False Friends and Collocations

When speaking in a different language, a Spanish speaker normally gives a literal translation to the collocations expressed in their mother tongue. Many of the errors happen due to incorrect use of prepositions, wrong translations of words or as it is known, use of false cognates .

Take for instance, telling someone that you “will assist to an event” when you actually mean that you “will attend an event”. This happens because the verb ASSIST has a similar spelling for the Spanish word ASISTIR which in fact means to go to a place. The thing is that ATTEND has also a similar spelling to ATENDER, which makes it even more confusing because ATENDER UN CLIENTE could also mean taking care of a customer or, in other words,  ASSIST A CUSTOMER.

This is only one of multiple cases that Spanish speakers of English as a Second Language face on a regular basis when trying to speak out thoughts to a native speaker who has never had a Spanish way of thinking. This is one key area to overcome, and that’s why the old advice to “think in English” has special relevance on intermediate and advanced learners.

Another gap occurs when exhausting exact translations to build expressions of frequent use, whether they are simple collocations, proverbs or even idioms. This can happen with mistaken use of prepositions such as with “it depends of…” originated from Spanish “depende de…”.  Another common error is “get on the car” instead of “get in the car” since native speakers use the preposition “in” for boarding small vehicles.

We have collected a sample of these mishaps with the intention of making you aware of the importance of being careful when selecting a word or expression.

False Friend Complete


Author: Telescopiord

The author has worked for customer service industry for around twenty years and is currently trainer and teacher for two major companies in the Dominican Republic.

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