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Can you Avoid False Friends as you Learn Spanish? Part I

If you learn Spanish, or any other foreign language, on the hoof as I did then one of the biggest problems to avoid is that of the so called false friends. These are words which look so similar to words in English that you think that they must have the same meaning and start to use them without realising that they mean something completely different.
I think I am right in saying that Latin based languages such as Spanish and Italian far have more of these false friends for English speakers than just about any other language, so if you are going to learn Spanish you will undoubtedly come across a number of them. Here are a few which I discovered the hard way.

Carpeta / Carpet. I mentioned in a previous post that adding an “a” or “o” onto an English word sometimes works, but in this case it really doesn’t. I was discussing doing something to brighten up the flat I was staying in and decided that buying a rug was a good idea. When I boldly ditched the dictionary and explained to a friend that I was looking for a “pequeña carpeta” he very happily took me to a stationery shop. As I looked around the pens and notebooks on sale I began to suspect that something had been wrong with my request. Nevertheless, if there is one thing I have learned from life it is that ignoring the obvious and ploughing on regardless either gives you a good result or something interesting to write about later on. As my friend started showing me small folders I mumbled something like, “no….una pequeña carpeta…para el piso”. After revising my dictionary I worked out that I had indeed asked for a small folder and decided that beating a hasty retreat was the most viable option.