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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some Hungarian-English false friends?
Boglárka: And what are some words that are often used incorrectly?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions a lot. To help address these questions, let's imagine the following situation:
Ben Lee is talking to his friend, Daniel Dudas. Ben Lee says,
"I am still young so I do not yet have my own "suite of rooms.""
Ben Lee: Még fiatal vagyok, úgyhogy még nincs saját apartmanom.
Ben Lee: Még fiatal vagyok, úgyhogy még nincs saját apartmanom.
Dudás Dániel: Úgy érted, lakásod?
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Ben Lee: Még fiatal vagyok, úgyhogy még nincs saját apartmanom.
Michael: "I am still young so I do not yet have my own "suite of rooms.""
Dudás Dániel: Úgy érted, lakásod?
Michael: "Do you mean your own flat?"

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we will talk about false friends. The term false friends, also known as false cognates, or in Hungarian
Boglárka: hamis barátok
Michael: is an informal term in linguistics used to describe a pair of words between two different languages that seem to be identical but convey two different meanings. The term itself is actually an abbreviation of the longer phrase "False Friends of the translator" used by linguists for the first time in 1928. False friends are also known as false cognates, where cognates are words in different languages that share the same origin. The actual origin of false friends are sometimes difficult to track, but most of them started as loanwords from a third language and due to cultural influences developed different meanings in each language.
But how do false friends work?
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Ben says "I am still young so I do not yet have my own "suite of rooms.""
(pause 4 seconds)
Boglárka: Még fiatal vagyok, úgyhogy még nincs saját apartmanom.
Michael: where the second sentence clause,
Boglárka: még nincs saját apartmanom
Michael: literally means, "I do not yet have my own suite of rooms." as if he would mean having his own hotel, hostel, or other type of accommodation facility in a touristic area. Therefore, the Hungarian word
Boglárka: apartman [SLOW] apartman
Michael: and the English word "apartment" are false friends. They look very similar in both languages and, when encountering the word
Boglárka: apartman
Michael: in a Hungarian text, you might be tempted to believe that the meaning is identical to the meaning of the English word "apartment," which, even though it looks similar to it, its meaning is very different. In Hungarian, this word instead means a suite of rooms in a hotel or a large and luxurious flat.
This is the problem false friends often cause when learning a foreign language.
Immediately afterward in this conversation, we hear Daniel Dudas clarify Ben Lee's sentence. This can happen when Hungarian language learners assume cognates between English and Hungarian that are actually false friends. As we have just discussed, first we hear Ben Lee say,
Boglárka: Még fiatal vagyok, úgyhogy még nincs saját apartmanom.
Michael: or "I am still young so I do not yet have my own "suite of rooms."" and then Daniel clarifies by asking,
Boglárka: Úgy érted, lakásod?
Michael: "Do you mean: your own flat?"
Michael: Thus, Ben Lee should have used the word
Boglárka: lakás [SLOW] lakás
Michael: meaning "flat" in this conversation.
You're likely to notice false friends such as these when you begin studying Hungarian. It's important to remember that, although the words are similar, the meanings may be different, so it's always a good idea to double-check with a dictionary, translator, or native speaker for help.
Michael: There are many false friends between English and Hungarian. However, the good news for our language learners is that the number of false friends is actually far lower than in most of the popular world languages, due to the relatively small amount of English borrowings and the small degree of similarity between the English and Hungarian languages. As such, it will be easier to overcome the problem of false friends. To make this process even smoother, we have collected some of the most common examples of false friends between English and Hungarian.
Michael: Our first example is
Boglárka: gimnázium
Michael: in Hungarian. As English speakers, we may assume that the translation is "gym" and we might be confused as to why a 14-year-old Hungarian is telling us he has spent the whole day with his classmates from 7 am in the gym. In fact, the word
Boglárka: [SLOW] gimnázium
Michael: actually means "high school," in Hungarian and now it immediately becomes clear where that 14-year-old has actually been the whole day. Our next false friend is the word
Boglárka: farmer
Michael: which, based on English, we might assume means "farmer," or agricultural worker. However, the meaning of the word is far from that. In fact, it means "jeans." Importantly, the word for jeans in Hungarian is in the singular form, unlike in English, therefore
Boglárka: [SLOW] farmer
Michael: in the singular form stands for what we call "jeans" or "a pair of jeans" in English. Thus, if you want to get a pair of jeans in a Hungarian clothing store, you now know what to ask for.
Our next false friend is
Boglárka: akció
Michael: which doesn't mean "action" as we might assume based on its similarity to its English counterpart. Instead,
Boglárka: [SLOW] akció
Michael: stands for "promotion," a "special offer" that stores give on the price of a product. You will surely see this word often when visiting a supermarket in Hungary.
The last false friend we will cover is
Boglárka: reklám,
Michael: which is similar to the English word "reclaim," but the meaning is totally different from that. In fact,
Boglárka: [SLOW] reklám
Michael: is a noun and it means "advertisement."
Michael: Hungarian also has a number of English loanwords whose meanings have changed somewhat and thus they might be confusing at first for English-speakers. For example, the Hungarian word for "cellphone" is
Boglárka: mobiltelefon
Michael: or the much more common colloquial form,
Boglárka: mobil
Michael: which, despite the fact that we may assume this word means "mobile," it actually stands for a "cellphone."
Boglárka: [SLOW] mobil
Michael: Another common example is the word
Boglárka: kamera
Michael: which, as opposed to English, doesn't mean all kinds of cameras, but a specific type, the "video cameras." Typical consumer cameras that are primarily used to take photos and maybe short, amateur videos, are called
Boglárka: fényképezőgép
Michael: in Hungarian, literally meaning: "photographing machine." Let's hear the word for "video camera" again:
Boglárka: [SLOW] kamera
Michael: And, lastly, a very common word that you will encounter in Hungary during your summer vacations is the word
Boglárka: wellness
Michael: In English, this word refers to "being well;" however, the Hungarians call their spa and massage places "wellness resorts."
Boglárka: [SLOW] wellness


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Boglárka: Viszontlátásra!
Michael: See you soon!