The team behind the False Friends English-Spanish Dictionary understands that you might have some questions about this dictionary or how to use it.
We’ve had a think about what the most frequently asked questions might be and drawn up a list to save you some time.
Nevertheless, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, we will answer your questions in this contact section.
15 questions and answers
Everybody, especially students and/or professionals. You, if you have questions about the meaning of certain words in English that sound very similar to others in Spanish.
In our non-academic English-Spanish dictionary, we consider a false friend to be an English word that:
1. Is similar to a Spanish word.
2. Has a meaning that is different to that of the similar Spanish word.
3. Causes confusion between both languages.
Francisco Hidalgo, the author of this False Friends English-Spanish Dictionary, provides a detailed explanation here.
It is not an English or Spanish usage dictionary. It has a far more modest and limited objective.
Francisco Hidalgo, the author of this dictionary, replies: I was inspired to write this dictionary as a result of my experience of more than 30 years as a conference interpreter. An interpreter works in challenging circumstances, with little time to come up with the most appropriate term, which is why one tends to use the word or expression most similar to that of the original language.
The problem is, as I explain in the introduction, that the formal similarity does not always coincide with the semantic equivalence. These words that are similar in both languages but have different meanings are what we call false friends. In order to avoid the inappropriate use of language, I came up with the idea some time ago to create a kind of false friends blacklist to be used to warn interpreters.
First, I thought about making a short glossary and handing it out to my colleagues, but soon what was going to be a short glossary took on unforeseen dimensions. I then thought that it would be worth writing a real false friends dictionary, so I asked my friend and colleague Lourdes De Rioja to help, and she agreed. We decided that it would be best to produce it in electronic format to enable user interactivity and allow for the inclusion of subsequent corrections. Lourdes took on the task of editing, production and design. Finally, I asked another friend and colleague, Alan Rodger, to give me a hand with the English. As well as revising and correcting the dictionary, he translated the introduction and frequently asked questions.
Francisco Hidalgo, the author of this dictionary, replies: the notion of false friends is not an academic concept. The two requirements that I first thought of to define it were, obviously, that the words had to be similar in both languages and their meaning had to be different. These are the two features of the most common definitions.
However, I then found a large number of English words such as ‘can’, ‘mate’ and ‘rape’, which, although similar or identical to others in Spanish, can’t cause confusion and are therefore irrelevant with regard to the objective of this dictionary, which is to help avoid semantic confusion between both languages.
In order to exclude these irrelevant coincidences, I then decided that, for a pair of false friends to be included in this dictionary, it would have to meet a third requirement: have a common etymology. But I came up against two problems: first, the etymology of many terms is not always clear, and second, there are some cases of false friends that can cause confusion but don’t have a common etymology. I therefore abandoned the etymology criterion and went back to the original reason for creating the dictionary: possibility of confusion.
Admittedly, in the majority of cases, although not all, there is a common etymology, and this is almost always Latin, either directly (for example, ‘contingent’) or indirectly, through a Romance language, mainly French (‘culture’) and, to a lesser extent, Spanish (‘desperado’) and Italian (‘influenza’). There are also some rather unusual cases, such as ‘guerrilla’, which is English for ‘guerrillero’, and comes from the identical Spanish term, which in turn comes from ‘guerra’. However, ‘guerra’ is Germanic in origin and not Latin. In other words, a Germanic language is taking from a Latin language a word that is Germanic in origin. As to similarity and the possibility of confusion, I have to admit that both concepts can be considered subjectively, although I hope I have avoided arbitrariness.
To help avoid semantic confusion between English and Spanish.
The aim of this dictionary is simply to raise awareness, elicit questions or dissuade users from automatically assuming that two similar words in different languages necessarily have the same meaning. It has a clear and concise format, with no abbreviations, examples or lengthy explanations so that each entry can be seen at a glance.
As mentioned earlier, our English-Spanish False Friends Dictionary has no academic pretensions.
Nevertheless, we would like it to be a practical guide for Spanish speakers who are in regular contact with English.
For this reason, we classify our main sources of potentially misleading terms as follows:
1. Bad translations found continuously in the press, on television, in dubbed productions, the Internet, etc.
2. Dictionaries that help us to compile correct definitions and suitable explanations.
Alcaraz Varó, E. y Hughes, B. (2008)
Diccionario de términos jurídicos / A Dictionary of Legal Terms
Barcelona: Editorial Ariel Moliner M. (1998)
Diccionario de uso del español (2ª ed.)
Madrid: Editorial Gredos
Oxford University Press (2009)
The Oxford New Spanish Dictionary (3ª ed.)
Real Academia Española (2014)
Diccionario de la lengua española (23ª ed.)
Madrid: Editorial Espasa Calpe
Smith, C. and Bradley, D. (1993)
Collins Spanish–English, English–Spanish dictionary by Colin Smith in collaboration with Diarmuid Bradley
Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers
Because we believe in open, quality knowledge.
Our team of professionals is made up of conference interpreters who have a genuine passion for language and want to share their knowledge with other professionals and/or Spanish-speaking users to resolve doubts that arise in relation to potentially confusing terms.
Because our dictionary is an interactive, open-source tool.
We would love to be able to say that we have listed all the false friends in English that you will come across during your lifetime, but we would be lying if we did.
We offer a dictionary with a comprehensive corpus of terminology which is constantly growing.
Should it not be sufficient to resolve a specific query, you can always contact our team, which will undertake to respond. If your query leads to the discovery of a new false friend, we will immediately add it to our dictionary and thank you for your contribution.
Sometimes, the English-Spanish False Friends Dictionary team updates content several times a week. Sometimes it does so once a week or once a fortnight.
It all depends on the number of badly translated terms our team finds, as well as the number of questions you send us.
Contacting us is easy. Simply click on the contact page and fill in the form with the requested information.
Our team is working continuously to improve and develop this dictionary, so it will answer your questions as quickly as possible.
However, if your query is urgent, please indicate this in the form and our team will take it into account when responding.
Of course. It is intended to be an interactive dictionary.
Readers can send us their comments and criticism via the contact page, filling in the relevant field.
We will read all of the messages and make the necessary changes.
Francisco, Lourdes and Alan. Read more about us here.
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