False Friends in English and Spanish

Most of the time, we can look at a word in English and figure out what it means because it resembles a word in Spanish. This is because words in both languages share a common etymology and therefore a similar or identical meaning. These are called cognates and are extremely useful when learning English. It gives you a built-in vocabulary base which can be drawn on when learning new English words despite there being minor pronunciation and spelling differences. Common examples of this are education and educación or notification and notificación.  It’s usually safe to say if a word ends in /tion/ in English, it will have a pretty similar counterpart in Spanish ending in /ción/. The same is true for something like difference and diferencia. All in all, there are many cognates in English and Spanish which as English learners I’m sure many of you have come across. These can give you confidence in your knowledge and thus improve your English abilities overall.

The problem comes when we come across false cognates or as they’re more commonly know; false friends. Today we’re going to have a look at some common ones and others that may cause a little embarrassment.

First let’s take a look at ones which are the exact same word, but which have a significant difference in meaning.

 

Word English Pronunciation English Meaning Spanish Meaning
Actual

[ak-choo-uh l]

Real, True Current
Sensible [sen-suh-buh l] having, using, or showing good sense or sound judgment Sensitive
Pie [pahy] A baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry Foot
Diversion [dih-vur-zhuh n] The act of diverting or turning aside, as from a course or purpose Fun

These are just a few you need to be careful of. Next time, we’ll look at other false friends in English and Spanish. Learning these words will help you as well as taking classes in The Language Corner in La Elipa and Calle Gandhi to improve your English.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *