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False Friends! Translators, Look Out for ‘em!

No, we’re not telling you how to know if your friends are real or not. And we’re not talking about some translation spy who pretends to like you, Mr./Ms. Translator, while s/he steals all your tricks.

 

‘False friends’ is an actual term coined in 1928 to identify those words that sound or look alike in different languages but have significantly different meanings.

 

If you have just cracked a joke that made a lovely young Spanish lady blush, it would be best not to tell her, ‘Te ves embarazada,’ or you might get slapped. You just told her she looked pregnant when you meant to say, ‘You look embarrassed.’ Voila! A false friend!

 

You would think if two languages share roots, two words that look or sound the same would have the same meaning, but it ain’t necessarily so. Sometimes it is, but not always, and translators would do well to know when it ain’t.

 

When a French person tells you something is ‘grande’, they are not telling you how stupendous it is, they are simply saying it’s big.

 

Don’t be insulted when you drive up to a French friend’s house in your new car, and he asks what you did with your ‘ancienne voiture.’ He just means your former car, not your prehistoric jalopy.[1]

 

Likewise, if your Spanish friend exclaims, when you see a crowd outside a store, ‘Hay una ganga’, you don’t need to run away for fear of being mugged; she’s just saying there’s a bargain at the store, not a gang.[2]

 

This is a very short introduction to ‘false friends’. Translators, beware of them, they are out there, just waiting to pounce, and you would do well to know them. We’ll look at some of the different types of false friends in the next blog.

 

Written by: Brent Adams

[1]https://www.fluentu.com/blog/french/faux-amis-french-false-friends-cognates/

[2]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:False_friends_between_English_and_Spanish

 

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Industry News

International Translation Day, Sept. 30!

International Translation Day, Sept. 30!

September 30 has been recognized as International Translation Day since 1991, and in May of 2017 it was adopted as the same by the United Nations General Assembly, making it official worldwide. We at Cross Border Translation wish to add our voice to the many who will celebrate this vital profession and honor its often unsung heroes, the linguists. We will be posting daily on translation and linguists for the next week.

Every year since its inception, there has been a slogan chosen to highlight the day. This year, the slogan is: ‘Translation: Promoting Cultural Heritage in Changing Times’ in solidarity with another UN decision, that is, to dub 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. We see cultural heritage as more than mere monuments and statues; it includes the invisible culture of language and ideas that have shaped our world from the time of their earliest development and dissemination.[1]

September 30 was chosen because it is the traditional Feast Day of Saint Jerome, who is widely considered by both Christians and non-Christians as the father of translators. This great scholar holed up in a tiny monastery cell in Bethlehem near the Nativity Church to translate the Bible into Latin, the language of the common people of the Roman Empire, from the original Hebrew and Greek, starting in 382 BCE and completing the task by 405 BCE.[2]

Written by: Brent Adams

[1]http://www.atanet.org/chronicle-online/extra/international-translation-day-september-30-2016/#sthash.YnJ06zVh.DykMtO7w.dpbs

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome

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