There are several words in Spanish that are similar in English, but have a different meaning. Here are a few examples:
- actually is similar to Spanish actualmente; however, actualmente is better translated with e.g. currently, as actually actually means in reality. Confusing, eh?
- embarrassed is not the same as embarazada. A translation for embarrassed could be apenado. In some situations it can be embarrassing to be embarazada, i.e. pregnant!
- realize should not be confused with Spanish realisar. When Mexican students use the English word realize, they normally use it meaning to say something like: to give an idea physical form. They mostly don’t realize that realize also means that you become aware of something.
- approve is sometimes confused with aprobar:”Teacher, did I approve the exam?” aprobar means pass as in ‘pass an exam’, whereas approve means to agree to something.
- eventually is not the same as eventual(mente). Eventually could be translated with finalmente, as it means: in the end, in the long run. The Spanish cognate eventual is in meaning similar to English temporary or conditional.
- Mexican students often use the word career to refer to their studies (Spanish carrera):”When I finish my career, I want to go to United States (sic)”. Career, refers to professional work. When you finish your career you’ll be an old person!
- lecture is not the same as lectura. A lecture is a talk about a particular topic. A translation for lectura could be reading or simply text.
- apartment in Spanish is departamento; department is also departamento. Therefore it is understandable that speakers of Spanish frequently use department when referring to an apartment.
- Spanish speakers often confuse by and for in passive voice. The reason is that they use por and that looks and sounds like for.
- another ‘false friend’ is try with Spanish tratar, as in this sentence:”the movies tries with the problems of a strange man,” or:”in business, you have to try with people.” Again, the confusion is understandable. In Spanish you would use tratar in both cases; however, in English you might consider using is about and deal with respectively.
- Speakers of Spanish also tend to confuse win with ganar. Teachers frequently read or here things like:”They win a lot of money,” instead of “They make/earn a lot of money.” You win money in the lottery. Making or earning money refers to your salary/ income.
Now that we’re talking about win, we should also mention the difference between win and beat. Here’s how they should be used:
América beat Guadalajara 9-0! (beat the opponent)
América won the game (win the game)
- Politics/ Politician: When referring to the authorities, speakers of Spanish normally confuse Spanish politico(s) with English politics. A politician is a person who has a job in politics. Politician = politico. Politics refer to, say, the regulation of a country.
- Here’s another good one: the other day I bought a bookcase and on the box it said: library with three shelves. Now, where’s the mistake?
The problem is that library is not the same as librero. Look:
library = biblioteca
bookstore = libreria
bookcase = librero
- Compromise and compromiso aren’t equivalents either. Compromiso should be translated with commitment. Compromise refers to making concessions to come to an agreement, a settlement.
- The word familiar exists both in English and Spanish; however, the meaning is completely different. Familiar in Spanish refers to a member of your family (in English you would use the word relative(s)). It’s a noun. Familiar in English is an adjective and it means that you know something about something eg:
– Are you familiar with Shakespeare’s work?
- The Spanish word cientifico is both noun (profession) and adjective. Therefore students often use the word scientific to refer to the person:
He is a famous scientific.
However, scientist should be used to refer to the person:
He is a famous scientist.
- Parents only refers to your father and mother.
parientes, on the other hand, refers to your extended family, cousins, uncles, aunts etc. Therefore, parientes is relatives in English.