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State Institution of Education Pruzhany Gymnasium

False friends of a translator

Anna Lapuka
State Institution of Education
Pruzhany Gymnasium
form 11 A
scientific adviser: L.V. Yuk
English teacher



1. Introduction.3
2. Sound form of word and its meanings4
3. Words meaning social and political and scientific notions.6
4. Words meaning general notions and notions of special character..7
5. False friends of a translator..8
6. Conclusion..11
7. Supplement.12
8. Bibliography...14


The history of translation began when the parent language started

disintegrating into separate languages, so it indicated the necessity of the people
knowing a few languages. Nevertheless translation as a separate science formed
only at the beginning of the twentieth century for a number of reasons, particularly
for the reason of its interdisciplinary character. It started developing quickly as a
result of broadening international relations and changing information. Nowadays
translation has taken the status of a separate scientific branch.
From the very beginning it played an important social role: it made possible
the communication of people, the spreading of written translations made the
cultural achievements of other nations available to all people. But in translations
interpreters have a tendency to carry their native language habits into a foreign
language system. Such a phenomenon to draw false analogies got the name of
false friends of a translator.
The actuality of our research consists in the fact that both interpreters and
students make a number of mistakes while doing translations. We have put forward
the following hypothesis: an interpreter should possess knowledge of stylistic,
emotionally-expressive, grammatical characteristics and the peculiarities of lexical
combinatory of words, as grammatical and phonetic similarity of languages doesnt
guarantee the quality of translation.
The aim of the work is to define the problems of the phenomenon false
friends of an interpreter. To reach the aim its necessary to fulfill the following

To define the categories of language vocabulary;

To define the essence and the sources of the origin of the

phenomenon false friends of a translator;

To carry out the comparative analysis of lexical units in the

process of translation.
The material for our research was used English-Russian and Russian-English
Dictionary of False Friends of Interpreter by V.V.Akulenko and some examples
found in text-books and the Internet.
Theoretical basis for our research were the woks of V.V.Akulenko,
L.S.Barkhudarov, V.N.Komissarov and others.
The materials of our research can be used for optional courses in the
technology of translation.

Sound form of word and its meanings

The vocabulary of most languages contains a lot of words which are common
for two or three languages.
It can be explained by definite historical reasons: the origin of some
languages, communication of nations, borrowings from Greek and Latin.
Common words in compared languages can be alike phonetically or in
spelling, but differ in the place of stress and in sounding of some vowel and
consonant sounds. Its natural that the peculiarities of the sound system of the
given language give an international word its shade.
Consequently, the words of either compared languages (from the point of
view their object-logical belonging) can be in the relations of either equivalence or
none- equivalence. In consideration of the correlation of sound and graphic aspects
of equivalent words and the correlation of their syntagmatic, speech characteristics,
its possible further to differentiate interlanguage categories of absolute and
relative synonymy, homonymy and paronymy. The role of interlanguage
synonyms is played by the words of both languages, completely or partially
coinciding in meaning and using (and consequently are equivalents in translation).
Interlanguage homonyms can be defined the words of both languages which are
similar in the degree of identification in sound and graphical aspects but have
different meanings. And as interlanguage paronyms should be considered the
words of the compared languages which are not completely similar in meaning but
can cause false associations in spite of actual difference of their meanings. By-turn
interlanguage synonyms can be divided into the ones with external similarity and
external difference.
Here are some examples of the words which are alike phonetically and have
the same place of stress.




But most English words with Russian equivalents differ in the place of stress.




In some cases English words are similar to Russian ones only in spelling. But
are different in reading.



But the peculiarities of the vocabulary of every language are mainly in the
difference of notions. According to the meaning of borrowed international words
which they got in communication, they can be divided into three categories:

Words with socially-political and scientific meaning;

Words meaning general and specific notions;

False friends of a translator.

Words meaning social and political and scientific notions

Such words are understandable to everyone speaking a foreign language and

there is no necessity in stylistic synonyms. Scientists agree to rate among this
group the international words which mean social and political and scientific
notions, phenomena. The meanings of such words in two or more compared
languages coincide.
For example:










As a result of science and technology development foreign languages saw the
appearance of some Russian words.

And the Russian language got such foreign words as:

The Internet

Words meaning general notions and notions of special character

Into the second category of international words we put the borrowings which
are in the vocabulary of the given language to define the lexical units with a more
specific character. In the Russian language along with the borrowed international
word we can find its synonym which is normally of a pure Russian origin but with
a more extensive meaning mainly used in oral speech.
Borrowings get into the language to denote a new notion in the field of
science, culture and everyday life with the help of one word without describing this
notion (using a few words).
An unskilled translator often translates industria as ,
industrial in any context though the Russian language has
more habitual lexical units-, .
An international word is used in speech most often in its narrow meaning. So
its better to translate the word comfortable- but not
, person-, but not .
It should be noted that for being understood by most people its necessary to
translate using, if possible, simple expressions and words. The exception is special
material oriented to a certain circle of people (political, economic, scientific, etc.)

False friends of a translator

A group of words known as false friends of a translator are reckoned among

international words (pseudo cognates). These lexical units have got such a name
for the reason of being similar to Russian words in graphic (exterior) form but their
translation can lead to a serious mistake and even distort the sense of the sentence
if rely on Russian words close in sounding.
Historically false friends of a translator are the result of language
interaction, which can appear as a casual coincidence but in a limited number of
cases. In kin languages they are based on cognates originating in common
prototype in basis-language. Firstly the term false friends of a translator was
introduced in 1928 and meant the results of inadequate and poor translation based
on sound similarity of words in foreign and native languages. For example, the
English word bucket () has the Russian homonym and is a false
equivalent for having a different meaning.
Hereby false friends of a translator are lexical units, close graphically and
phonetically in the original language and in the target language but different
semantically which may mislead a translator. Overwhelming majority of foreign
words can be automatically reckoned among false friends of a translator. At the
same time internationalisms as a rule are not false friends of a translator.
At present there are four types of false friends of a translator:

Words and expressions meaning different things in both

languages (application- ; - in
Russian; anecdote- ; - in Russian)

Words and expressions which are partially similar in meaning

(apartment- ; - in Russian; auditorium-
; - Russian)

Words and expressions similar in meaning but different in style

and in sphere of using (cable- , ; )
Words and expressions similar in meaning in both languages but in some
expressions their meanings become completely different (experience- ;
. : ; mystery- , . : ).
Comparing Russian and English its possible to find out a considerable
amount of words similar graphically and phonetically. These borrowings happen
mainly from one language to another or, what is more often, two languages borrow
something from the third one: as a rule its from Latin, Greek, French (parliament,
diplomat, method, theory, organization, etc.)
However being borrowed by another language a word can get new meanings,
its semantic structure can be completely changed. At first it may seem that false
friends of a translator can mislead only people having poor knowledge of a
language or have recently begun to learn it. In fact the contrary is the case: the
basic number of false friends of a translator may mislead those who have a good

command of language though havent reached the level of an adequate unmixed

bilingualism and as a result make false identifications of certain units of foreign
and native languages.
Its impossible to disagree with the opinion in some publications that it
happens among translators to justify their mistakes and unwillingness to analyze
multiple meanings of English words by the existence of false friends of a
translator. Almost any English word can be considered a false friend of a
translator. The German language is more monosemantic. The poorer the
knowledge of a language the more often a translator catches at a straw at a graphic
similarity of words.
But at the same time its no good to consider definitely that any mistakes of
this kind indicate poor knowledge or carelessness of the speaker while a perfect
command of language guarantees no mistakes. Knowledge of the second language
in most cases cant be perfect and fluent speaking two languages is possible only in
theory. Hereby, overwhelming majority of people speaking foreign languages make
mistakes in translation and using words (though to a different degree). The main
sources of such mistakes are the correlations of functional and sound similarity or
seeming identity of lexical units in both languages. Particularly in the field of
lexicology these are false friends of a translator which disorient translators most
often. So the word ammunition (, ) is quite often translated
as which in Russian means (except
arms and clothes).
Important place among false friends of a translator is occupied by the cases
of interlanguage homonymy and paronymy. Interlanguage homonymy may arise in
the process of interaction and comparison of languages (for example, mark or family-. Fully homonymous in modern using).
The differences in object-logical content of English and Russian false friends
of a translator in a number of cases are connected with the difference in the life of
peoples itself. In this case it will be useful to pay attention to the commentaries on
the actuals without which any language comparisons are defective. For example,
for the right translation its necessary to know the following meanings of the word
academy: 1) (academies of music, of riding,
etc.); 2) ,
(military, naval academies); 3) -
. Thats why its not right to use this word to speak
about our institutes of higher education which it is sometimes better to call
Besides its necessary to take into consideration possible differences of
stylistic characteristics of associating words. These differences can accompany
partial semantic differences but can occur in the words with the same meanings. So
its impossible to understand and use the word correctly without knowing its
functional-stylistic and emotionally-expressive shades. The differences in
functional-stylistic shades occur most often in English-Russian comparisons. For
example, even in the similar meaning the English

variant consultation and the Russian one are not quite similar as
the first word is stylistically neutral and the second word has a bookish shade.
Stylistic difference makes a lot of words absolutely incompatible in translation.
The essential type of stylistic differences are the differences in evaluative and
emotionally-expressive shades. If the English word compilation (,
) is quite neutral here but the Russian word has a
shade of disapproval meaning the work based on the materials of other authors.
Emotional shades often become apparent in figurative meanings: lets take, for
example, the using of such Russian words as , , ,
, in the meaning of , .



In spite of the fact that the problem of false friends of a translator attracts
attention of a number of translators, still there is no detailed research of this group
of words in most languages. If not to touch upon concise mentioning in some
articles, on the Internet and some academic issues there are only bilingual
dictionaries on the material of French and English, Spanish and French, German
and French, Spanish and Russian, English and Russian, Russian and Polish. The
differences in lexical combinatory make serious difficulties in learning languages
and in translation but as a rule are not described in bilingual dictionaries. But at the
same time it is supposed that such difficulties are always surmountable in
translation as the translator, using his linguistic feeling, feels in what
combinations the word is relevant. It works mainly in the native language and is
less successful in a foreign one. But the situation is complicated by the
circumstances that the preference can be given to this or that word in this
combination basing on language tradition. The dictionaries of false friends of a
translator dont strive to substitute classical bilingual dictionaries, they are
collections of peculiar and rather valuable commentaries on the words in question.
Such commentaries are directed at preventing mistakes when using a foreign
language and sometimes at improving the quality of translation and even
broadening our outlook. In theory and practice the dictionaries of false friends of
a translator are more useful as give the description of all meanings, express
stylistic and emotionally-expressive shades, explain grammar characteristics and
lexical combinatory which is really important in translation.
Hereby, for an adequate translation a specialist should take into consideration
the general idea of a sentence, the specifics of lexical combinatory of words, the
style and the general contents of the text.



academic , ,
, ;
accurate , (tidy);
aggressive , ,
(, aggressive salesman);
alley , ; blind alley ;
ammunition , ;
, (joke);
argument ,
artist , ,
brilliant , ;
cabinet ( ), ();
cable ( );
chef - ( chief, boss, patron);
collector , ;
compositor , (composer, musician);
conductor , , ( ),
.-. , , , ,

decade 10 ( 10 );
director , , , (
, );
dock , (
episode 1 1, 1, 1 ( 1);
figure p, ; ; ( );
gallant ( );
general , , ( );
intelligent , ( );
lift , , , (
elevator (, .), lift(). , ,
magazine ( ), shop, store;
master ( );
mystery , ;

novel (, );
original , , (
paragraph , ;
partisan ; (
), ;
party ( );
patron , ( ),
principal , , ,
( principle);
realize , ( );
regular , , (
; regular water () , );
romance ( );
silicon ( silicone). .
, .
student , ;
sympathetic , (
sympathy ,
, -, -.;
, : sym- -,
+ pathos ; : sympathetic,
sympathize .
technique , , ;
( technics);
tunic , ;
universal , ;
virtual , ,



1. .. . .,1975.
2. .. . .: - , 2004.
3. .., ..
. ., 1990.
4. .. . .: , 2002.
5. .., ..
. .: , 1995.
6. .., .. (
). ., 1976.
7. .. (-). .: .
8. .. - -
. .: , 1969.
9. .. . . .:
, 2002.
10. .. .
.: -, 2006.
11. . .: , 2007