• 8th May, 2013

False Friends: We’ve all got them

It's bound to happen eventually

You know the ones I mean. The ones that say one thing but actually mean something else entirely. The ones that make you look stupid in front of other people. You literally can’t trust anything anyone says any more…

That sounds like an intro to some mean girl movie, but really we are talking about words. Those tricky, little, ahem, words or phrases from two languages or dialects that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning.

So why does this happen? Here comes the science bit, concentrate…

Languages ​​are living, growing systems that change constantly, but these changes also affect different languages too. When two languages come into contact, the clash can produce lexical, syntactical, morphological, and phonetic “interference”.

On the whole, this process enriches language, but from time to time it can leave us rather red faced and EMBARAZADOS (pregnant). No, sorry, AVERGONZADOS (embarrassed). Yikes.
If you’re learning Spanish, you are more than likely to commit one of these linguistic cardinal PESCADOS (fish). Seriously?! PECADOS (sins).

♦ Upon meeting new people, whatever you do, do not try to INTRODUCIR (insert) yourself to them, PRESENTAR (introduce yourself) will be sufficient.

♦ Try not to confuse ME GUSTA MUCHO (I like it a lot), with MUCHO GUSTO (a pleasure to meet you). Yes, they are similar, but you don’t have to tell your food what a pleasure it is to make its acquaintance every time you sit down to eat. People will stare and begin to shuffle away from you.

♦ Finding yourself in a formal situation, like at the opticians for example, can be a pretty daunting experience. So it’s perfectly understandable to ask your eye doctor for some LENTEJAS (lentils) by mistake. Yep, that happened to me. And while I was pointed in the direction of Mercadona, I was also told that if I wanted LENTILLAS (contact lenses), well then I had come to the right place. Phew.

♦ Awkward is the word I’d use to describe that moment in the pharmacy when you’re using charades to explain that your nose is blocked up, you have a sore throat and a headache… while simultaneously executing international sign language to reassure the chemist that you are having regular, healthy bowel movements. You’re half way through wondering why on earth she keeps asking you if you’re CONSTIPADO (you have a cold), and then you remember what it actually means. Awkward is the word to describe that particular moment when you realise that everyone in the pharmacy knows you have no toilet problems and that you aren’t at all ESTREÑIDO (constipated).

♦ Never wash your face with SOPA (soup) or JAMÓN (ham), JABÓN (soap) is really all you need.

♦ And, don’t be frightened if someone asks to MOLESTAR (disturb/bother) you for a moment, it’s not what you think.

There are thousands of these pitfalls, and you are bound to jump head first into each and every one of them!

Please be sure to let us know about your experiences via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

We promise not to laugh too much for too long. Lingu can help you move past this harrowing experience.

😀

 

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