Today we will talk about so-called „false friends”, which are words that look or sound similar in two different languages but have different meanings. These can be a common trap for translators, leading to severe misunderstandings if not appropriately handled. To avoid such errors, you should be conscious of the concept of false friends and have a solid understanding of both languages. 

False friends can be particularly challenging when they involve words commonly used in everyday speech or with multiple meanings. For example, the English word „actual” might be falsely translated as „aktuell” in German, which actually means „current” or „up-to-date” rather than „real” or „existing in fact” as it does in English. Likewise, the Spanish word „embarazada” can be incorrectly translated by „embarrassed” into English, but it actually means „pregnant.” 

To avoid these pitfalls, translators should always familiarize themselves with both languages and cultures and consider the context, tone and nuances of the original text before translating it. They should also clearly understand the target audience and their expectations to ensure that translation is appropriate and efficient. 

To avoid „false friends”, keep the following in mind: 

  • Be aware of context. Carefully consider the context in which a word is being used, including the tone and intended meaning of the text. This will help you avoid common pitfalls and ensure that your translations are accurate, efficient and fit their target audience. 
  • Keep cultural differences in mind. This includes idioms, slang, and other expressions that may not translate directly. 
  • Use reputable sources. Consulting reliable resources is critical when translating or working with languages, as using the wrong word can completely change the original text’s meaning and lead to severe misunderstandings. 

To ensure accurate and effective translations, use reputable bilingual dictionaries and other reliable resources when working with different languages. This may include consulting native speakers or language experts, using specialized dictionaries or glossaries, and keeping up to date on changes and developments in the languages you use. 

Overall, using reliable resources and taking a thoughtful and cautious approach to any translation or interpretation can help you ensure accurate and efficient communication between languages and cultures. 

And finally, we would like to share with you our new guide: Resources and Tools for Legal Translators, which you can download here.