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Lesson Transcript


Michael: What are some Polish-English false friends?
Igor: And what are some words that are often used incorrectly?
Michael: At PolishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, Franek Frankiewicz and an exchange student from San Francisco, Gabriel Garcia, are at a party when Franek compliments Gabriel's outfit with
"Nice tracksuit!"
Franek Falkiewicz: Fajny dres!
Franek Falkiewicz: Fajny dres!
Gabriel Garcia: Ale to nie jest dres…
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Franek Falkiewicz: Fajny dres!
Michael: "Nice tracksuit!"
Gabriel Garcia: Ale to nie jest dres…
Michael: "But it's not a dress..."

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we will talk about False Friends. But, don't worry! We won't give you a lecture on who you should hang out with or not. The phrase False Friends or in Polish,
Igor: Fałszywi przyjaciele,
Michael: is an informal phrase in linguistics used to describe a pair of words in two different languages that seem to be identical but convey two different meanings. The term itself is actually an abbreviation of the longer phrase "False Friends of the translator" used by linguists for the first time in 1928. False friends are also known as false cognates, where cognates mean words from the same origin. The actual origin of these words is difficult to track, but most of them started as loanwords from a third language and, due to cultural influences, developed different meanings in each language.
But how do false friends work?
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Franek says "Nice tracksuit!"
(pause 4 seconds)
Igor as @digital-nephew: Fajny dres!
Michael: The meaning of the word "dress" might seem obvious for an English speaker, but be careful! Ben's friend mistook the word he heard for a false friend. In fact, the word "dres" does not refer to a piece of female clothing in Polish. Instead, it means a piece of clothing used when exercising, or "a tracksuit." Polish
Igor: dres [SLOW] dres
Michael: is not a gown, it's a piece of sportswear! Remember that when shopping for clothes in Poland.
In this lesson, you've learned that hearing a familiar word in Polish doesn't mean that you will understand the meaning of it, due to the phenomenon of the so-called "false friends."—words that may be written or sound the same way as their English counterparts but have a completely different meaning.
Now, let's look at some examples. Our first example is the word
Igor: aktualny
Michael: meaning "current." It is very similar to the English word "actual," isn't it? This word is used in phrases such as "current events"
Igor: aktualne wydarzenia.
Michael: Because of its similarity to the English false cognate, many Polish speakers use the word "actual" incorrectly. Another common false friend is the word
Igor: ewentualnie
Michael: or "possibly, alternatively." This word will often be used when negotiating or making suggestions. Let's imagine that someone asks you where you want to go. You can say:
Igor: do kina, ewentualnie do teatru
Michael: meaning "to the movies, or alternatively, "to a theatre." Interestingly, in many European languages, words for "current" and "alternatively" are very similar to the Polish ones, and so they will be false friends for an English speaker, but real friends for a speaker of German or French. The two false-friends we have just talked about might be some of the most commonly used phrases, so it's good to remember them. Of course, there are more Polish-English false friends, such as
Igor: szef
Michael: This word doesn't mean "a professional cook," but "a boss." So if you hear someone talking about their
Igor: szef
Michael: in Polish, they are probably talking about work-related things.
Michael: Besides false friends, we can notice one more thing in Polish. You will hear many words that definitely have a modern English origin, but they might either not make much sense for you or have no meaning at all. This is because Polish adapted many English loanwords changing the meaning of the original words.
Let's have a look at these words and their meanings! The first is
Igor: Smoking,
Michael: meaning a "tuxedo." That's right, "wearing a smoking" is not a slang term for smoking tobacco in Poland. It's a tuxedo and a pretty common way to dress on formal occasions. The word itself probably evolved from "a smoking jacket," and removing part of the compound noun and a shift in the meaning resulted in how the word is used in Polish nowadays.
Igor: [SLOW] Smoking.
Michael: Yet another such word is
Igor: dyskont,
Michael: meaning a place, "a discount store." In English, you can "get" or "negotiate a discount," but a Polish
Igor: [SLOW] dyskont
Michael: is somewhere you go.
Cultural Insight
The false friends phenomenon does not only apply to English and Polish. Sometimes, the communication between two speakers of different Slavic languages might cause funny mistakes because of false friends existing between the two. For example, the Polish name for the month April
Igor: kwiecień
Michael: is very similar to the Czech name of the month of May. While this name refers to different months in Polish and Czech, in fact, its origin is the same and the word itself means "month of flowers" in both cases.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Igor: Do usłyszenia!
Michael: See you soon!

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