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domingo, 1 de julho de 2012

Lost in Translation

False Friends (Portuguese-English)

False friends are pairs of words that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning.

Every language has false friends. They are not entirely false, because they can help us in memorizing some words of a new language. Given that they sound similar to words in our own tongue, but then mean something different, they’re a great mnemonic device. However, before they actually become useful, those false friend words may induce us to make mistakes. Imagine, for example, that you (a Portuguese or English person) are in Spain and listen to a local say “Embarazada..” You’d think the person was saying that she was “embarrassed”, but in fact she is saying that she is pregnant! For a Portuguese, the following words, for instance, can be some interesting “False Friends”:

 (English)- Exquisite- fine, delicate , not esquisito( weird).

(French)-Cou- means neck and not the slang for bottom.

(German)-Alt- means old, not alto (tall) as it sounds.

(Spanish)-Embarazada- means pregnant, not embaraçada (embarassed).

(Turkish) –Tereyağı –means butter, not tareia( beating).

Again, for a Portuguese learning to communicate in English, it is important to be aware of the following words, starting in the letter A that can become our “False Friends”:


Actual- existing as a real fact (real, verdadeiro)

There was a big difference between the opinion polls and the actual election results.

Compare with current- belonging to the present time (atual)

They are expecting profits of over £2 million in the current year.

Actually- in actual fact, really (na verdade)

“Happy Birthday, Tom.” “Well, actually, my birthday was yesterday”

Compare with nowadays- at the present time (atualmente)

We used to write postcards, but nowadays we write mostly emails.

Advise- to give advice (aconselhar)

She advised us where to eat

Compare with Warn- to tell how to prevent something bad (avisar)

I warned her not to go near the dog, but she ignored me, and it bit her.

Agenda- list of subjects to be talked to at a meeting (ordem de trabalhos)

What´s the agenda for this afternoon´s meeting?

Compare with Diary- daily record of personal events (agenda)

He made a note of the date in his diary.

Anthem – ceremonial or national song (hino).

He stood up and sang the national anthem.

Compare with aerial, antenna-wire, rod for receiving radio, TV signals (antena).

John´s portable aerial works all right.

Application- official request ( inscrição)

We filled in an application form for a new passport.

Compare with investment – the act of investing (aplicação financeira)

The government is trying to attract more foreign investment

Appoint-to choose for a position or job (nomear)

He was appointed ambassador to Japan.

Compare with point out- to show by pointing (apontar)

I pointed out to him where I used to live.

Appointment- arrangement for a meeting (compromisso)

I have an appointment at 3.30 with the doctor.

Compare with note – a remark to give more information (apontamento)

The speaker forgot his notes so he had to talk from memory.

Assess- to evaluate, to judge the value, importance (avaliar)

It´s too early to assess the effects of the new legislation.

Compare with access- way of entering (ter acesso)

I had to apply for access to the club.

Assist – help or support (ajudar)

A team of nurses assisted the doctor in performing the operation.

Compare with attend- to be present (assistir)

Please let us know if you are unable to attend the meeting.

Assume – suppose (presumir)

If he isn´t here in five minutes, we´ll assume he isn´t coming.

Compare with reveal- to make known, take over (assumir, revelar)

I´m feeling too tired to drive. Will you take over?

Attend- to be present (assistir, participar)

John was too sick to attend the classes

Compare with answer – to act in reply ( atender, responder)

The phone is ringing. Shall I answer it?

Examples taken from:

Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture

If you know more false friends (letter A), please add them to the list through your commentary.


1 comentário:

  1. It's good that a friendly blog exists to warn me of false friends:)