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No, I am not going to talk about friendship, nor about those friends who come to you only when they need something.

Nope! By false friends I mean the so called “faux ami” in linguistics. The term is a shortened version of the French expression ‘faux amis du traducteur‘ (false friends of the translator) that was introduced by linguists Maxime Kœssler and Jules Derocquigny in 1928, in the book Les Faux Amis ou les Trahisons du Vocabulaire Anglais (False Friends, or the Pitfalls of the English Vocabulary.)

A false friend is a word in a foreign language which is pronounced or spelled in a similar way than a word in your mother tongue. It is vital to know the most common false friends in the language you are studying, because otherwise you can make some terrible mistakes. I will give you some examples of English false friends for a Spanish speaker, and you will understand why they are called false friends right away.
*In Spanish we have “embarazada” which means “pregnant” in English, and not “embarrassed” that is actually the Spanish “embarazoso”. This could work the other way for an English native speaker learning Spanish: do not say “Estoy/me siento embarazado” when you are feeling embarrassed!
* Another common mistake occurs with the pair sensible/sensitive. If a Spanish person wants to convey that a person is “sensible” (read in Spanish), they have to use the word “sensitive” in English. “Sensible” is a false friend which means that someone is thoughtful (more like “sensato” in Spanish).
* And here we have a winner! When you have got a cold and you can barely smell anything, because you have got a running nose, the word that comes to your mind is “constipado” so that, you happily tell your English friend/colleague: “Oh, I`m feeling terrible today – I’m constipated”. You won`t possibly notice their puzzled face, but what you just have said is that you are “estreñido”.

So, be careful with the false friends folks, you can be saying something you did not want to say!

More false friends in my next post.

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