False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

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GrandPiano
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False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by GrandPiano » 09 Jan 2016 23:19

False friends are words in different languages that look and/or sound similar but have different meanings, often tripping up learners. One good example might be the first example given in the False cognates thread, the Welsh and Hebrew feminine singular third-person pronoun /hi/, which is pronounced exactly the same as the English masculine singular third person pronoun (<he>). You can also give examples of ordinary words in one language that sound like less mundane things (e.g. swearwords) in other languages (such as Mandarin 给 gěi "to give" and English gay) or even words that are only a little similar but still trip you up e.g. because they mean opposite things (such as Mandarin 南 nán "south" and English north, which tripped me up for a while because they both start with [n]).

Here are some other examples I know of:
  • :chn: Mandarin 书 shū "book", :eng: shoe
  • :esp: Spanish embarazada "pregnant", :eng: embarrassed
  • :esp: Spanish and :fra: French sensible "sensitive", :eng: English sensible
  • :chn: Mandarin 那个 "that (one)", also used as a very common filler, is pronounced "nà ge" in standard Mandarin but is often colloquially pronounced "nèi ge" (especially when used as a filler), which many English speakers hear as "n***er".
  • :esp: Spanish carpeta "folder", :eng: English carpet
Last edited by GrandPiano on 12 Aug 2016 11:43, edited 4 times in total.
:eng: - Native
:chn: - B2
:esp: - A2
:jpn: - A2

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Lao Kou
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Lao Kou » 09 Jan 2016 23:25

GrandPiano wrote:which many English speakers hear as "n***er"
Many? :wat:
道可道,非常道
名可名,非常名

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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by HoskhMatriarch » 09 Jan 2016 23:28

This isn't as good as yours, but here's some (although these are more like cognates that have semantically drifted apart):

:deu: Gift "poison" and :eng: gift
:deu: bekommen "to get" and :eng: become (I've heard of an Austrian child learning English who said "this Christmas I became a bike")
:deu: geh "go" and :eng: gay
:deu: Fahrt "trip", fahrt "drive" and :eng: fart
:deu: hell "light" and :eng: hell
:deu: aß "ate" and :eng: ass/arse (German needs to stop having so many words like this)
:deu: nein and :eng: nine (no one is confused by these, but I've said „nein!“ and had people go like "eight!" before)
:fra: blesser "to injure/offend" and :eng: bless (I've heard of someone trying to say "I bless you" in French and using blesser so they really said "I injure/offend you")
Last edited by HoskhMatriarch on 09 Jan 2016 23:35, edited 2 times in total.
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GrandPiano
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by GrandPiano » 09 Jan 2016 23:31

Lao Kou wrote:
GrandPiano wrote:which many English speakers hear as "n***er"
Many? :wat:
Are you suggesting that not a lot of English speakers hear it that way or that almost all do? In my experience (mostly from what people have said on the Internet), it seems like a lot of people hear it that way, but maybe I'm wrong.

Also, another false friend: :esp: Spanish quitar "to remove" vs. :eng: English quit
HoskhMatriarch wrote: :deu: hell "light" and :eng: hell
I can't believe I forgot that one! The other ones you gave are good, too.
Last edited by GrandPiano on 06 Jun 2016 21:47, edited 1 time in total.
:eng: - Native
:chn: - B2
:esp: - A2
:jpn: - A2

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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by HoskhMatriarch » 09 Jan 2016 23:37

Thanks. :deu: hell and :eng: hell are actually from the same root in PIE IIRC, so the might be actual cognates, but they don't mean the same thing at all anymore.
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Creyeditor » 10 Jan 2016 00:18

Hausa: shi "3SG.M" :eng: she "3SG.F"
Hausa: -ku "2PL.POSS" :ind: -ku "1SG.POSS"
Hausa: -mu "1PL.POSS" :ind: -mu "2SG.POSS"
Hausa: doki "horse" :eng: donkey

The first one is especially cool, if Hebrew 3SG.F is really 'hi', because they are both Afro-Asiatic.
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 10 Jan 2016 10:47

Lao Kou wrote:
GrandPiano wrote:which many English speakers hear as "n***er"
Many? :wat:
Yes!

My whole class thought our Chinese teacher was saying that until someone finally got the cojones to ask him what he was really saying!
Last edited by Thrice Xandvii on 10 Jan 2016 11:44, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Lao Kou » 10 Jan 2016 11:30

Thrice Xandvii wrote:
Lao Kou wrote:
GrandPiano wrote:which many English speakers hear as "n***er"
Many? :wat:
Yes! My whole class thought our Chinese teacher was saying that until someone finally got the cojones to ask him what he was really saying!
Okay. (Weird, but, okay. :wat: )
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 10 Jan 2016 11:49

:deu: Mist shit, manure; :eng: mist light fog, gentle rain, also a setting for one's windshield wipers
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Sglod » 10 Jan 2016 17:23

:jpn: 顔 kao face :eng: cow

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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by gestaltist » 10 Jan 2016 23:32

:pol: rewelacja - something exquisite :eng: revelation
:pol: kolacja - dinner/supper :ita: colazione - breakfast
:esp: fracaso - failure :ita: fracasso - confusion, din, crash
:esp: barraca - hut, cabin, storage shed :eng: barracks
:deu: Bau - construction (site) :eng: bow

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Thrice Xandvii
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 11 Jan 2016 06:26

:esp: constipado stuffed up, congested; :eng: constipated unable to poop

(Weird, I just looked this one up and it appears as though Google Translate doesn't agree with me. I specifically recall this being taught to us in Spanish and our class having a lot of fun with this fact. Hmmmm.)
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Znex » 11 Jan 2016 06:48

Nah, I think Google Translate's got it wrong. I just looked up a number of actual Spanish dictionaries and they agree with you.
:eng: : [tick] | :grc: :wls: : [:|] | :chn: :isr: : [:S] | :nor: :deu: :rom: :ind: :con: : [:x]
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by HoskhMatriarch » 11 Jan 2016 07:12

OK, I apologize for this one:

:deu: Fach "subject, trade" and :eng: fuck

Not really so similar I would have thought of it off the top of my head, since only the first consonants are the same (at least with the German and English pronunciations I have, many English speakers say /x/ as [k] and some non-standard English dialects say final /k/ as [x]), but it apparently sounds similar to the average English speaker since someone had to comment that the word fach (as an English jargon term in classical vocal music) "isn't as obscene as it sounds" and I accidentally thought to myself sometime before then about if amateur classical singers "get fached" and then immediately thought that that would probably be misheard by 99% of the English-speaking population (even though I mentally said it [faχt] as a weird German-English hybrid word). If anyone wants to try to use fach as a verb in spoken conversation and then count what percent of people think you said something else to test my hypothesis, feel free to do so.
Last edited by HoskhMatriarch on 12 Jan 2016 07:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by GrandPiano » 12 Jan 2016 04:57

:esp: alumno, alumna "student" (male and female, respectively), :eng: alumni (especially since there's another Spanish word "estudiante" that means the same thing)

:esp: colegio "school", :eng: college (similarly, there's another Spanish word "escuela" that also means school)
:eng: - Native
:chn: - B2
:esp: - A2
:jpn: - A2

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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Dormouse559 » 12 Jan 2016 06:10

Adding to GrandPiano's pair:

:esp: colegio "school", :eng: college, :fra: collège "middle school"

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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 12 Jan 2016 07:25

(I feel like we are missing out on a lot of fun French ones... where's Dormouse when you need her him!?)

:esp: arena sand; :eng: arena
:esp: chocar to crash (into); :eng: to choke
:esp: colorado reddish; :eng: colored
:esp: fábrica factory; :eng: fabric

This one... well...

:esp: mama breast; :eng: mom, mother
Edit: Well, speak not of the devil, lest he should appear!
Last edited by Thrice Xandvii on 12 Jan 2016 08:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Dormouse559 » 12 Jan 2016 08:18

I added on to a couple of ThriceXandvii's and after that are a few French-English false friends off the top of my head. That last one shocked me so much when I first ran across it because I read that a French celebrity had had her first shooting after giving birth.

:esp: chocar to crash (into); :eng: to choke; :fra: choquer to shock
:esp: colorado reddish; :eng: colored; :fra: coloré colorful

:fra: étiquette label; :eng: etiquette
:fra: cabinet office; :eng: cabinet
:fra: compréhensif understanding; :eng: comprehensive
:fra: clip music video; :eng: clip
:fra: se scratcher to crash; :eng: to scratch
:fra: shooting photoshoot; :eng: shooting

Thrice Xandvii wrote:(I feel like we are missing out on a lot of fun French ones... where's Dormouse when you need her!?)
Realized I've never said anything about this, but I'm male. [:)]

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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 12 Jan 2016 08:51

Dormouse559 wrote:Realized I've never said anything about this, but I'm male. [:)]
Good to know!

It's funny, cuz I actually had that as "him/her" originally... But then I remembered the Dormouse in the story was a female mouse (wasn't she?) and changed it.
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Re: False friends and other unfortunate coincidences

Post by Dormouse559 » 12 Jan 2016 10:12

Thrice Xandvii wrote:It's funny, cuz I actually had that as "him/her" originally... But then I remembered the Dormouse in the story was a female mouse (wasn't she?) and changed it.
Which story? Ultimately, my nick alludes to Alice in Wonderland, and as far as I know, that dormouse is male.

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