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Lost in Translation: 5 Common English Mistakes in the Workplace and How to Avoid them

Updated: Sep 22, 2023



Hello there! If you're reading this, chances are you're looking to improve your English skills in the workplace. You've come to the right place! Here, we'll be looking at and correcting some common mistakes in English made by Spanish speakers at work, and also suggesting some alternatives to make your English sound more natural. We know that communicating in a non-native language, especially in a professional setting, can be intimidating, but keep reading and you’ll be able to improve your English communication skills and feel more confident at work. Let's get started!


1.

Mistake: ‘I can’t assist to the meeting’

Correction: ‘I can’t attend the meeting’

Alternatives: ‘I can’t make it to the meeting’ / ‘I won’t be able to join the meeting’


This is a common false friend mistake. Remember that the verb ‘asistir’ in Spanish does not translate to ‘assist’ in English in this context. (‘Assist’ means to help!)


2.

Mistake: I call you now’

Correction: ‘I’ll call you now’

Alternatives: ‘I’ll give you a call in a sec / in a mo’ / ‘I’ll call you right back


Be careful with direct translations of verb tenses. ‘Ahora te llamo’ in Spanish is translated using ‘will’ in English because it’s an instant decision made while speaking. In the case of ending a call and saying you’ll call them again, you can use the phrase ‘I’ll call you right back’.


3.

Mistake: I work for this company since 2012’

Correction: ‘I’ve been working for this company since 2012’

Alternatives: ‘It’s been 11 years now’ / ‘I’ve been working here for 11 years’ / ‘I’ve been in this position since 2012’


For something which started in the past and continues in the present, we need to use the present perfect simple or continuous. Spanish speakers tend to incorrectly use the present tense in this context. Look out for this structure especially when you’re using for or since!


4.

Mistake: (on a call) ‘I don’t listen you’

Correction: ‘I can’t hear you’

Alternatives: ‘I’m having difficulty/trouble hearing you’ / ‘I didn’t catch what you said’


‘Listen’ and ‘hear’ are often confused since they have similar meanings, but since ‘listen’ is a conscious action, it’s not the right verb here.


5.

Mistake: ‘Let’s take a coffee’

Correction: ‘Let’s have a coffee’

Alternatives: ‘Let’s grab a coffee’ / ‘Let’s get a coffee’ / ‘Let’s go for a coffee’


As a general rule, when translating ‘tomar algo’, in English we use ‘have’ (have something to eat, have a beer…). ‘Grab’ is a nice informal alternative, suggesting it’s a quick one!


So, now you’ve got these valuable corrections and alternatives, it's time to put them into practice and take your communication skills to the next level! Go ahead and impress your colleagues by incorporating them into your work this week.


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