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Common pitfalls for Poles learning English


Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #1
A few things I have noticed which might help - I've concentrated on some of the maybe less obvious:

Firstly, the word " count " - and all other words that contain this.

Be very careful how you pronounce this. The middle vowel sound, expressed as a Polish sound should be something like " ę " - I think that's the nearest - but most definitely not " u " which I have heard quite a lot. For those who don't know, it's the most vulgar word in the English language!

"Aye" which is confusingly pronounced as "I", is a colloquial version of "yes", most common in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. Funny example, A german girl I knew was asking someone if they knew the way to a certain tourist attraction. Aye came the reply. Looking confused and slightly annoyed she responded "Err..Yes - you!"

When queueing for service at counters it is common for staff to ask "Are you OK?" meaning really, "Can I help you?" The appropriate response is simply to ask for what you need, not to reply "No" or "I am not OK" - whilst logically correct, it sounds weird and rude.

Though, through, tough, thought - these all mean completely different things and are all pronounced completely differently. (Sorry!)

If I think of more I'll add them.
dtaylor5632 18 | 2,007
29 Sep 2010  #2
For those who don't know, it's the most vulgar word in the English language!

I thought that was Susan Boyle?
Seanus 15 | 19,706
29 Sep 2010  #3
Saying 'themselves' instead of 'each other' is a common mistake.

'Attend to' instead of 'attend'

'Call to' instead of 'call'

'Make a test' instead of 'do a test'

Also, I really believe they aren't taught the articles properly at all. It's a trickle-down effect as the teachers themselves seem not to know. I mean, who really says 'a chairs'? If you know that a is one then what's the problem? Also, the 's' seems to be an invisible letter for many. I wonder if that's the problem.

I could list many more but I'll wait for now.
sausage 19 | 777
29 Sep 2010  #4
the one I see most commonly is "advices" instead of advice
zetigrek
29 Sep 2010  #5
Firstly, the word " count " - and all other words that contain this.

hehe the most frequent misspronounce is about the word beach... and the other one ;)
Seanus 15 | 19,706
29 Sep 2010  #6
Irregular plurals, yes. Informations, knowledges, furnitures etc etc.
sausage 19 | 777
29 Sep 2010  #7
the one I see most commonly is "advices" instead of advice

actually, probably the most common is knowing when to use a/an/the

'Make a test' instead of 'do a test'

similarly with mistakes
Seanus 15 | 19,706
29 Sep 2010  #8
I do an exercise with MAKE, DO, HAVE and TAKE. They have a word like 'break' and they have to place it under the correct heading. Some students take a very minimalist approach by giving a word such a narrow ambit. For example, time. They match it up without exploring other possibilities. Time fits all 4 of the above categories.

I often hear, 'oh, but I thought that word meant such and such' when it has many meanings.
zetigrek
29 Sep 2010  #9
Also, I really believe they aren't taught the articles properly at all.

I use it "na czuja", but I simply forget about all these small words. It's hard to pronounce "the" in front of every word in a sentence.

I use "the" when:
- when I've already mentioned the thing I'm talking about (There is a chair in my room. The chair is broken)
- when the things is known for adversants (The car of my dad you drove lasr summer, has been stolen recently. I've already told you about the divorce.)

- before some nouns, some geographical names (in the UK, the USA, the Internet)

Are there any other rules?
OP Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #10
Are there any other rules?

Your usage above is correct and aside from the examples you mention, the basic rule which works about 90% of the time is:

Unless it is a plural, if you don't have a or the in front of a noun you are probably making a mistake.

- when the things is known for adversants (The car of my dad you drove lasr summer, has been stolen recently. I've already told you about the divorce.)

This can be tricky as the object can change from a to the very quickly.

E.g. You are in a bar talking to the barman:

"Hi, can I have a pint of Guinness and a bottle of Budweiser"

"Would you like a glass with the Budweiser?"

"Yes please"

"OK, €135.20 please" (if it's in Ireland)

(Change arrives but no glass)

"Where's the glass?"

"Oh sorry, here you are - and I'll bring the pint down to you"

hehe the most frequent misspronounce is about the word beach... and the other one ;)

Yeah, that too - but the example I gave is much worse - believe me ; )
zetigrek
29 Sep 2010  #11
"Oh sorry, here you are - and I'll bring the pint down to you"

For me it's the first case of my personal rules :)
I think I feel quite well when to put the word "the" and when "a/an" or nothing. Just sometimes I forget it as it distracts me while writing or speaking.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
29 Sep 2010  #12
There are many many rules governing the use of 'the' in the wider sense. The basic rule is that it is sth being referred to which all concerned know and is sth specific.

Dogs are obedient (generally)

The dogs in Thailand are strays (specific)

Zeti, please check the search facility for info on this. It might be that the threads have expired and thus we can discuss it again.
zetigrek
29 Sep 2010  #13
Zeti, please check the search facility for info on this. It might be that the threads have expired and thus we can discuss it again.

I don't need it to check it here. The Internet is full of English grammar sites ;)
OP Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #14
The dogs in Thailand are strays (specific)

Yeah, forgot about that one - however you could simply say "dogs in Thailand..." it wouldn't exactly be wrong would it? maybe it is technically - I'm not sure.
dtaylor5632 18 | 2,007
29 Sep 2010  #15
"Oh sorry, here you are - and I'll bring the pint down to you"

This goes with

- when I've already mentioned the thing I'm talking about (There is a chair in my room. The chair is broken)

OP Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #16
Yeah I've just realised that - quoted the wrong bit - sorry : /
Seanus 15 | 19,706
29 Sep 2010  #17
Zeti, no problem :)

DT, you can say 'dogs in Thailand' :) The dogs in Bangkok would subdivide it.
zetigrek
29 Sep 2010  #18
Make a test' instead of 'do a test'

Do vs make is easy to explain. It's rather the begginers' problem.

I've always have been confused about translation of "brać narkotyki". I heard it is "to do drugs" but never heard or seen this expression in use.
dtaylor5632 18 | 2,007
29 Sep 2010  #19
Dogs in Thailand can be friendly sometimes, so can dogs in China, but the dogs in Thailand are more aggressive than the dogs in China ;) :P :P

DT, you can say 'dogs in Thailand'

psssssssst Seanus, I didn't say that :P
Bzibzioh
29 Sep 2010  #20
probably the most common is knowing when to use a/an/the

I'll admit freely that I have no clue how those damn things work, so it's a hit and miss for me (mostly I avoid them altogether). And I struggle with this/that/these/those. It's pure laziness on my part, I know.
pgtx 29 | 3,160
29 Sep 2010  #21
i'm heaving problems with that also... for so many years! i don't pay much attention now, if i get it right, that's great! :)

Do vs make is easy to explain. It's rather the begginers' problem.

hmm... how about "taking a test"? :)
Ironside 47 | 9,613
29 Sep 2010  #22
a/an/the
come on .......one by one bastards !
Bzibzioh
29 Sep 2010  #23
come on .......one by one bastards !

Violence is never an(?) answer ;)
OP Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #24
Ha ha - the answer. The reasoning being that it is assumed there is only one like the sun, the sky etc

An exception being maybe if there were already other answers proposed.....oh God....

I had intended not getting into the old a/the thing simply because it is so widespread and it's not that easy to give comprehensive advice due to the amount of different usage/exceptions.

I think this thread so far has covered the bulk of it though. For any perfectionists or masochists I'd recommend "A Practical English Grammar" by Thomson & Martinet. It provides very clear, sensible and detailed info on all aspects of grammar usage including many pages on a/the.

Dogs in Thailand can be friendly sometimes, so can dogs in China, but the dogs in Thailand are more aggressive than the dogs in China ;) :P :P

Ha ha - which once again brings us back to:

zetigrek:
- when I've already mentioned the thing I'm talking about (There is a chair in my room. The chair is broken)

Another common consequence of article paranoia is maybe overdoing it too e.g. "I was talking to the Wiktor the other day" etc

I wouldn't worry too much about it though - unless you really want to get it right.

You will always be understood perfectly and it is rare that incorrect usage will lead to ambiguity. Plus, you can take comfort in the fact that the most common mistakes made by native speakers, e.g. I seen, I done, there is 5 of them... are almost never made by Poles!

And these are really pretty common mistakes with native English speakers!

EDIT:

Actually, although it doesn't cover everything, this is quite a good summary:

[b]Using Articles
Summary: This handout discusses the differences between indefinite articles (a/an) and definite articles (the).

owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01
Ironside 47 | 9,613
29 Sep 2010  #25
Violence is never an(?) answer ;)

Violence is seldom the answer but it works wonders in the right set of circumstances :)

A Practical English Grammar" by Thomson & Martinet

thanks !
sausage 19 | 777
29 Sep 2010  #26
Ha ha - the answer.

"an" is also ok, because violence is one of the possible options
OP Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #27
Yeah, mentioned that ^
richasis 1 | 419
29 Sep 2010  #28
Ha ha - the answer. The reasoning being that it is assumed there is only one like the sun, the sky etc

Actually, depending on context, both are correct. (Edit: 'definite' vs. 'indefinite')
Bzibzioh
29 Sep 2010  #29
Ha ha - the answer.

"an" is also ok, because violence is one of the possible options

You see! How we, biedne żuczki, should figure it out? It's very confusing.
OP Teffle 22 | 1,321
29 Sep 2010  #30
hehe the most frequent misspronounce is about the word beach... and the other one ;)

By the way, this word, b1tch, is not a rude word in English - at least not in modern times.

It is only insulting in certain contexts, trading insults etc. The literal meaning is a female dog - a lot of people don't realise that. I think some people are under the impression that it is the equivalent of "wh0re" or something but it isn't.

I heard it is "to do drugs" but never heard or seen this expression in use.

It is common and the usual usage. You can say take as well.


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