Learn English – Are there shibboleths specific to native Russian speakers


I am doing these days a lot of collaborative writing with a colleague born and raised in Russia, and now working in the US. He has a very good English and yet, as we circulated various texts, I noticed that he tends to drop the definite article, the, more than is acceptable. I attributed that to a trend of his native language.

Because I will continue working with him for some time, I hope to be aware of other such possible errors influenced by his mother tongue (especially because I'm not a native English speaker either!). So, what are common errors (or shibboleths) of native Russian speakers when they write in English?

Best Answer

A, an and the are all dropped. Using past tense with did (in my experience almost all non-native do this until they learn not to). Sometimes using she instead of he. Word order is not as important in Russian as in English. Missing prepositions

Russians I have met who have large vocabularies tend to stress words with more than two syllables in an idiosyncratic manner since they likely only ever read the words.
I have the same problem on rare occasions where I know a word, know how to use it but guess the pronunciation since I got it from literature.

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For example beginning learners often omit the auxiliary in questions or negatives: How you do that? / I no have it. The present simple is commonly used where the progressive form or perfect is needed: She has a bath now / How long are you in Germany?. In comparison with Russian the modal verb system in English is very complex. Mistakes such as Must you to work on Friday? / I will not can come, etc. are common among beginners. The lack of a copula in Russian leads to errors such as She good teacher.

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