When you are learning a new language the so called false friends can cause confusion, laughs or in the worst case you may even end up insulting someone (unintentionally of course). Many languages share words that look very similar to each other, and can therefore even lead the most meticulous language learner to accidentally construct some pretty weird sentences. Swedish and English are quite a well-known duo when it comes to false friends, so you’d better be careful.
- Delicate – delikat: If you try to explain to someone in Swedish that you are a very delicate person, you may not want to use the word “delikat” as it does not mean sensitive or fragile in Swedish, it means delicious! 🙂
- Full – full: Let’s say you have been kindly invited for dinner at a Swedes house, you have been offered a lot of delicacies and maybe even a pannkakstårta (directly translated as “pancake cake”, Swedish people like this a lot!) and now you want to express your gratitude and also mention how full you feel after the great meal. It is very tempting to use the English word “full” to describe your state, but you may care to know that “full” in Swedish means drunk.
- Must not – måste inte: Imagine you are babysitting a Swedish-speaking child and you feel the need to teach the young one what he may do and what he cannot do. Your attempts will most likely fail if you try to say that he or she must not do something, since in Swedish “måste inte” leaves plenty of room for your own opinions. “Måste inte” means “do not have to”, remember that!
- Offer – offer: Perhaps you will try to sell something to someone in Swedish at some point during your life. You may want to prepare for that moment by remembering this important fact: Don’t try to convince your potential customers by telling them what a great offer you have for them, since “offer” in Swedish means victim. People will find you very disturbing.
- Prick – prick: If you ever feel the need to insult a Swedish-speaking person, you will just seem like a lame weirdo if you try to affront someone by calling them a prick. A “prick” in Swedish simply means a dot, like at the end of this sentence. Pretty neutral, so better think of something else.
Click here for a extensive list of false friends to keep in mind when learning Swedish!
Good luck! Lycka till!