Top 20 False Cognates for ESL Students

False cognates are the Achille's heel for ESL students. For languages like Spanish and English, most of the words that look and sound the same do have the same meaning, making them an instinctive way to learn a new language. This is because the two languages share many of the same Latin and Greek roots. Spanish-speaking English Learners who grow accustomed to using their first language as a basis for learning English can start assuming that all words that sound the same also share the same meaning. Of course, this is not the case, as anyone who has ever confused the proverbial "embarazada" with "embarrassed" can tell you.

We've been getting many requests to have more content related to false cognates. We hear your feedback and are working on a new false cognates database as we speak, so please stay tuned!

For now, here is a preview of the most frequently confused false cognates, for Spanish-speaking ESL students. We've also created a handy sheet for you to print out and display in the classroom.

English Word Correct Spanish Word Confused With English Translation
actually en realidad actualmente currently
assist ayudar asistir to attend
attend asistir atender to attend to
bizarre extraño bizarro gallant
carpet alfombra carpeta folder
choke estrangular chocar to collide
deception engaño decepción disappointment
embarrassed avergonzado embarazada pregnant
exit salida éxito success
idiom modismo idioma language

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.