Friday, January 21, 2011

What I Really Meant To Say

Consider for a moment, the following scene:  You're having a chat when suddenly the attentive eyes of your conversation partner narrow and a slight furrow crosses their brow.  You hesitate for a second and repeat what you just said, exactly as you just said it.  A slightly more quizzical look.  Now, if this conversation is happening in your newly learned second (third, fourth...) language, you are familiar with the feeling.  You just have to figure out why you are not being understood.  Was it pronunciation?  No, you talk to this person all the time; they "get" your gringo accent.  How about an incorrectly conjugated verb?  Doubtful; the expectation that you conjugate and distribute gender haphazardly is semi-expected and the context clues should have allowed them to comprehend what you were trying to say.

What about a wrong word all-together?  It sounded right though.  It even sounded Spanish.  Then you realize the problem.  Those damn false cognates!  To those who are not language people, these are those pesky words that sound or look like a word in your native tongue, but in fact means something completely different.

False cognates are the meat of any good miscommunication story.  I was reminded of how essential differentiating between these words is twice this past week.  First because an English teacher colleague was doing an activity with her students involving the avoidance of such language in their writing (false cognates obviously work both ways).  She had printed copies of a paper that outlined many such examples and graciously gave a copy to me.

Within the next day I had my own misstep.  While at the ninth grade semester awards ceremony, I was attempting to translate what an English-speaking teacher was giving an award for to our Spanish teacher.  The award was acknowledging a student's improvement over the course of the semester and so I erroneously used the word "improvisando," which, incidentally, is a word.  She asked for clarification and I repeated the same thing, wondering why she didn't understand.  She then let it go.  Meanwhile I played the conversation back again and again until I realized I had told her the student had received the award for "improvising" which, in hindsight, would be a stupid thing to give an award for, unless, perhaps, it was a drama class.  I then turned to her and said "mejorando" and the spark of understanding jumped back into her eyes.

Other common examples of mistakes that I've made in the past include using "equivocado" - which, ironically means "wrong" - when I was attempting to say equivocate.  Or using "nudo" when trying to say naked (actually "desnudo"), which means "joint" or "knot."  Telling a taxi driver to head to the sports arena by saying "arena de deportes" will get you to possibly a giant sand box as "arena" means "sand" and "anfiteatro" or "plaza" are two of the words referring to an arena as English-speakers know it.  "Carpeta" does not mean "carpet," it means "folder" ("alfombra" is carpet), the verb "contestar" means "to answer" while "to contest" something is "impugnar," and "red" in Spanish means "network" while the color of the same spelling is "rojo."

Unfortunately, I have made mistakes with all of them.  However, none have been more blush-inducing than mixing up "embarazada," which refers to being pregnant, for being embarrassed.  To make matters worse, in Colombia "pena" means embarrassment, not its potential homonym friend and fellow false cognate "pain," which is actually "dolor" (which does not mean "dollar").

Had enough?  When I'm at the end of my rope - "cuerda," "ropa" means "clothes" - I try to just laugh it off!  Spanish actually has it right, as they call this part of speech "amigos falsos," or "fake friends."  I literally couldn't have said it better myself!

4 comments:

ninest123 said...

uggs on sale, louis vuitton outlet, chanel handbags, louboutin pas cher, nike free, nike roshe run, louboutin outlet, louis vuitton, sac longchamp, louis vuitton, christian louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, louis vuitton outlet, nike outlet, nike air max, longchamp, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, burberry, cheap oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, ugg boots, louboutin shoes, michael kors, louboutin, longchamp outlet, tiffany and co, ralph lauren pas cher, oakley sunglasses, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, ray ban sunglasses, air max, prada outlet, nike free, replica watches, louis vuitton, longchamp pas cher, replica watches, tiffany jewelry, polo ralph lauren outlet, gucci outlet, air jordan pas cher

ninest123 said...

timberland, nike air max, mulberry, air force, converse pas cher, new balance pas cher, nike air max, north face, ugg boots, coach outlet, coach purses, ugg boots, nike air max, hogan, abercrombie and fitch, hollister, true religion jeans, lacoste pas cher, ray ban uk, burberry outlet online, michael kors outlet, ray ban pas cher, north face, nike free run uk, nike blazer, true religion outlet, vanessa bruno, burberry, michael kors outlet, vans pas cher, replica handbags, michael kors, nike roshe, oakley pas cher, michael kors, michael kors, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, lululemon, coach outlet, ralph lauren uk, kate spade handbags, true religion jeans, michael kors outlet, true religion jeans, hollister pas cher, tn pas cher, michael kors, hermes, sac guess

ninest123 said...

giuseppe zanotti, nike roshe, longchamp, nike trainers, reebok shoes, timberland boots, lancel, abercrombie and fitch, converse outlet, mont blanc, hollister, ferragamo shoes, hollister, ralph lauren, p90x workout, nike air max, babyliss, beats by dre, vans, iphone cases, chi flat iron, nike air max, nfl jerseys, mcm handbags, lululemon, ray ban, wedding dresses, louboutin, valentino shoes, bottega veneta, soccer jerseys, herve leger, hollister, celine handbags, nike huarache, asics running shoes, soccer shoes, new balance, oakley, ghd, instyler, gucci, north face outlet, insanity workout, baseball bats, vans shoes, jimmy choo shoes, north face outlet, mac cosmetics, birkin bag

ninest123 said...

pandora jewelry, canada goose uk, canada goose, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, louis vuitton, moncler outlet, ugg boots uk, bottes ugg, replica watches, pandora charms, moncler, links of london, swarovski, hollister, thomas sabo, moncler, barbour jackets, canada goose outlet, barbour, louis vuitton, louis vuitton, canada goose, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, toms shoes, canada goose, moncler, louis vuitton, moncler, doudoune canada goose, wedding dresses, pandora charms, karen millen, ugg pas cher, juicy couture outlet, moncler, coach outlet, sac louis vuitton pas cher, canada goose outlet, pandora jewelry, moncler, supra shoes, marc jacobs, montre pas cher, moncler, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, swarovski crystal