Guessing Games…

When speaking a second language, have you ever tried to “guess” a translation?   

If you’ve taken a high school foreign language class, you’ve probably attempted this a time or two. 😉

Unfortunately, guessing can make you sound kind of silly or even foolish. Worse yet, these guessing games can lead to confusing – or even embarrassing – situations. 

In a high school language class, this might not matter too much. But when working with official or public-facing documents needing translation, it can be critically important!

Wondering which words can get you tripped up?

Here are some great examples of words that can get you into trouble when guessing translations between English and Spanish:

  • You might think that “exito” should mean “exit’ in Spanish… but it doesn’t! It actually means “success”.
  • Or maybe you think that “sopa” should be the Spanish word for “soap”… But not at all! It means “soup”. 
  • Another great one is the word “pie” in English which in Spanish means “foot”! Although they are spelled the same way, they come from two totally different root words and have VERY different meanings!

These words are what we call “false cognates”. But first, we probably need to learn what a “cognate” is to better understand what a false cognate is. 

A trip down memory lane – back to language class! 🤓

A cognate is a word that is written the same (or almost the same) in both languages AND has the same meaning. 

Words like – sofa, idea, family, television, minute, restaurant, and many others – are cognates!

When a word seems to be the same in both languages but really has two completely different meanings, we call that a false cognate. 

These types of words are just sitting out there, waiting for you to unknowingly use them!

That’s where the trouble begins…

Recommendations for “safe” language selections

Again, a false cognate is a word that appears to be related to another word but isn’t, as it is NOT derived from the same roots. And, it has a totally unrelated meaning to the word in the other language that you’re comparing it to. 

So, to avoid making silly, embarrassing, or possibly costly mistakes when getting translations done, do NOT risk any false cognates in your written work!

How can you do that? 🤔

We recommend that you have all of your written materials translated, proofread and reviewed professionally! 

And, of course, MAPA can help! If you have a document that needs translation, simply contact our project management team here:

We will help you make sure that your translated material is 100% accurate and free of embarrassing or confusing statements! ✨

Language and translations are complex but we can help you navigate through the complexities and find solutions that are affordable, accurate and of the highest quality!

In gratitude and appreciation, 


P.S. You don’t want to miss next week’s email blast – the month of May is full of exciting new happenings at MAPA! Stay tuned! 🤩

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