It’s summer – and summer means long sunny days, picnics and festivals. Wherever you are in the world, if there is one thing you can guarantee it is that there will be a festival. Whether music, literature, cookery or gardening there’s a festival for all tastes and ages. So, if you’re on holiday, on business or planning a move abroad, make sure you can translate the local word for festival – it’d be a shame to miss one after all.
Fortunately, one of the few words that most of us can read and understand in many European languages without the need for translation is festival: fiesta, festa, festiwal for example. Even in the more difficult European languages – Dutch (feest) or Norwegian (festspill) for example – the word is easy to translate. Why is this?
The word comes directly from Latin festivus meaning a festival or holiday. Since many words in European languages have a Latin origin, it’s not too surprising to find that this word has been adopted so wholeheartedly throughout Europe. Latin was the language of the ancient Romans, and it spread throughout the Roman empire which included what we now call Britain, France, Spain and Italy. The Romans loved their festivals and had at least one for virtually every week of the year, so it’s easy to see why the word became ubiquitous.
But not all words are so easy to translate, and there are many ‘false friends’. False friends are words in two languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning – technically known as ‘false cognates’.
Some examples of false friends: If you do something silly in Spain and want to express your embarrassment beware of using embarazada, which means pregnant, or you might find your having a very different conversation from the one you intended. Maybe you want to buy a new camera when you’re in Italy? Don’t be surprised if you get a blank look — in Italian, a camera is a room — you should be asking for a macchina fotografica. And whatever else you do in France, don’t walk into a lingerie store and ask to see votre bras unless you particularly want to see their arm . . . a bra in France is un soutien-gorge while ‘bras’ means arm. The list is endless.
Don’t leave translation to chance – call Accutranslate if you want to avoid false friends in your translations : 0800 466 1335, firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll always get it right.