Cross-linguistic transfer, the problem of a learner’s native language interfering with the one being learned, is a big enough issue without us as teachers compounding it by constantly relating things to English. For example, giving students ways to remember words by relating them to English is not always a smart idea, in my opinion. I just got a blog post from a student who wrote “Yo soy mirror television.” This is a student in his 2nd semester of Spanish 2. Someone along the way has told him to remember mirar by relating it to the English mirror so what does he remember? Mirror. Communicatively speaking, it’s very possible that a native speaker would understand him, but the error still irks me. Also, this is a student who is not very motivated and I imagine I’ll never see him after this semester, so that’s a factor too.
Still, I try to point out when things are not like English as much as possible to convince them that they cannot try to force Spanish to be that way. When we listened to Aleks Syntek perform Intocable on the 2007 Latin Grammys, we talked about how looking up the words ‘move’ and ‘on’ will never get you to ‘debo seguir adelante,’ which is what he sings in the song. Today in Spanish 1 when we watched Belinda and the Cheetah Girls sing A la Nanita Nana, we talked about the phrase tiene sueño and why we’d never say it that way in English but we’re just focusing on that being the phrase (chunking it, if you will) so we can work on not writing things like estoy sueño and worse, soy sueño. Same thing with yesterday’s clip of Los pollitos and the phrases tienen hambre and tienen frío.
Remember, we’re supposed to be fighting cross-linguistic transfer, not encouraging it.