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faux amis

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les faux amis (lay fowz ah mee)

    : "false friends" or words that look alike... but have different meanings

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Les Faux Amis!
Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. In life, most of our friends are true friends, but it's the false friends who deceive us. --Tim Averill

Today's column is by guest writer Andréa Thomas. Enjoy, and don't miss the French version at the end of this edition!


.............................................................................
LES  F A U X  AMIS
by Andréa Thomas
.............................................................................

Dear False Friends

Learning French? Be careful of some words that may trick you! You may have noticed that a lot of English words look like some French words, and vice-versa. Well, there is a very simple explanation for this - more than a third of words in the English language are of French origin. But why is that? Well, to understand this influence over English, we have to go back to the historic Norman invasion of 1066, which left England under Norman rule, meaning French became the lingua franca. As a result of this, English language has borrowed many words from French.

Sadly, while some of these words are used just as they are in French, others have evolved, as have their meanings, but beware of the trap: you may think you automatically know a lot of words in the other language but they are just here to make your learning process even more difficult. But what am I really talking about? Well, you might think that learning the word argument in French would be quite easy… After all, English owns a word quite similar, if not identical. Actually, it would be unwise to think that since the meaning of argument in French has nothing to do with the English one. Unfortunately, the list of tricky words is quite, if not extremely, long. As a native French speaker, I know that I had a lot of difficulty trying not to be mistaken by these false friends, and even though I’ve been studying English for a while now, I still get confused sometimes. I mean, what is up with vicious or sympathy? My French words vicieux and sympathie first come to my mind when I have to deal with these two, and that’s a shame because they are not exactly proper translations. The same thing happens with words like confidence, caution, figure, balance… and those are only my favourite ones, meaning they made me pull out my hair when I was still a beginner at English.

However, I think the winner would undoubtedly be actually. During my years of high school, I never heard a French student getting this word right. Even though our teacher kept telling us to use currently to match the French meaning, we would persist on using actually to express actuellement… Language learning is really gymnastics of the mind. To conclude, here are a few examples of unfriendly words that you should learn properly in order not to be confused and assimilate them to your own language:

affair vs. affaire
achieve vs. achever
deliver vs. délivrer
injure vs. injure
lecture vs. lecture
date vs. date
hazard vs. hasard
physician vs. physicien
luxury vs. luxure
to deceive vs. décevoir


Do you see my point? Though they may seem quite similar when it comes to vocabulary, English and French have some words “in common” that are just mean…


More about Andréa:
I'm a French girl studying English and Spanish at university, currently doing an internship in the great city of Hamburg, Germany. I'm passionate about languages and an active blogger for Lexiophiles
(http://www.lexiophiles.com/), in both English and French.

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FRENCH EDITION

Andréa has offered us the French translation of her article (mille mercis, Andréa!)

Ces chers faux amis…

Vous apprenez le français ? Méfiez-vous de ces mots qui pourraient bien dangereusement vous piéger. Vous avez sans doute remarqué que bon nombre de mots anglais ressemblent fortement à certains mots français, et vice-versa : l’explication à ce phénomène est simple. En fait, plus d’un tiers des mots de la langue anglaise sont d’origine française… Mais quelle en est la cause ? Pour comprendre cette influence sur l’anglais, il faut remonter à l’historique invasion normande en 1066, qui a laissé l’Angleterre sous domination normande, et a permis au français de devenir la lingua franca. Par conséquence, la langue anglaise a « emprunté » de nombreux mots français.

Hélas, si certains de ces mots sont utilisés tels qu’ils le sont en français, d’autres ont évolué ainsi que leur sens. Attention au piège : vous pensez sans doute connaître automatiquement beaucoup de mots dans l’autre langue, mais en réalité ils n’existent que pour rendre votre apprentissage plus ardu. Mais à quoi me réfère-je exactement ? Par exemple, vous pensez peut-être qu’apprendre le mot argument en français serait simple. Après tout, l’anglais possède un mot similaire, voire identique. En fait, il serait bien présomptueux de penser ainsi… puisque le sens de argument en français n’est pas exactement le même qu’en anglais. Malheureusement, la liste de ces mots pas si amicaux que cela est relativement longue. En tant que francophone, je sais que j’ai eu beaucoup de difficultés à ne pas me laisser avoir par ces faux amis, et même si j’étudie l’anglais depuis maintenant plusieurs années, il m’arrive encore de me laisser prendre au piège. Vraiment, que me veulent vicious ou sympathy ? Mes mots français vicieux et sympathie me viennent à l’esprit immédiatement quand mon chemin croise celui de ces deux mots, ce qui est regrettable puisque ce ne sont pas des traductions exactes. Le même phénomène se produit avec confidence, caution, figure, balance… et ce ne sont que mes « préférés », ce qui veut dire qu’ils m’ont causé bien des déboires quand je n’étais encore qu’une débutante en anglais.

Cependant, je pense que le gagnant est incontestablement actually. Lorsque j’étudiais au lycée, je n’ai jamais entendu un élève français utiliser ce mot correctement. Notre professeur avait beau nous répéter que nous devions utiliser currently pour exprimer ce que nous voulions dire en français, nous avons persisté à utiliser actually pour dire actuellement… L’apprentissage des langues ressemble vraiment à une gymnastique de l’esprit. En conclusion, voici quelques exemples de mots « ennemis » que vous devez apprendre correctement pour ne pas les confondre et les assimiler aux mots de votre propre langue :

affair vs. affaire
achieve vs. achever
deliver
vs. délivrer
injure
vs. injure
lecture vs. lecture
date
vs. date
hazard
vs. hasard
physician
vs. physicien
luxury vs. luxure
to deceive vs. décevoir

Vous voyez ce que je veux dire… Même si ces deux langues paraissent similaires en matière de vocabulaire, l’anglais et le français ont quelques mots « en commun » qui sont juste vicieux…

  Beaumes de Venise (c) Kristin Espinasse
The blues in Beaumes-de-Venise... minus the bevy of people or flopée de français.

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