Thursday, May 29, 2008

False Friends-Les Faux Amis

My first language is French and my second language is English. You may have to be reminded that two people living across each other if you think of the English Channel as a cultural divide for centuries can not be more different in social, political and personal habits.

There are very good reasons why they fought with each others for hundred of years but I always think that one of the biggest obstacle may have been language.

There is a strange and interesting dynamic between these two languages which I have not seen in German or Italian the other two languages which I have study with moderate success.

It is that so many words sound the same in both French or English but mean something completely different that it leads to confusion for anyone who is not aware of this pitfall. Now we all can go on the web and Google "false friends- faux amis" but since I learned English way before Google, les faux amis gave me a lot of grief in my pursuit of communication.

Sensible the French word means sensitive or even nervous, as in pas recommandé aux sensibles - not recommended for people of a nervous disposition.
Sensible the English word means to show good sense, e.g., in making decisions: sensé, raisonnable, sage.

If you like languages take a peek and check out the alphabetical list and try to imagine various scenario. I like affair, habit, magazine, manger, match and of course mentor.

If we all learned the faux amis French would be a breeze to learn.


John Ettorre said...

So very, very glad you're back, Daniella. I'll be returning regularly to see what you have to say, mon ami.

Jeanne said...


You know that I value your opinion. Now do you think that you could write a story using les faux amis that could be interesting?

Je suis curieuse mon cher.

Tim Ferris said...

In the language arena, I had some faux amis when I went over to Korea in 1972. I was a junior officer, a staff officer. They taught me to smile, bow, and say something like, "Kundingy naki naki com som nee dah." Everybody looked at me so queerly, and I just thought it was because I was new in country, and had a bit of an American accent. Later, I found out it was GI slang for "your ass is nice, it pleases me, and thank you" or words to that effect.

Jeanne said...


We always have so much fun- when do we do breakfast again?

You and Gloria are two of the most interesting people I know.

Thank you for stopping by and I laughed at your post, it was so you!

Anonymous said...

good one.... thanks for sharing....

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