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‘False Friends’ – Polish-English

In the next article we will talk about ‘false friends’. Have you come across the term false friends? You may have encountered it in a context other than foreign languages. When it comes to languages, however, it is an interesting but also problematic issue. Take a look at the topic of false friends, also known as tautonyms.

Let’s just say for the moment that we should not underestimate them, and that completely ignoring them can cause very serious problems in communication. In this article, we will take a closer look at this phenomenon and learn about false friends in Eglish. In subsequent articles, we will cover other languages where such phenomena occur.

Definition of the Word ‘False Friends’

In simple terms, false friends are words from different languages that are very similar in sound and spelling, but very different in meaning. Furthermore, in Polish, the same phenomenon also occurs under the name of tautonyms. Their definition is essentially the same – they are similar-sounding words with a different meaning.

We mentioned earlier that they can cause serious problems in communication.

To illustrate this, let us look at the expression čerstvé pečivo in Czech. There it means fresh bread. However, there is also a very similar expression in Polish: czerstwe pieczywo, but here it means something completely different – the bread is stale, i.e. old.

So the next time you visit a bakery in the country of our southern neighbours, don’t be surprised to see labels with the word čerstvé pečivo!

How Are ‘False Friends’ Made?

False friends arise for different reasons and in different ways. They can arise, for example, as a result of shared etymology or homonymy, where words have the same spelling regardless of their pronunciation (homographs), or have the same pronunciation regardless of their spelling (homophones).

What Are the Pitfalls We Need to Watch Out for When Learning a Foreign Language?

When learning a foreign language, we need to watch out for false friends, i.e. words from different languages that are very similar in sound and spelling but very different in meaning. These can cause very serious problems in communication.

The largest English dictionary, the Cambridge Dictionary, defines false friend as a word that is often confused with a word in another language with a different meaning because the two words look or sound similar. Why is it important to know the most popular ‘false friends’? To avoid slip-ups and mistakes when formulating sentences in English!

Get to Know ‘False Friends’ – Examples

‘False friend’ is a broad category of words that, in sound or spelling, remind us of expressions in Polish, and we intuitively attribute this Polish meaning to them. The real meaning? Most often it is completely different!

Here are the most commonly used, both in colloquial and formal speech, ‘false friends’:

actual – rzeczywisty, faktyczny -> “false friend”: aktualny (current)

eventually – ostatecznie, w końcu -> “false friend”: ewentualnie, (alternatively)

ordinary– zwykły;“false friend” ->ordynarny (rude, vulgar)

complement – uzupełnienie ->  “false friend”: komplement (compliment)

fabric – tkanina; “false friend” -> fabryka (factory)

receipt – paragon; “false friend” -> recepta (prescription)

lecture – wykład; “false friend”-> lektura (reading), lektura szkolna (set book, set text)

pension – emerytura; “false friend”-> pensja (salary)

chef – szef kuchni; “false friend” -> szef (boss)

data – dane, np. komputerowe; “false friend” -> data w kalendarzu (date)

dress – sukienka; “false friend” -> dres (jogging suit lub tracksuit)

extra – coś dodatkowego, coś w większej ilości -> “false friend”: ekstra / coś fajnego (cool)

How to Avoid ‘False Friends’?

According to various sources, false friends is a group of up to several hundred words that look and sound similar in English and Polish. In everyday language, we usually use several of them (at higher levels of proficiency, even dozens). Experts stress that the only way to tame false friends is to systematically learn entire sentences with the given expression and… to be suspicious of every English word that we automatically associate with a Polish word.

I invite you to visit this website and read the article to learn more about the ‘False friends’ in Polish-English.

If you want to learn Polish language, I invite you to visit our website and get more information.

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