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Posted on3 October 2012

Polish and English false friends

Over to one of our amazing work placement students Magda, on the subject of false friends… in language terms, false friends are pairs of words or phrases in two languages or that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning…. Over to Magda:

As a native speaker of Polish, I notice numerous examples of similar vocabulary in my native language and English. While learning a foreign language, one is quite often able to guess the meaning of some foreign words, as they look or sound similar in their native language.

However, such similarity, based either on the spelling of words, or their pronunciation, may be very deceptive and very often leads to confusion and misunderstanding. Below you can find examples of some English and Polish false friends.

En. Pl.
sympathetic sympatyczny (nice)
preservatives prezerwatywy (condoms)
ordinary ordynarny (rude)
eventually ewentualnie (alternatively)
absolutely absolutnie (definitely not)
complement komplement (compliment)
gymnasium gimnazjum (junior secondary school)
nervous nerwowy (irritable)

Words pronounced exactly the same in Polish and in English:

En. Pl.
local lokal (apartment, restaurant, bar)
chef szef (boss)
dress dres (tracksuit)
Sir ser (cheese)
mum mam (I have)

Words spelled and pronounced exactly the same in Polish and in English:

En. Pl.
ten ten (this)
on on (he)
pasta pasta (paste)
brat brat (brother)
pupil pupil (teacher’s pet)
list list (letter)
fart fart (fluke)
hazard hazard (gambling)

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