Language Case Studies Translations

False Friends! Are There Different Types?

How are false friends created? The main way is that one language borrows from another or two related languages take a word from the same source. In time, the meaning in one of the languages may morph into something different or one meaning gets dropped.


For example, English took the word, friend, from the German word, freund, while the Scandinavians changed it to frände in Sweden and frændein Danish. The original word meant ‘someone one cares for,’ so it could refer to a friend or a relative. The word, in Danish and Swedish, however, means relative,losing the friend meaning while in English we have lost the relative meaning.[1]


I once teased my German wife, when she was filling out a questionnaire that asked how many languages she spoke fluently, ‘You’ll have to say none, since you haven’t learned English yet and you’ve forgotten your German.’ There was truth to my tease; she would sometimes turn to me, an American, and ask me how to say this or that in German.


One time, while we were visiting her mother with our kids, my wife explained to her mother that, after lunch we would ‘resten’ a while and after ‘resten’, we would like to go for a stroll. Her mother looked as if she understood, but thinking, ‘That’s not German’, I asked my mother-in-law what she understood from the word, ‘resten’? She pointed to the remaining food on the table and said, ‘Dies sind reste.’ We all had a good laugh. False friends in action.


Written by: Brent Adams


Industry News Translations

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




Academic Translations Translations

Current Trends in Academic Translation

Third in a series of interviews with CEO and founder of Cross Border Translation, Joel van Valkenhoef.

‘Since I started translating for educational institutions, I’ve seen a pronounced change in Dutch universities. They’ve shifted from being exclusively Dutch to being very focused on becoming bilingual, and by bilingual I mean Dutch and English, and in some cases going all the way to being fully English to where everything needs to be in English.

‘You find that even now, if a university is not bilingual, it’s not moving ahead with the times. Certain universities are way ahead. When I started, for example, the Delft University of Technology was already fully bilingual, whereas Radboud wasn’t at that time. They are now, however, rapidly catching up, and most other Dutch universities are catching up as well.

‘Some universities are truly international and go a lot further by providing translations of their web sites into a lot of other languages. Some more exotic like Chinese. If you go to the Wageningen web site, you’ll see that a lot of their pages are in Chinese as well. They, therefore, attract a lot of students from that part of the world.

‘And this trend toward being bilingual is gaining momentum all across Europe.’

– Joel van Valkenhoef

Academic Translations Translations

The Earliest Beginnings of Cross Border Translation

This is the continuation of the blog series based on Cross Border Translation’s founder’s (Joel van Valkenhoef) answers to interview questions we put to him on his story, translation in general, his translation agency’s history, and academic translation in particular.

Q. When and how did you get the idea of starting your own translation agency?

A. The idea of having a translation agency goes back more than ten years while I was still studying. As I said, I was studying Spanish in university so I took all the translation courses related to that, and this piqued my interest. During that time, while I was still in university, I heard of someone who owned a translation agency, and I was instantly inspired by that. I loved translating and liked the idea of having my own business.

I never really wanted to work a 9 to 5, so I was looking for ways in which I could work and travel while deciding my own hours and location. Basically, I envisioned having this kind of lifestyle in my early to mid-twenties and never really saw myself as a translator even when I was. I always saw myself in the process of setting up a translation business, doing multiple languages, long before that was even the case and I was just an independent translator.

Q. How did you get involved in academic translating?

A. My start in translation actually was doing academic translations. It started quite simply: at my OWN university soon after graduating! I saw a vacancy at Radboud University, Nijmegen, for a ‘Translation Project Manager’. I wasn’t interested in this 9-5 job, but it did inspire me to offer my services.

Through my connections, my professors, my fellow students, who went on to do internships and PhD’s at that university, I was given some work and got my start as a translator. That was in 2008, 10 years ago. They were happy with my work and this grew into a great collaboration, first as an academic translator, then, as I started hiring more people, as an academic translation agency.

Naturally during this time, I started offering CBT’s services to other academic institutions as well. And it just organically grew from there.

Written by: Brent Adams


Translation, a Pervasive Presence!

Translation, a Pervasive Presence!

This week we at CBT are tipping our collective hat to the time-honored profession of translation and interpretation, demonstrating how important translations are.

The slogan adopted by FIT (International Federation of Translators) for this day in 1992 was ‘Translation, a Pervasive Presence,’ and how true that slogan is! Where would we be without translations in our shrinking global community? If there were no translators, the average person couldn’t:

  • Assemble their Ikea furniture unless he or she spoke Swedish
  • Operate their Samsung TV without a working knowledge of Korean, written not just spoken
  • Read those great Russian novels by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
  • OMG! They couldn’t even figure out how to board a plane in Thailand or Dubai if the departure screens and the announcements were not translated. Incidentally, both Thailand and the Arab world have different number systems, so they couldn’t even read the gates and times of departure.
  • Understand the voice of your GPS guide
  • Surf the internet outside your own language area
  • Watch Rita, The Dark, or Fauda on Netflix and many more

And that’s just barely scratching the surface of all the things we would be missing, things we consider essential to our modern life. So today let’s whisper a word of thanks to all the linguists, translation services, editors, and proof-readers who help make our modern lifestyle possible.

Written by: Brent Adams

If you are a language lover or if you would like to discover how translation can enhance your business, then we welcome you to follow our blog and/or our page on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates.