Five Common English Mistakes Made by Japanese Speakers

I spent many years working as an English teacher in Japan, and during that time I taught many hundreds of students. After a while, I began to notice that different students would often make the same types of mistakes, and I would hear the same error repeated in different classes. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to point out some English errors that are very common among Japanese students. Of course, they may also occur with students from other countries but Japanese students should find these hints particularly helpful. So here are five sentences, each containing a common mistake. Before reading the explanations, why not see if you can find and correct the errors yourself?

1. I have ever been to Scotland
2. Swimming is very interesting
3. It costs £25 to borrow a car for a day
4. I love the music
5. My son bought some candy by his own money

Can you see the mistakes? If not, here are the explanations:

1. I have ever been to Scotland

Mistake: We do not use ‘ever’ in this way. We normally use it like this:

a. in questions, e.g. ‘Have you ever eaten sushi?’
b. after ‘If’, e.g. ‘If you ever go to Rome you should visit the Vatican’
c. with superlatives, e.g. ‘Natto is the strangest food I have ever eaten’

Correct version: I have been to Scotland
Note: you may be getting confused because you are trying to use ‘ever’ the same way as ‘never’. The sentence ‘I have never been to Scotland’ is grammatically correct.

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2. Swimming is very interesting

Mistake: We use ‘interesting’ to describe things that we find mentally enjoyable or challenging, not things that give us physical or simpler forms of pleasure. So it is OK to say ‘I read an interesting book’ or ‘My friend has an interesting job’. For sports, activities, holidays etc we use ‘enjoyable’ or ‘fun’.

Correct version: Swimming is great fun/very enjoyable
Note: You may be getting confused by translating the Japanese word ‘omoshiroi’, which can have both types of meaning in Japanese.

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3. It costs £25 to borrow a car for a day

Mistake: ‘Borrow’ means that someone lends us something temporarily, as a favour, and we do not have to pay. For example, “I borrowed my brother’s pen”. If we pay for the temporary use of something we use ‘rent’ or ‘hire’.

Correct version: It costs £25 to hire/rent a car for a day

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4. I love the music

Mistake: ‘Music’ is an uncountable noun. We do not use ‘the’ with uncountable nouns when they have a general meaning, as in this case.

Correct version: I love music
Note: It is possible to use ‘the’ if you are speaking more specifically, e.g. ‘I love the music you are playing’

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5. I took a lovely photo by my new camera

Mistake: We use ‘with’ to describe a physical thing (such as an object or tool) that we use to do something.

Correct version: I took a lovely photo with my new camera
Note: You can use ‘by’ with the ‘ing’ form of a verb, e.g. I got a great photo of a bird by climbing a tree.

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How did you do? If you found the mistakes, well done! If not, don’t worry because these are common errors that are hard to spot. In fact, because they occur so frequently many Japanese learners think they actually represent correct English. So always question what you hear when studying English, and don’t assume that the language used by other students is correct, even if it sounds right. I hope you found these examples interesting and helpful. Look out for more in later articles.

Source by Chris Kennard

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