” Additionally if you’re talking about another group of people you could say: “There were four of them.”
“I went to a restaurant with some friends, there were four of us”
When my students say this, most of the time they are not talking about contests at all. In English we can use ‘contest’ as a verb (to oppose) or as a noun to describe a competition in which a person or group compete to be the winner; like The X Factor, Miss World or The Voice. Context is the word that should be used in the above phrase.
“I didn’t understand the context”
This word can be difficult to pronounce and is one no Brazilian really wants to be pronouncing incorrectly. The reason for this is that when they do it, it sounds a little bit like this:
I then need to tell my students that there is no sex in the word success (before watching them turn a light shade of pink). The correct way to pronounce it is like this: “Suck-sess.” So the first c in the word has a hard sound and the second c has a softer sound. The last two letters in the word success are definitely not pronounced with an x sound.
Sounds like “Suck-sess”
“I am so interesting in this”
An –ing is used at the end of an adjective to describe things and/or situations. E.g. “The movie I saw last night was really interesting.” But if you’re describing yourself as interesting, well… you’re going to sound a little arrogant! To describe how you or someone else feels you’re going to use an -ed at the end of the adjective. Check out the difference between the two adjectives in this sentence: “I was really interested in the interesting movie I saw last night.”
This –ing and –ed rule also works for other adjectives too, examples of some of these are exciting/excited, boring/bored, confused/confusing and amazing/amazed.
“I am so interested in this”
Whenever I hear this I feel compelled to quote the words of one of the 21st century’s greatest philosophers, Ms. Britney Spears. And no I’m not joking! Yes, talking about Britney songs in class might not get you much street cred as a teacher, but the following method tends to work to help the students remember this word order!
“Ok, please complete the song lyrics, “hit me baby…”
“One more time” will (usually) come rolling off my students’ tongues. And why does Britney sing “one more time” and not “one time more?” Because in English we use the number, the word more and then we use the subject. So it is my birthday in four more months, I finish work in eight more hours and there are three more days until the weekend.
Whenever you’re in doubt, just ask yourself this question; how many times does Britney want you to hit her!
While we are on the subject of education, allow me to point out a mistake that is always a little awkward to explain during class. I have heard a number of my students shortening master’s degree simply to master, which might make a native English speaker laugh. Why? Well let me explain. A master is a term used to describe a person with either slaves or servants; however, this side of the 21st century the word has taken on a more sexual meaning!
Let me tell you something else you might not be familiar with. “To do someone” is slang for (cough) having sex with someone (cough). So if you’re telling people that you’re “doing your master,” well….that sounds like something taken right out of the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy!
The way to make sure you’re not misunderstood is to say “I will do my master’s.” Make sure that s sound is very clear and very strong!