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Learn how to speak English: Common mistakes French speakers make

When French speakers learn how to speak English they use similar sounding French words that do not always have the same meaning in English. We call these words ‘faux amis’.  Find out which words are your ‘False friends’!

You may think that it is easy for French people to learn how to speak English because both languages share similar words? However, most of the time, these words are what are called ‘false friends’. The English words sound and look similar to the French words, but they have a totally different meaning! Using them without knowing their exact meaning can often lead to confusion.

There are numerous ‘false friends’, so do not try to learn them all at the same time. Here are some of the most common you should be aware of if you want to learn how to speak English:

1. Maniac ≠ maniaque

difficult english wordsIf you have a tendance to be a ‘manique’, do not tell your English friends “I am a maniac” because they will begin fear you or at least to stare at you with great anxiety. Indeed, “maniac” in English does not mean at all “perfectionist” as in does French but to be “crazy, insane”. It would be better to say: “I am fussy about ….. “.



2. Pain ≠ pain

If you tell an English friend “I need some pain”, he will ask you WHY with great astonishment. He will not understand why you absolutely want to suffer. “Pain” means “to be hurt / to feel pain” in English. The French wordpain” is called “bread” in English.

3. Engaged ≠ engagé

learn how to speak englishThat’s it! You’ve just landed a new job and you are delighted. You share your great news with an English friend: “I am engaged!”.  And to your surprise … they ask you who is the lucky one! Eh yep! “Engaged” means “to accept a marriage proposal” in English, whereas in French it means “to be hired”. It is better to say “I’ve been offered a job at ….”.

Using ‘false friends’ in a conversation without knowing their meaning can lead to comical or even embarrassing situations. Deepening your knowledge of English can help you to avoid similar situations, for example, during a conversation with an English speaker or while you are travelling.

Discover more ‘false friends’. Download your free PDF here:  Common English Mistakes: False French/English Friends

Have you ever made a mistake by using a French word when speaking English? Did the misunderstanding create a problem for you or make your English friends laugh? Share your experiences in the comments box below.

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