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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Translation Theory  »  The Friendliness of False Friends (Part 2)

The Friendliness of False Friends (Part 2)

By Milena Chkripeska | Published  09/3/2013 | Translation Theory | Recommendation:
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Milena Chkripeska
Macedonia (FYROM)
English to Macedonian translator
Sar/Saret membru: Apr 13, 2009.
View all articles by Milena Chkripeska

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Instead of introduction, I will present an example that I came across on the Internet ( Namely, there was an article regarding the woman who went on "Good Morning America", claiming she injected her 8-year-old daughter with Botox, and who later swore under oath that she had made the entire story up for a few hundred bucks. This text is obviously a translation of the original article that appeared on

Below I will quote the Macedonian translation of two of its sentences and will focus on two key terms – declaration and script and their false friends in Macedonian.

Во декларација до којашто успеа да дојде популарниот сајт TMZ, мајката која го шокира светот тврди дека....
„Ми ја дадоа приказната, инструкции и скрипта по којашто требаше да се раководам...“

If we refer to the source text, we will notice that the highlighted words декларација and скрипта are in fact inappropriate translation equivalents of the lexemes declaration and script.
Indeed, declaration could mean декларација in Macedonian, but in the aforementioned article its meaning does not refer neither to the United States Declaration of Independence (Декларацијата за независност на САД), nor to a customs declaration form (царинска декларација), but to a statement (изјава). Moreover, the lexeme script does not refer to the notes that students take at the university lectures (скрипта), but to a written copy for the use of performers in films and plays (сценарио). However, we should take into account that declaration could mean декларација, whereas script could mean скрипта in other contexts.

This article is about the false friends with partial semantic concordance. We should bear in mind that apart from the false pairs with different meaning which lead to an inaccurate translation due to the same form, there are other lexemes as well, which could also lead to an inadequate translation. These lexemes have the same form, but are polysemantic, i.e. have a wide range of uses. In some of these uses, concordance exists between the source language and target language, but in other cases source and target lexemes differ. In the first case, the source lexeme has a wider semantic field than the target lexeme, whereas in the latter - the source lexeme has a narrower semantic field than the target lexeme. When translators translate from their mother tongue into a foreign language, i.e. when their mother tongue is actually the source language, if some lexeme has a wider semantic field in the source language, translators would be faced with a situation where they would apply the wider range of uses of that lexeme to the appropriate target lexeme. Therefore, an inadequate translation equivalent occurs. For instance, English translation equivalent of the Macedonian lexeme акција is action in: воeна акција – military action, човек од акција – man of action, but in other contexts different English lexemes could be associated with this Macedonian lexeme: работна акција – voluntary work drive, акција за описменување – literacy campaign, акција за спасување – rescue operation, акција за давање помош – relief work, акција за безбедност во сообраќајот – traffic safety plan/scheme, акција за собирање средства – collection of funds.

To conclude, the English lexeme action and Macedonian lexeme акција are not considered false friends, because they are equivalents according to their basic meaning. Still, in some contexts they differ.

These linguistic units illustrate one transitional stage between the proper pairs and false pairs with different meaning. The proper pairs, i.e. the lexical units which have the same basic meaning and act as equivalents in a number of uses, may serve as a starting point of this linguistic process. Still, the evolution of the languages has resulted in a situation where those units are not translation equivalents any more, but other lexical units have already taken their place due to many factors. There is not a sharp boundary between the lexemes that form proper pairs and other lexemes with the same form in two or more languages. Nevertheless, there is a noticeable tendency of gradual transition of the proper pairs in a specific group that could be called a semi-proper pairs or false pairs with partial semantic concordance.

Translators, which are used to treat these lexemes as proper pairs, may use them even when these lexemes do not form a proper pair any more, and this will result in an inadequate translation. Probably the pairs of lexemes with partial semantic concordance pose a greater potential threat to the translator than the regular “false friends”. In general, students and translators, due to the clear semantic difference in the meaning, pay more attention to the false pairs with different meaning when learning the foreign language in question. Thus, they are trained how to avoid the improper translation equivalent. However, pairs with partial semantic concordance may occur in many different areas that could not be entirely covered when learning a foreign language, and often these lexemes include technical terms. In that vein, translators should invest maximum efforts to study the vocabulary of both the source language and target language. As a matter of fact, some modern dictionaries include this linguistic phenomenon in a manner that several uses of the lexemes are depicted, but still dictionaries do not provide all the uses of lexemes with semantic concordance.

In conclusion, we should be extremely careful when choosing the translation equivalents of certain lexemes and never tend to choose the first translation equivalent that we come across in the dictionary. So, beware of false friends and false friends with partial semantic concordance, as they are constantly lurking to ambush and damage your translation.

Below there is a list of several lexemes with partial semantic concordance in the language pair Macedonian - English. Nonetheless, we should be aware that this list is much wider in the area of translation practice.

aдминистративен – administrative; административна постапка – administrative procedure; clerical: административна грешка – clerical error; административен персонал – clerical staff; office: административна работа – office work; government: административни цени – government-fixed prices

академија – academy: академија на науките и уметностите – academy of sciences and arts; академија на ликовните уметности – academy of fine arts; college: педагошка академија – teacher training college

економија – economy (стопанство); economics (проучување на стопанството)

карта – card (за играње, членска); ticket (билет); map (географска); chart (навигациска)

објект – object (предмет, граматички предмет); project: индустриски објект – industrial project; facility: производен објект - production facility; establishment: угостителски објект - catering establishment, hotel, restaurant; installation: воен објект - military installation; vessel: пловен објект – vessel

парк – park (зелена површина); fleet (автомобилски возен парк); rolling stock (железнички возен парк)

перспектива – perspective (геометриска); prospect (изглед)

професор – professor (универзитетски); teacher (средношколски)

пропаганда – propaganda (ширење информации, идеи, ставови со цел да се влијае врз јавното мислење); advertising (економска пропаганда, реклама)

Арсова-Николиќ, Л. (1987-1988). Лажни парови македонско-англиски, македонско-германски, македонско-француски in Македонски јазик, pp. 121-132. Skopje

Boumali, A. (2009-2010l). False Friends: a Problem Encountered in Translation, available at [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013] [last visit: 25.08.2013]

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