January 01, 1996

A Few False Friends

A Few False Friends

Слово – не воробей, вылетит – не поймаешь.
A word is not a nightingale, once it’s out you can’t catch it.
– Russian proverb

Anyone who has tried to learn a difficult language like Russian understands the relief in finding words that sound just like their native equivalent. When you hear such international words as “metro” or ‘taxi” enough times, you can even start to feel that elusive mastery quickening within you.

Unfortunately, time shows this list of “free words” to be a lot shorter than it first seems. What’s more, some of these “familiar” words can easily be misused, causing embarrassment. In the theory of translation, such snares are called “false friends of the translator.”

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