Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | October 30, 2012

Amigos falsos

To start this week I have an admission: my Spanish is improving. I am very hesitant to say that, but I recognise that it is coming a bit quicker. It is also very easy to focus on what I can’t do rather than what I can, so it is good for me to .

However, I want to share something that can easily trip you up in a new language- false friends. Roz loves them. She gets very excited when talking about people getting confused with these words, almost too excited. False friends are words in two languages that seem very similar but confusingly have nothing to do with each other. Here are a few of my favourites:

Embarazo. Obviously someone who is embarrassed, right? No- it means pregnant. I now have a wierd link in my mind between being pregnant and being embarrassed.

Judas. When I turned to my trusty Spanish NVI (this is not a false friend- it is the NIV) I was shocked to find the book of Judas. What kind of Bible was this? Surely the Disciple who betrayed Jesus doesn’t get to have a book of the Bible? Actually in Spanish Judas is Jude. Phew.

Sin embargo. Sounds like some kind of prohibition on sin- can’t be a bad thing, surely. It actually means however or nevertheless which in itself is an impressive sounding word. In Spanish though it carries much more weight for me. I still have not been able to get it into an everyday conversation. If I did I feel everyone would take me more seriously and forget about the fact that I still can’t roll my r’s.

Pies. Naturally this must mean the football fans best friend, delicious varieties of meat and chicken and gravy in pastry… I can almost smell it. No- it means feet. A different odour altogether. This was one false friend that Roz’s sister Mim and husband John found tricky when here, especially when singing ‘Perfume a tus pies’ at Church. They couldn’t understand why we singing about the smell of pies. (I think the title of that song is more about the lady who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet).

Emocionante. Easy. Emotional, yes? No- this is excited. Either that or I am often telling people how emotional I am feeling about some exciting event or other.

And to finish here is a reverse false friend- one that my students always make mistakes with when translating from Spanish. Jam. Do they mean a fruity conserve to be enjoyed with toast? No, they mean ham. But in Spanish you pronounce a ‘j’ like an ‘h’, so I see what they’ve done there.



  1. Brilliant Ben

  2. Quality. Love these “false friends”. I’ve thankfully avoided some very embarassing ones! Praise God your Spanish learning is improving – it’s a struggle!

  3. Great post! I totally agree with you that those pesky false friends can really trip us up if we’re not aware of them! I’m going to Fiesta (the Newfrontiers conference in Mexico) in a couple of weeks and have been studying hard. I hope I avoid saying anything too stupid! I know I shouldn’t say ‘estoy excitada’ .

  4. soooo lovely to read and catch up. Thinking of you often and praying for you all.

  5. Sadly last week at Home Group I was caught out by another false friend. I spent the whole evening saying how we should soportar one another. Naturally I meant support. It actually means to put up with each other or bear with each other. I mean this is also Biblical and we should put up with each other in Home Group, but I wasn’t going for this. Everyone was too nice to tell me I was using the wrong word. Guess they were putting up with my Spanish mistakes. Apart from that, it was an awesome Home Group.

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