Many years ago when I first moved to Spain I was in the vegetable shop, I wanted to buy some avocados, which are some of my favourite fruits. So in my best Spanish I asked for an abogado which means lawyer or attorney. So rather than the fruit I was asking the grocer for a lawyer, and of course I was getting a rather strange look, the problem lies that in French Avocat means both the fruit and the lawyer or attorney it’s one of those words that are a fake friend. My French was better than my Spanish so I was using a literal translation expecting it to work in Spanish.
False friends basically lead you down a familiar looking street and then mug you. Here are some common false friends that you may be familiar with. French: English; actuel: means present not actual, pays Avvocato in Spagna means country not to pay, journée means day not journey.
When travelling it’s great to be able to converse with the locals in their language, and for sure you will make more friends that way, but sometimes you may come across a time when you say something and then get a strange look maybe even a smile, that’s when you know you’ve been mugged by a false friend! However don’t let those false friends put you off, the real friends will laugh then explain your mistake, even lawyers and attorneys won’t hold it against you!!
This wasn’t the case for the American Firm General Motors who when they launched their car the Vauxhall Nova in Spain were left rather red faced when they found out that no va means no go, obviously they changed the name, nobody would buy a car that name was no go!
Travelling can offer all kinds of opportunities to practice your language skills. However in some countries you may find it almost impossible to keep up unless you are one of those rare and gifted people with amazing language skills. One such country is India, truly an amazing country with such a variety of languages on show. You can travel across one state and encounter twenty or more languages, even one hillside can speak a different language to the other side. Hindi is the official language, but is not widely spoken in many parts of the country. If you want a language that truly covers India, stick to English!