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EU Translation Guide: Beware of false friends, jargon and abbreviations – Avoid false friends

EU Translation GuideFalse friends (or faux amis) are pairs of words in two languages that look similar but differ in meaning.

In a multilingual environment like the European Commission, we often mix up our languages. Borrowing between French end English is common. For instance, ‘to control’ in English normally means ‘to command/direct’ or ‘to restrict/limit’. It does not mean simply ‘to check/supervise’ like ‘contrôler‘ in French. Using the wrong word can alienate readers, making the EU institutions look like a closed club that is out of touch with the real world. In the worst case, it can lead to misunderstands and diplomatic incidents (for example, if you just want to say that Luxembourg is small, but you write that ‘Luxembourg is not an important country’).

French False friend Why is it wrong? What‘s the correct word?
actuel actual actual’ means ‘real’ current, topical
adequat adequate ‘adequate’ means ‘sufficient’ suitable
assister à assist at ‘assist’ means ‘help’ attend, participate in
attribuer attribute to ‘attribute to’ means consider to be due to/characteristic of’ allocate to, assign to
compléter complete ‘complete’ means ‘finish’ supplement
délai delay ‘a delay’ means ‘a postponement or hold-up’ (= retard in French] deadline, time limit
élaborer elaborate (verb) ‘to elaborate’ means ‘to gointo detail’ draft, develop, produce
éventuel eventual ‘eventual’ means ‘ultimate’ any
prévu foreseen ‘foreseen’ means ‘predicted’ provided for, planned
important important ‘important’ is right if you mean ‘significant’; but not if you mean > > large
matériel material ‘material’ means ‘matter’, ‘information’ supplies, equipment
opportunité opportunity ‘opportunity’ means ‘chance’ advisability
perspectives perspectives ‘perspective’ means ‘standpoint’ prospects, outlook
respecter respect ‘to respect’ means ‘to value’ or ‘honour’ someone or something comply with (rules), meet (a deadline)
sensible sensible ‘sensible’ means ‘reasonable’ sensitive

Source: European Commission

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