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This week we are going to look at some false friends between English and Spanish. False friends are what we call words that look very similar but the actual meanings of the words are very different. It is very common to see a word and try to equate it to a word in our own language. This can create a lot of problems when trying to translate whilst speaking.

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Let’s have a look at some very common ones that are mixed up regularly. The verb ‘to assist’ means ‘to help’ in English. The Spanish verb ‘asistir’ means to be present or ‘to attend’ in English.

Another common mistake is ‘large’ which is another word for ‘big’ in English and the Spanish word ‘largo’ which means ‘long’ in English. The word “actual” exists in both English and Spanish. The English word means ‘real’ or ‘effectively’, whereas the Spanish word ‘actual’ means ‘present’ or ‘current’ in English.

‘Fábrica’ is a ‘factory’ in English, but ‘fabric’ is another word for material for making clothes and covering furniture. ‘Introducir’ means ‘to insert’, for example a disc into a computer and the verb ‘to introduce’ in English means to present someone to another person.

The Spanish verb ‘recordar’ means ‘to remember’ but the English verb ‘to record’ means to put something to paper or to record sound to a tape or a digital source. A ‘vase’ in English is something we put flowers into, however a ‘vaso’ means a drinking glass in English.


One word that caught me out early on was the Spanish word ‘embarazada’. It is very similar to the word ‘embarrassed’ in English, which means to be uncomfortable or uneasy, whereas the Spanish word means to be pregnant. It is quite a big difference.

‘Preocupado’ and ‘preoccupied’ are two very similar words with two different meanings. ‘Preocupad0’ means to be worried whereas to be ‘preoccupied’ means to be distracted. They are quite similar but at the same time, very different in their usage.

As you can see, there are many words in English and Spanish that seem similar on the surface but that have very different meanings when translated correctly. Trying not to translate while speaking is the first step towards ending the confusion. It is very important to break the connection between two words that look similar.
Good luck with your efforts.

K. Charles

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