When learning a new language people usually tend to look for words similar to those of their own language. For English people it is easy to remember the word ‘salario’ for example, as it sounds pretty close to ‘salary’. However, not all the words are alike and in a tendency to ease the process of learning a new language, people prefer to take most English words and make them sound Spanish. These are called false friends in Spanish, and in many languages. These words can often lead to embarrassing mistakes, because they sound similar, but have a completely different meaning. In order to avoid these mistakes, it is better to look them up in the dictionary.
Here is a list of some popular false friends in Spanish:
Realizar must not be confused with to realise. The first means to accomplish, which is totally different than darse cuenta which is the Spanish equivalent of the verb to realise or become aware of something.
Nudo. Contrary to all expectations the word ‘nudo’, does not have anything to do with nudes or being naked. ‘Nudo´ is the Spanish word for knot. If however, you want to say nude, then you should use the word desnudo.
Librería is totally different than library. If you want to go to library, then you should use the word biblioteca, otherwise librería is the place where you can buy your books, a bookstore.
Recordar has nothing to do with record, even though recording things might help you remember things better. If you do need to record something, then the word for it would be grabar.
If you want to support a friend, then soportar is not the word to use as it means to tolerate. The right word in Spanish to use in this case would be apoyar.
If you would like to go to a parade try going to a desfile, because asking for parada might lead you to a bus stop.
The next time you are feeling constipated, don’t tell the doctor that you are constipado. Even though both words refer to health issues, the latter means that you have a cold. If you do however want to say that you are constipated, you should use the word estreñido instead.
Keep in mind that when you want to introduce somebody, the word to use is presentar, as introducir refers to inserting an object.
Conductor must not be confused with the Spanish conductor, as the word in Spanish refers to the bus driver, meanwhile the translation for conductor is director de orquestra.
This is a small part of the many false friends in Spanish that you can encounter. However, the list is a lot longer and it is best to check a word if you are not sure in order not to embarrass yourself. But there won’t be a great problem if you do at some point misuse a word, as people will understand that Spanish is not your native language. Mistakes are allowed when you are learning.
About the author:
Miguel Bratos is a freelance content writer from Spain who also teaches Spanish to foreign learners by Skype. He likes reading, writing and has practiced a lot of hours of language exchange when he was studying English. He has a blog about the freelance writer career as writer and copywriter of spanishwriterpro.com.
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Also published on Medium.