Understanding false friends – Business English do’s and don’ts

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False friends are words which look similar in two languages, like ‘actual’ and ‘aktuell’. Unfortunately, they have totally different meanings. You can translate ‘actual’ in English as ‘tatsächlich’ in German. ‘Aktuell’ can be translated as ‘current’, or ‘present’:

They thought the machines cost $20,000, but the actual cost is $25,000.

In my present job I’m involved in a lot of negotiations.

Here are some more common false friends you should be aware of:

German word English translation English false friend What it means
Bekommen get become werden
eventuell possible, potential eventually schließlich
Fabrik factory fabric Stoff
Konkurrenz competition concurrence Übereinstimmung
Konsequent consistent consequent folgend
übersehen overlook oversee beaufsichtigen

Ensure that you understand the differences if you want to avoid some embarrassing miscommunications!

Useful language:

  1. similar – ähnlich
  2. unfortunately – leider
  3. different – unterschiedlich
  4. meanings – Bedeutungen
  5. translate – übersetzen
  6. negotiations – Verhandlungen
  7. be aware of – wahrnehmen
  8. ensure – sicherstellen
  9. avoid – vermeiden
  10. embarrassing – peinlich

Practice the useful language here on the free English for Business vocabulary trainer

Do you want to know more about Business English? Contact me: gabrielle@efbtraining.de


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