Learning a new language have its ups and downs, there are so many things to consider and learning techniques to master, and certainly one of them is to know that our brain can play tricks on us every now and then.
It’s only natural, learning a new language can be like wiring our brain differently. And since our frame of reference is our native language, our brain can be tented to relate some concepts or terms just by how they look. This is what false friends are.
A false friend (In language learning) is a word that you see in another language and by its composition can seem similar to an English word, so you might be tented to make the translation right away by relating the both of them. But in reality, that word has its own meaning that has nothing to do with what might be in the English language.
This makes false friends so tricky and frustrating to deal with. Because our brain loves to jump to conclusions, especially when speaking a different language, we have the urge to express ourselves in a natural manner.
Knowing false friends is a key part of learning any language and sadly, there are no recipes for knowing them. You have to know them by heart and repeat them constantly so your brain stops doing the false association and you get in power of the situation when speaking or reading.
Knowing this, let’s review some of the most common French false friends between English and French, you can also find them as French false cognates.
French: Une affaire - for business
English: Affair - une aventure, une liaison
French: Un bras - arm
English: Bra - un soutien-gorge (female undergarment)
French: Blesser - to wound
English: To bless - bénir
French: Coin - Corner
English: Coin - Money
French: La chair - flesh
English: Chair - chaise (To sit)
French: Joli - pretty
English: Jolly - happy
French: Attendre - To wait
English: to attend - assister à (to go someplace)
French: Personne - (a person/no one - depending on the context)
English: Person - (someone)
French: Une journée - day
English: Journey - un voyage
French: Rester - To stay in a place
English: To rest - Se reposer
French: Une main - A hand
English: Main - Principal
French: Mémoire - A recollection
English: Memory - un souvenir
French: Sale - dirty
English: Sale - une vente
French: Une race - A breed
English: A race - Une course (Competition)
French: Un préservatif - A condom
English: Preservative - un conservateur
French: Pain - bread
English: Pain - la douleur
We hope that this list of false friends will be useful for you. Remember, it’s important to practice these words in your daily routine so you get used to them and to let your brain know about the right connection between them. And, keep practicing your French with all the courses that we offer for you. À bientôt!
Written by Alejandro Ramirez G
Alliance Française Silicon Valley
14107 Winchester Blvd. Suite T,
Los Gatos, CA 95032