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Spanish-Italian False Friends

A few months ago I started learning Italian. Why not? Learning a language that is so close to your own has a ton of perks. It can also be a recipe for fun misunderstandings, so here’s an illustrated collection of Spanish-Italian false friends.

These false friends have the exact same written form in both languages, but different meanings in Spanish (left column) and Italian (right column). The last one is definitely my favorite!

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, foreign language learning, Spanish Italian False Friends, español, italiano, falsos amigos

Do you know other false friends? Leave me a comment!

#ilmioviaggiolinguistico

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Beautiful Finnish Words

The world is full of magical things, from bewildering nature cycles to human traits that we perceive but can’t really put a name to. Look no further, for the Finnish language has a wondrous array of untranslatable, beautiful words that capture the spirit and worldview of the land of a thousand lakes.

Aloitetaan!

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomiruska (n.)

The transformation of tree leaves and vegetation into different shades of yellow, red, auburn and purple that occur during autumn.

This enthralling scenery can be witnessed throughout Finland during autumn, but the landscape becomes more breathtaking further north, where areas are less populated and forests grow denser. Ruska comes from the Northern Sami ruškat (brown).

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomitalkoot (n.)

Traditional form of neighborhood gathering to assist with a major task, such as harvesting, building houses or cleaning garbage.

Talkoot fosters a strong sense of community and volunteers usually have a soup dish and alcoholic beverages together after completing the task.

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomikaamos (n.)

Period of the year north of the Arctic Circle 1 in which the Sun does not rise over the horizon.

Although this period of darkness can last up to two months in the northernmost regions of the Arctic Circle, it is rarely pitch black in Finland because the Sun still rises timidly above the horizon, even during winter solstice. This phenomenon gives way to the blue twilight in regions like Lapland, where the darkness takes different shades of blue, violet and purple, reflected on the snow white ground.

Its summer solstice counterpart is the yötön yö (nightless night, known as the midnight sun).

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomisisu (n.)

The stoic determination, brave resilience and tenacious resoluteness shown in the face of adversity, even in situations where success is against the odds. Sisu is a word that Finns use to describe their national character 2.

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomikantohanki (n.)

Thick layer of snow that is solid enough to support a person’s weight without breaking.

By the end of the winter, the sun starts raising again above the horizon. It melts the top of the snow, creating an even layer of ice. For this reason, kantohanki is associated with the beginning of the spring.

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomirevontulet (n.)

Northern lights.

Finland is not the only country where the aurora can be spotted, but “fox’s fires” 3 is a very poetic word to describe them. According to an ancient Finnish folk tale, an Arctic magical fox would sweep its tail and cast the snow up high, creating the fire-looking shapes in the sky.

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Revontulet is one of the first Finnish words that I learnt and it’s still my favorite. What about you? Do you have a special, beautiful word that is not present in other languages?

If you liked this article, discover more language curiosities with Poronkusema & the Finnish Linguistic Landscape as well as cultural aspects of Finland in Finns & Interpersonal Interactions.

Näkemiin!

The Devil is in the Minimal Pairs

Communicating in any foreign language can be an arduous task, especially when the language you are trying to speak contains phonemes 4 that are absent in your L1 2. This is the case and struggle of Spanish speakers when they learn English, and my dad is no exception…

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Language comics, languagecomics, Spanish, Foreign, English phonetics

These amusing happenstances occur because the devil is in the minimal pairs: two words that have a very similar pronunciation, but differ from one another by one phoneme in the same position in each word:Expat Gone Foreign, linguistics comics, phonetics, IPA, English, phonology, language

Whereas Spanish has one phoneme for <i>, English has a long /iː/ and short /ɪ/ one. No wonder Spanish speakers are confused when they start learning English. This madness would the phonetic equivalent of going to bed with two feet and waking up with four. One needs some practice to figure out how to navigate the world with additional extremities – or extra phonemes one had never had before.

To make matters worse, you will stumble upon words that contain the same graphic vowels, yet each one is pronounced differently:Expat Gone Foreign, linguistics comics, phonetics, IPA, English, phonology, language

But don’t fear, dear language learner! All it takes is a bit of practice, and you can train your ear to the different phonemes of the English language with online resources like this super cool interactive phonemic chart. If you are unsure how one word sounds, look up the pronunciation in dictionaries that include the IPA transcription and sound clips, like WordReference.

In conclusion, I think English learners should get more credit for their Herculean efforts.Expat Gone Foreign, linguistics comics, phonetics, IPA, English, phonology, language

In fact, anyone who stumbles upon words like these ↑ and doesn’t give up, deserves a standing ovation.