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For Students: Top 20 common mistakes, translations, and peculiarities made by Ukrainian / Russian sp

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

I started my teaching career after I finished my CELTA course back in 2010. The first job I got was in Moscow, Russia. I was only there for around 7 months before I was offered a job in St. Petersburg, where I stayed for 3 academic years. St. Petersburg will always hold a special place for me. Not only was the city, people, colleagues, and students all great there, it was the place where I grew as a teacher. I was at an extremely modern school with lots of technology that allowed me to explore many different ways of doing things. It also forced me to get creative as the material my school had was.... well it still gives me nightmares.

Of course, during all that time in Russia I became accustomed to common mistakes, translations, and weird things my students and people used to say. I remember towards the end of my time in St. Petersburg I had a most common error list. Sadly, I've lost this list, but, since coming to Lviv, and meeting and speaking to lots of different people, I have been kindly reminded of all 3 of these things. Thank you.

I'm still constantly adding to my list when I hear something and would like to share them all for you over two or more posts. I want to share them with you in hope you can recognise them and correct the problem yourself for future reference. So here we go.....

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1. The difference between live/stay

The topic of travel always comes up when you talk to someone. People love talking about travel, their holidays, and trips. Remember, when you say ' I lived in a hotel by the beach ' you sound very rich ;) Stay is always used for a short time, like your holidays and trips. Live is only used for a long time.

Incorrect: I lived in a hostel for a couple of days in Budapest

Correct: I stayed in a hostel for a couple of days in Budapest

2 Have you ever been in …

This is probably the most common mistake made by students from most countries, not just Ukraine or Russia. The thing is, I hear this mistake so many times that when someone actually uses the correct version of 'have you ever been TO...' it always impresses me. Sadly, it doesn't happen often enough. But, the meaning is very clear

Incorrect: Have you ever been in Italy?

Correct: Have you ever been to Italy?

3. I feel myself good.....

Let's get straight to the point. To feel yourself has a sexually meaning which means to touch your private-parts to gain pleasure. I feel good.... should be used unless.......

Incorrect: I don't feel myself good so I'm going home

Correct: I don't feel good so I'm going home

4. I'm going to pass an exam tomorrow

There is a process of passing an exam. It goes like this: first you revise – then you take/do/sit the exam and then if you do well – you pass. Saying you're going to pass an exam sounds like you're extremely confident. Maybe you are, but this can cause confusion if you are talking about an exam in the past.

Incorrect: I'm going to pass IELTS tomorrow

Correct: I'm going to take IELTS tomorrow

5. Thanks god...

The expression in English is 'Thank god!' I've only heard Ukrainian and Russian speaking students say ' thanks gods ' I don't know why?

Incorrect: Thanks god we don't have to go to work tomorrow

Correct: Thank god we don't have to go to to work tomorrow

6. My brother has 21 years

I think this is just a direct translation and I was reminded of this by my landlord yesterday when he was telling me about his family. This only comes up in the lower levels. That said, even some people with a higher level of English will still include 'years' and 'year' when talking about age and time. It's not needed in English

Incorrect: My brother has 17 years he was born in 2000 year

Correct: My brother is 17 he was born in 2000

7. I think no / I think yes

A really common expression used among people. I actually asked a group of people a question the other day and 4 of them replied with this mistake. In English we not say I think yes/no we say I think so (I think yes) and I don't think so (I think no)

Incorrect: Are you coming out tonight? I think no. I have a lot of homework

Correct: Are you coming out tonight? I don't think so. I have a lot of homework

8. Talking about university. Course/year

I remember speaking to someone and them telling me how they were in their 3rd course at university. I thought that wasn't possible because they was too young, so I thought maybe it was their 3rd course at university. Perhaps they just didn't know what they wanted to study. When we talk about university we talk our time there in years, I'm in my 3rd year at university. Not course. If you said in your 3rd course, this could mean you have finished 3 other courses before. Course also in English is singular. if talking about more than one, then you can use the plural 'courses'

Incorrect: I am in the second courses at university

Correct: I am in the second year at university

9. How do you think....

When anyone asks me this question I reply with ' my brain ' just to see how they react. They asked! The meaning is understandable and doesn't cause any confusion, but it's what do you think?

Incorrect: How do you think?

Correct: What do you think?

10. Millions and Millions

The only time we use millions is when we don't know the exact number. So, when you are talking about how rich you are and you can live in hotels.... you can say, I have millions. Whenever we say the number like 7, million will follow and never millions

Incorrect: They bought the player from AC Milan for 8 millions

Correct: They bought the player from AC Milan for 8 million

Correct: It was crazy! There were millions of people on the street – unknown

There we have the first batch of mistakes, translations, and weird things said by you lovely Ukrainian and Russian speakers. I will keep on listening and adding to my list, and hopefully provide you with another 10 next time.

Cheers - English native speaking CELTA qualified teacher in Lviv and online. - FREE English Speaking Club on Skype and Zoom - Skype and Zoom English Lessons with a Native Speaker! - Use it, don't lose it! Find a language partner today.

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