Inlog cursisten

False Friends – English & Swedish

Words matter. Culture matters. Culture influences our vocabulary. For example, Swedes have many words for forestry. The Sami culture (located in Finland, Sweden, Norway) has 800 words for reindeer herding. Each culture has its frame of reference when we interpret words. Some words are difficult to translate because of a different cultural context. Even when words look the same, they can mean different things for different cultures. These so called False Friends can cause misunderstandings. Here are some examples for Swedish and English:

  • The English word Integrity (moral compass) looks like and is often translated into Integritet in Swedish, which could mean privacy. On Swedish websites you see ”Integritetspolicies” which means Privacy Policies.
  • Eventually (= Sw “Slutligen”) looks like the Swedish word Eventuellt which means possibly. Big risk for miscommunication in Swenglish ”I will eventually do it!”…
  • Semester (term) in Swedish is Vacation.
  • Truck in Swedish means forklift truck.
  • Stool (= Sw “Pall”) looks like Swedish Stol meaning chair.
  • VD (Venereal Disease) is CEO in Swedish.
  • Wrist (Sw “Handled”) looks like Swedish Vrist which means ankle.
  • Tagged (marked) looks like Swedish Taggad which means excited.
  • Billion looks like Swedish Biljon, which means trillion.
  • Gymnasium (Gym hall) in Swedish means upper Secondary School/High school. Swenglish: “She jumped off the gymnasium” should be ”She was a drop-out at high school”…
  • Mess (disorder) looks like the Swedish word Mässa, which means event. Swenglish: ”Welcome to our Swedish mess!”…

When IKEA called their new piece of furniture Fartfull, which could mean full of speed in Swedish, their marketing blooper caused some laughter!

We should have different perspectives, we just have to clarify our differences more often in order to reduce miscommunication. The beauty of diversity!

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