My False Friend

ben.wilko1 By ben.wilko1, 14th Aug 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Languages

A page about false friends and how words and phrases are not always as simple as they seem!

My False Friend

Here’s a tip for anyone who is learning any language, never let your guard down! Following on from last week’s post about loan words, it is important to know whether you have come across a loan word with the same meaning as its original, or a word or phrase that differs greatly from what you would expect. The term used to describe this phenomenon is false friends.

As an example, in German if you read something with the word ‘Gift’ on it, an English speaking person could be forgiven for expecting that the object is a completely harmless, as in English the word gift is synonymous with the word present (keep an eye out for a Geschenk though! That's much more pleasant!). In German when using the word ‘Gift’ the person or object is actually referring to poison, or a poisonous substance, so you can see how critical it is to remain vigilant! Similarly, albeit not as critical, words such as the German word ‘bekommen’ can cause some confusion, an English speaker might assume that ‘bekommen’ means ‘to become’, when it actually means ‘to get/receive’.

As with most of my posts the examples I am giving are in German, but whatever language you may be learning, if you aren’t sure about a word, look it up! A lot of the time, you can work out if something doesn’t translate correctly by the context of the sentence. Just remember that things aren't always what they seem, and don’t be afraid to question something if you think that something seems too simple to be true!

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False Friend Language Learn German Linguis

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author avatar ben.wilko1
Student of German studies with a passion for languages

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author avatar Rathnashikamani
15th Aug 2011 (#)

Nice tutorial.
bnwilko1, can you suggest me a French learning website?

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author avatar Retired
15th Aug 2011 (#)

My languages are French and Italian - I just love the shock English speakers have when they come across the italian word Genitori, assuming it to mean genitals when it actually means parents. Sentences like "I'm going to the cinema with my genitori tonight" have caused great consternation for many an English speaker.

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