False friends in Spanish, or falsos amigos, are words that are similar or even identical in sound or spelling but have very different meanings.
When translating from Spanish to English or vice versa, watch out for these confusing words because they can completely change the meaning of your translated text.
Memorizing false friends in Spanish can be difficult because they sound so similar to words in English. Spanish fluency does not come easily, and you may often find yourself in embarrassing situations because of these tricky words.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to work with a professional translator.
5 Common English and Spanish False Friends
It is common to make mistakes when you are learning a language. Knowing these common Spanish false friends will help you stay away from miscommunications.
- Librería / Library
While you’ll be able to pick up some books in both of these places, they do not mean the same. Librería in Spanish refers to a bookstore or a bookshop.
Unlike a library, you’ll be required to purchase books here. The Spanish word for library is biblioteca.
- Embarazada / Embarrassed
Embarazada and embarrassed sound incredibly similar but have very different meanings. Embarazada means someone who is pregnant. This is an excellent example of false friends in Spanish.
If you want to refer to embarrassment in Spanish, you’ll need to use the word avergonzada or avergonzado.
- Ropa / Rope
It is very common for English speakers to add an ‘a’ or an ‘o’ at the end of words to make it Spanish. This is one great example of a common false friend in Spanish.
Ropa in Spanish is often confused with rope in English. Ropa refers to clothes. If you are trying to say rope in Spanish, you should use the words soga or cuerda.
- Recordar / To record
Record and recorder both come from ‘recordari’. This is a Latin verb that means “to remember.” Recordar in Spanish means “to recall” or “to remember.”
If you are looking for a word for “to record” in Spanish, you should use the verb grabar. Another excellent example of false friends in Spanish.
- Gangas / Gangs
Here’s another classic example of false friends in Spanish. Gangas may sound like gangs, but they mean very different things.
Gangas in Spanish refers to bargains, like the ones you would find at a discount score. If you want to talk about gangs, the Spanish word you’re looking for is pandillas.
3 Funny False Friends in Spanish Translation
Often Spanish false friends result in some pretty hilarious, although embarrassing, mistakes. Here are three funny examples.
- Molestar / To Molest
If you have travelled to Spain, you may have noticed door hangers at hotels that say “no molestar”. This does not mean “to molest” in the strictest sense but means “disturb.” The word abusar is used in Spanish to convey “to molest.”
- Preservativo / Preservative
Sometimes, using Spanish false friends can lead to some dire consequences. Preservatives are used to keep your food fresh for several days, but its Spanish counterpart has a very unexpected meaning.
The Spanish word preservativo means condom. If you wanted to talk about the preservatives that are used in food, it would be best if you use the word conservantes to avoid embarrassment.
- Constipado / Constipated
If you hear someone saying the word constipado in Spanish, you may think they’re giving out a little too much information.
But constipado refers to having a cold or being congested. If you really are inclined to talk about constipation and your bowel movements, the word you are looking for is estreñido.
How to Avoid Deceptive Spanish Translations?
It’s easy to see why Spanish false friends are something you need to look out for when translating to and from Spanish.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid these deceptive words in your translations:
Memorize False Friends
It is often necessary to memorize all false friends so you will be more aware of their meaning when you come across them in the future. While this can be difficult, you can often do this by watching for cues.
Double-Check When in Doubt
If you are ever in doubt, it is best to double-check the meaning of the word before you use it in your Spanish translation, transcription, or any other professional setting. A small, innocuous mistake can sometimes have a major impact on your business’s reputation, so it’s best to check everything twice.
One of the best ways to identify and avoid using Spanish false friends is through practice. Continue to use these deceptive words wherever you can respond appropriately. Over time, they will feel more familiar to you, and you will be able to build your language fluency.
One of the best ways to avoid awkward mistakes is by hiring professional Spanish translators. These translators have linguistic expertise and years of experience creating flawless translations.
Hiring professional translators is especially important when you need professional audiovisual translations for your business’s marketing materials.
GoLocalise offers localization services in over 300 languages through its extensive network of professional voice artists, translators, and language experts like Merce, an experienced Voice-Over artist.
Our team also offers a variety of integrated services such as voiceovers, transcriptions, and subtitling so your audio and video materials can be localized the way your target audience prefers to consume them.
Ah! Look at our blog post Friend Translated: Exploring the Etymology of Friends.