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Spanish False Friends & About Me

My Top 5 False Friends

Although you may be the “profe”, there’s no doubt that you’ll learn more from your students than you could have imagined. That’s including both English and their native language, too - Spanish in my case. It’s a curious linguistic dialogue that will make you smile, smirk, frown…think about the whole range of emoji faces, and you’ll get my drift. Nonetheless, that’s why I enjoy teaching English to adults. Not a boring day goes by! 

In learning a new language, it’s human nature to find similarities between your native language (L1) and the foreign language (L2) that you are learning. Although I always encourage my students to take chances and feel comfortable making mistakes, it’s important to do so with some caution.

Mistranslation is common in any language-learning environment, yet knowledge of common errors can keep students (and you, too!) from falling victim. As an EFL teacher, being aware of the most common ‘false friends’ can allow you to better understand your students and create memorable teaching moments.

Hearing a student say that he/she saw a friend over the weekend by ‘casuality’ can be confusing to say the least. I challenge you to take a proactive approach in raising your students’ awareness and try to avoid these in the classroom altogether. Teaching in Spain, I see this happen often between Spanish and English as many words share similar Latin origins, yet different definitions.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed repeatedly many of the same mistranslations from Spanish to English. Here are my top five false friends in no particular order:


familiar = familiar NOT family

(in Spanish it also means ‘family’ as in ‘family dinner’)

actualmente = currently NOT actually

resumen = summary NOT resume or resumé 

(When explaining the accented word, a student exclaimed, “Oh, you mean it’s French like Beyoncé!”)

por casualidad = by chance NOT by casuality

embarazada = pregnant NOT embarrassed

ABOUT RYANSlide1Ryan is a Chicago native and aspiring Madrileño who loves the hustle and bustle of big city living. After graduating DePaul University in June 2013 with a degree in Marketing and Spanish, he moved 4,000+ miles to Madrid, Spain. As part of the CIEE Teach in Spain Professional program, he taught business English to top multinational firms. Ryan recently returned to Madrid to teach for a second year with Training Express while enjoying la vida española. When Ryan isn’t in the classroom, he is travel blogging for Urban Serenity at ryanzieman.com and drinking cafe con leche.