Spanish Translation  //  Traductor inglÚs-espa˝ol  //  Traduction franšais-espagnol

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11/30/06

False friends

As every professional and skilled Spanish translator knows, similar words in English and Spanish are something to be handled with caution. This is indeed one of the great sources of pitfalls in English to Spanish translations. Why you ask? Because without double checking and a healthy dose of self-doubt one could happily translate an English word into a similar Spanish word, feel very comfortable about it, but convey an inaccurate or even utterly wrong meaning. Similar words in two languages that carry completely different meanings are known as false friends or false cognates. Some English-Spanish false friends have reached the hall of fame and created many hilarious and/or embarrassing situations. The word "embarrassed" and its Spanish false friend "embarazada"—meaning pregnant—are actually one of these acclaimed couples, together with "constipated" and its Spanish false friend "constipado"—someone who is "constipado" is someone who has a cold. Keeping these differences in mind, you can imagine a lot of funny situations with English-speaking people in Hispanic countries or the other way around, and chances are they’ve already taken place many times!

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