Wednesday, November 6, 2019

False Friends in Spanish and English

False Friends in Spanish and English Learning Spanish vocabulary can seem so easy: Constitucià ³n means constitution, nacià ³n means nation, and decepcià ³n means deception, right? Not quite. True, most words that end in -cià ³n can be translated into English by changing the suffix to -tion. And the pattern holds true for the first two words listed above (although constitucià ³n refers to how something is constituted more often than does the English word, which usually refers to a political document). But una decepcià ³n is a disappointment, not a deception. Cognates in Spanish to English Spanish and English have literally thousands of cognates, words that are basically the same in both languages, having the same etymology and similar meanings. But combinations such as decepcià ³n and deception are so-called false cognates - known more precisely as false friends or falsos amigos - word pairs that look like they might mean the same thing but dont. They can be confusing, and if you make the mistake of using them in speech or writing youre likely to be misunderstood. Following is a list of some of the most common false friends - some of the ones youre mostly likely to come across when reading or listening to Spanish: Actual: This adjective (or its corresponding adverb, actualmente) indicates that something is current, at the present time. Thus the days hot topic might be referred to as un tema actual. If you wish to say something is actual (as opposed to imaginary), use real (which also can mean royal) or verdadero.Asistir: Means to attend or to be present. Asisto a la oficina cada dà ­a, I go to the office daily. To say to assist, use ayudar, to help.Atender: Means to serve or to take care of, to attend to. If youre talking about attending a meeting or a class, use asistir.Basamento: You wont run across this word often, but its the base of a column, sometimes called a plinth. If you want to visit a basement, go down to el sà ³tano.Billà ³n: 1,000,000,000,000. That number is the same as a trillion in American English but a billion in traditional British English. (Modern British English conforms with U.S. English, however.)Bizarro: Somebodys whos this way is brave, not necessarily strange. The English word bizarre is conveyed better by extraà ±o or estrafalario. Boda: If you go to a wedding or wedding reception, this is what youre going to. A body (as of a person or animal) is most often cuerpo or tronco.Campo: Means a field or the country (in the sense of living in the country, not the city). If youre going camping, youll probably be staying at a campamento or even a camping.Carpeta: Although this can refer to a type of table cover, it doesnt have anything to do with carpets. It most often means a file folder (including the virtual kind) or a briefcase. Carpet is most often alfombra.Complexià ³n: This refers not to your skin, but to ones physiological build (a well-built man is un hombre de complexià ³n fuerte). To speak of skin complexion, use tez or cutis.Compromiso: Meaning a promise, obligation, or commitment, it does not usually convey the sense that one has given up something to reach an agreement. There is no good noun equivalent of compromise that would be understood that way out of context, although the verb transigir conveys the sense of giving in to, yielding to, or tolerating another person. Constiparse, constipacià ³n: In verb form, it means to catch a cold, while una constipacià ³n is one of the words that means a cold. Someone who is constipated is estreà ±ido.Contestar: Its a very common verb meaning to answer. To contest something, use contender.Corresponder: Yes, it does mean to correspond, but only in the sense of to match. If youre talking about corresponding with someone, use a form of escribir con or mantener correspondencia.Decepcià ³n, decepcionar: Means disappointment or to disappoint. To deceive someone is to engaà ±ar a alguià ©n. Something deceptive is engaà ±oso.Delito: Theres seldom much delightful about a crime. (Delito usually refers to a minor crime, as contrasted with a serious crime or crimen.) The feeling of delight can be a deleite, while the object that causes it an encanto or delicia (note that the latter word often has a sexual connotation).Desgracia: In Spanish, this is little more than a mistake or misfortune. Something shameful is un a vergà ¼enza or una deshonra. Despertar: This verb is usually used in the reflexive form, meaning to wake up (me despierto a las siete, I wake up at seven). If youre desperate, theres a true cognate you can use: desesperado.Destituido: Someone who has been removed from office is destituido. Someone without money is indigente or desamparado.Disgusto: Derived from the prefix dis- (meaning not) and the root word gusto (meaning pleasure), this word refers simply to displeasure or misfortune. If you need to use a much stronger term akin to disgust, use asco or repugnancia.Embarazada: It might be embarrassing to be pregnant, but it isnt necessarily. Someone who feels embarrassed tiene vergà ¼enza or se siente avergonzado.Emocionante: Used to decribe something thats thrilling or emotionally moving. To say emotional, the cognate emocional will often do fine.En absoluto: This phrase means the opposite of what you think it might, meaning not at all or absolutely not. To say absolutely, use the cognate totalmente or comple tamente. Éxito: Its a hit or a success. If youre looking for the way out, look for una salida.Fbrica: Thats a place where they fabricate items, namely a factory. Words for cloth include tejido and tela.Fà ºtbol: Unless in a context that indicates otherwise, this means soccer. If you want to refer to the popular U.S. spectator sport, use fà ºtbol americano.Fà ºtil: This refers to something trivial or insignificant. If your efforts are futile, use ineficaz, vano or inà ºtil.Insulacià ³n: This isnt even a word in Spanish (although you may hear it in Spanglish). If you want to say insulation, use aislamiento.Ganga: Its a bargain. Although ganga may be heard in Spanglish as a word for gang, the usual word is pandilla.Inconsecuente: This adjective refers to something that is contradictory. Something inconsequential is (among other possibilities) de poca importancia.Introducir: This isnt truly a false cognate, for it can be translated as, among other things, to introduce in the sense of to bring in, to begin, to put, or to place. For example, se introdujo la ley en 1998, the law was introduced (put in effect) in 1998. But its not the verb to use to introduce someone. Use presentar. Largo: When referring to size, it means long. If its big, its also grande.Minorista: Means retail (adjective) or retailer. A minority is una minorà ­a.Molestar: The verb doesnt usually have sexual connotations in Spanish, and it didnt originally in English either. It means simply to bother or to annoy. For the sexual meaning of to molest in English, use abusar sexualmente or some phrase that says more precisely what you mean.Once: If you can count past 10, you know that once is the word for eleven. If something happens once, it happens una vez.Pretender: The Spanish verb doesnt have anything to do with faking it, only to try. To pretend, use fingir or simular.Rapista: This is an uncommon word for a barber (peluquero or even the cognate barbero is more common), being derived from the verb rapar, to cut close or to shave. Someone who attacks sexually is a violador.Realizar, realizacà ³n: Realizar can be used reflexively to indicate something becoming real or becoming completed: Se r ealizà ³ el rascacielos, the skyscraper was built. To realize as a mental event can be translated using darse cuenta (to realize), comprender (to understand) or saber (to know), among other possibilities, depending on the context. Recordar: Means to remember or to remind. The verb to use when recording something depends on what youre recording. Possibilities include anotar or tomar nota for writing something down, or grabar for making an audio or video recording.Revolver: As its form suggests, this is a verb, in this case meaning to turn over, to revolve, or otherwise to cause disorder. The Spanish word for revolver is close, however: revà ³lver.Ropa: Clothing, not rope. Rope is cuerda or soga.Sano: Usually means healthy. Someone who is sane is en su juicio or in his right mind.Sensible: Usually means sensitive or capable of feeling. A sensible person or idea can be referred to as sensato or razonable.Sensiblemente: Usually means perceptibly or appreciably, sometimes painfully. A good synonym for sensibly is sesudamente.Sopa: Soup, not soap. Soap is jabà ³n.Suceso: Merely an event or happening, sometimes a crime. A success is un à ©xito.Tuna: Order this at a desert restaurant and youll get edible cactus. A tuna is also a college musical glee club. The fish is atà ºn. Especially in the United States, Spanish doesnt exist in a vacuum. In the United States, you may hear some speakers, especially those who frequently speak Spanglish, use some of these false cognates when speaking Spanish. A few of these usages may be creeping into the language elsewhere, although they would still be considered substandard.

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