Just as there are terms that given their multiple meanings or that don’t have an exact meaning in other languages might make comprehension for non-native speakers harder, there are words that make learning languages easier: a clear example of this are cognates.
For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, cognates are those terms that have the same etymological origin -shared by many languages- but have different pronunciations and, very often different semantics as well. The term cognate comes from the Latin word “cognatus” which means “related by the same nature”. In order to understand this better, let’s see a very simple example of cognates in English and Spanish: the word “eternity” and its Spanish cognate “eternidad”, which keep the same meaning. So, these words simplify understanding between speakers of these two languages.
Do fake cognates exist?
However, once more, the language world is not so simple. Even though the existence of cognates helps comprehension of a foreign language, we need to keep in mind that fake cognates exist as well that make translation harder for non-professionals and that are even the cause of a great deal of confusions while interpreting a text or having a conversation.
Fake cognates are those words that seem to share an etymological origin, but do not share the same meaning and have no further relation than superficial similarities. In order to understand this, we will share a very clear example of a fake English cognate: the word “actual” in Spanish is equivalent to the English word “current”, however English uses the word “actual” as well, which has a completely different meaning, its Spanish equivalent is the word “real”. Therefore, the expression “I think it’s an actual diamond!” means “¡Creo que es un diamante real!”; while “Actualmente me encuentro desempleado” is the equivalent of “I am currently unemployed”.
In order to explore this particular universe further, which is highly interesting for us language afficionados, we share these 25 common (and easy to learn) English-Spanish cognates: