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Talk about English - Webcast

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Shakespeare's language Thursday, June 07, 2007

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A 'false friend' is a word in another language that sounds similar to a word in your own language, but which actually has a very different meaning. Not knowing false friends can lead to very embarrassing misunderstandings! What false friends have you discovered in your English studies, or whilst learning a different language?

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Helen, Iran
In my own language which is Farsi, i can find some false friends which are so similar to some words in english like, 'pool' of course in farsi it pronaces for money but in english means swimming pool or another word is 'luck',in my own language means nail polish but in english means chance.

Maria, Italy
I have discovered a false friend reading the Preface of "The picture of Dorian Gray".The word is "morbid", which means diseased, not healthful.It sounds like an italian word "morbido", which means soft.

Olivier, France
I remember a nice and funny situation when my Australian flatmate said: “I like French wine because it doesn’t give me headaches when I drink it… You don’t put preservatives inside, do you?” Me and my friend thought she was joking because in French “preservative” means “condom”. So we started to laugh, before to understand that she was speaking about products to preserve the wine (conservateurs in French) !! :-D

Liz, Venezuela
An American man went to a mission to Venezuela and he was so used to spanish that when he come back to the U.S.A and he was invited to stay at a friend's house he said: No, Thank you. I don't want to molest you. In spanish molestar is to bother and for sure to molest is something really different. He was so embarrased when he realized his mistake that his face turned red.

Silvia, Italy
"Actually" sounds similar to the italian word "attualmente" which means "nowadays, currently". During a job interview, a friend of mine said "I actually earn 1500 euro per month". The interviewer thought to moonlighting.

Mario, Spain
the more important two "false english friends" of a spaniard are "actually" and "eventually"."Actualmente" means "currently" for the root(that means being a fact)regards to the pair past/present, not fiction,lie/reality,truth as in english."Eventualmente" means something like "not so often as now and again".

Miguel Andrés, Perú.
One day in the message boards I confused the word translate with the word traduce, the verb translate in Spanish is "traducir" and people said "is because he speak spanglish"

Khadidja, Algeria
i was always confusing the verb "to attend" with the vervb "to assist". in english language when we want to take part of the course or meeting for example, we may ask for permission saying:"can i attend the course ?" in stead i was saying:"can i assist?"which is a french word in fact.

Jayne, Mexico
A very embarrassed Chinese teacher discovered that although 'puta' in Mandarin is 'grape', it means whore (prostitute) in Spanish!

Ana Paula, Brazil
When I´ve started my English studies, one of the verbs that always confused me was the verb "to pretend", because it´s very similar to our Portuguese verb "pretender(to intend)". So, I used to say that 'I "pretend" to take the FCE test', instead to say 'I "intend" to take the FCE test'. How embarrassing!Anyway, I´ve made a list of the most commom false friends, which I consult whenever I´m not sure about the words or verbs meaning.Best wishes,Ana Paula.