While learning a foreign language, you always find yourself happy when you come across a word that´s similar to one in your native language! However, don’t get too excited, these friendly-looking words are sometimes what we call false friends and the similarity to your native language often only resides in form, not meaning.
Using a false friend in a particular context can lead to a comical or even an embarrassing situation…
Here are 3 examples of false friends that can be harmful if spoken:
An Italian asking for the recette (of the Italian ricetta) in France will probably end up talking to a Chef when he/she actually wanted to see a doctor. Recette means cooking recipe whereas ricetta means medical prescription!
A Frenchman in Germany should think twice before asking for extra Chicorée in their coffee, as he is likely to end up with a piece of endive (yeah… the salad leaf) when he wanted some more coffee chicory!
A Spaniard telling his doctor in France that he is constipé ( of the Spanish constipado ) will most probably be given medicine for his stomach and bottom, even though he was in need of something for his nose! Constipé=constipated and constipado= having a cold.