‘Eeuw! Too much information!’ That’s what I thought when Gorka, my student, told me he was constipated. I was new in Spain and still in the Guesswork Stage of dealing with language learning. Gorka too was doing his best with English. He was testing and experimenting with words. In language learning, you naturally assume that a word in a foreign language that sounds or looks like a word in your own language may means something similar. Often it will. But not in the case of ‘constipated’. In Spanish ‘constipado’ means ‘congested’. If you have a cold, you will be ‘constipado’. But ‘constipated’ in English refers to a ..ahem…geographically different congestion. In Spanish they say ‘estreñido’. It was as a result of Gorka’s congestion, that I discovered ‘false friends’ – words that look like words you know, but mean something else entirely.
One which comes up all the time in my conversation classes is the word ‘actual’. In Spanish ‘actual’ means contemporary or current. In English it means ‘real’.
‘A lot of people call me Donald but my name is Donal actually’. When I say that some students think that I was thinking of changing my name.
If you are ’embarazada’ in Spanish, you are expecting a baby. But to be ’embarrassed’ in English is to feel f shame.
When you are ‘molestado’, you are annoyed. If you are ‘molested’, you are abused,
Your clothes are ‘ropa’ in Madrid. But ‘rope’ in Manchester is for typing up boats.
Stefania from Estepona buys her books in a ‘libraria’ while Stephanie from Stoke borrows books from a ‘library’.
If you ‘asistir’ a class in Spain, you are attending. If you ‘assist’ in Ireland, you are helping.
A person who in Malaga is ‘destituida’ has lost their job. A ‘destitute ‘ person in New York has lost everything.
‘Pretender’ in Palma de Mallorca is to try. But if you ‘pretend’ in Preston you will try to fool someone by giving the impression that something is true when it is not.
Students will carry their notes around in ‘carpetas’ in Cadíz but in Fermanagh they carry the use ‘folders’ . They walk on ‘carpets’ though just as the Spaniards walk on ‘alfombras’.
A ‘nudo’ is a knot. A ‘nude’ is not. This is probably one to remember. To be ‘nude’ is to be wearing no clothes,
Be careful when you want to find a grocery store in Galicia. ‘Grosería’ means ‘crudeness’ or ‘a disgusting thing’.
When someone talks about ‘éxito’ in Extremadura they are not talking about finding a way out. They are talking about success. English speakers use ‘exit’ to mean the way out of somewhere. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have an exit door that leads to success?
It is one of the marvellous things about learning an additional language that we can be surprised. It keeps your brain young and, to be honest, your sense of humour in tip-top condition.
MyCoolClass offers language learning lessons for all levels. Not just English and Spanish…Hindi, German…check it out! Go to MyCoolClass, and click on Find a Teacher. You can reserve a free first class right now and be discovering false friends (and more than a few true friends) this week!