As a non-native: typical mistakes you could make in English

18 septiembre 2017
As a non-native: typical mistakes you could make in English
Justin Foster is an English teacher at St. Petersburg Dataart office. He came to Russia from Canada. We asked Justin to share his impressions regarding the most common mistakes he hears from us as non-native English speakers.


Most often, we hear non-native English speakers use the word "goodbye" when ending a conversation or when leaving a meeting, a workplace or other common setting. While there is nothing wrong with saying this, it can sound both overly formal and final; as if it is the last time, you will ever speak. To retain formality yet offer a more pleasant alternative, you may say "take care" or "have a nice/good day/night/weekend".


Pronunciation issues can be problematic in many situations and there are many instances in which a mispronunciation can cause a completely different word to be heard by the listening party. The short "i/ɪ/" sound seems to be a recurring error and is pronounced more like "ee/ea/ē/". In this situation, ship becomes sheep, hip becomes heap, bin becomes been, dim becomes deem, fit becomes feet, lid becomes lead, and so on and so forth. Therefore, beware of what words can be easily confused and practice your pronunciation regularly. To produce the sound correctly, put your tongue close to the top and the front of your mouth, and stretch out your lips horizontally, and then make a short voiced sound with your mouth nearly closed. Additionally you should clinch the muscles in your throat as you create the sound.

Common grammar mistakes

When speaking about one's level of English and about improvement or regress of one's skills, things like "I want my level of English go up", "I want my English to go up" or "I don't want my English go down", with or without the use of the infinitive "to go" is still incorrect. To correctly speak about your desires in regards to your English level say "I wish to improve my English skills", "I want to improve the level of my English", "I don't want to lose my English skills", "I don't want my English skills to regress". Making a mistake when speaking about one's English skills can amplify the perception of one's lack of skills.

Names of countries

When speaking about foreign countries or regions, oftentimes pronunciation and definite articles are frequently in error. "German" is a language, not a country. "Meh-Hiko", while correct in the Mexican language, is not correct in English, Mexico is pronounced like "Mecks-i-ko". Sometimes both pronunciation and definite articles in one instance are incorrect such as "Nee-ther-lands" instead of the correctly said "the Neth-er-lands". Sometimes only, a definite article is missing such as "I was in U.S.A./United States" instead of the correctly said, "I was in the U.S.A./the United States". Other times definite articles are added incorrectly, such as "the Crimea" instead of the correctly said "Crimea", the confusion in this case is due to the fact that you can say "the Crimean Peninsula" because you are speaking about a geographical area and not the region itself.

Tips to remember:

Use "the" before:

  • Plural names, such as "the Maldives", "the United States".
  • A general geo-political noun of a place, e.g. republic, emirate, kingdom or state: "the United Kingdom", "the United Arab Emirates".
  • Points on the globe (the Equator, the North Pole).
  • Mountain ranges (the Smoky Mountains, the Andes).
  • Island chains (the Florida Keys, the Pacific Islands).
  • Geographical areas (the East, the Midwest).
  • Rivers, seas, and oceans (the Mississippi River, the Atlantic Ocean, the Nile River).
  • Deserts and peninsulas (the Mojave Desert, the Balkan Peninsula).
  • Groups of lakes (the Great Lakes).

Do not use "the" before:

  • Continents (North America, Asia, Africa).
  • Mountains (Mount Rushmore, Mount Everest).
  • Islands (Saint Lucia, Antigua, Grenada).
  • Streets (Broad Street, Wilson Avenue).
  • Cities and towns (Birmingham, Seattle, Las Vegas).
  • States (Alabama, Washington, Nevada).
  • Lakes (Lake Erie, Lake Kissimmee, Lake Rabun).

Also note that "the" should only be capitalized if it is the beginning of a sentence.

"The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a population of over 80 million people."


  • I like to wash T.V. ~ I like to watch T.V. (most people don't like water on their electronics).
  • My sister is having four cats. ~ My sister has four cats (people don't give birth to kittens).
  • My wife and child live with me on my grandmother's house. ~ My wife and child live with me in my grandmother's house (people generally don't live on top of a house).
  • I am taking an English curse ~ I am taking an English course (most people don't study curses anymore, aside from witches).
  • Sorry it is loud in here, let me shot the window ~ Sorry it is loud in here, let me shut the window (shooting a gun at a window is not recommended).
  • One day I'll find the men I want to marry. ~ One day I'll find the men I want to marry (polygamy is typically illegal, along with other problems).
  • I was the weiner of the tournament. ~ I was the winner of the tournament. (typically hotdogs can't win or compete in competitions).
  • I only know a little people. ~ I only know a few people (it is possible, yet unlikely, all of your friends are very tiny).
  • I often eat fast food but cook myself as much as possible. ~ I often eat fast food but I like to cook as much as possible (cooking your own self is dangerous).
  • I traveled on a big sheep all over Europe. ~ I traveled on a big ship all over Europe (traveling on sheepback probably won't get you far).
  • I think I am a very active and feet person. ~ I think I am a very active and fit person (unless you really love feet, this statement is not for you).