Many languages use borrowed English words or phrases. This may cause confusion for non-native speakers when they go to countries like the US or England where the English phrases they used in their homeland may not be understood in these countries. Here are some examples.

  • In India, people may say “good name” instead of “first name.” If an Indian asks someone from the US for their “good name,” the American may become confused and be unsure of what they are being asked of. Neither expression (”good name” and “first name”) is wrong; they are simply different, so it is useful to note the difference and be open to different expressions of the English phrases you used in your home countries. Indians also may call TV series or shows “serials” which can also throw off American listeners or readers.
  • In Korea, people say “whipping cream” instead of “whipped cream.” If a Korean native is ordering a drink at Starbucks in the US, the American cashier may find it strange to hear “whipping cream” even though it is generally understandable. Korean people also say “one plus one” when expressing “buy one, get one free.” Because the phrase “one plus one” is not used in the US or Britain, the phrase may elicit confusion for US or British listeners or readers.
  • In the Philippines, people call restaurants that serve unlimited amounts of food “eat-all-you-can” restaurants while in the US, such restaurants are called “all-you-can-eat” restaurants. Although understandable, it may take an American an extra second to register the expression “eat-all-you-can.” Filipinos also often use “Dear Sir or Madam” in the beginning of emails and written letters, but this is much less common in the US where people would instead address a specific person or company (Dear Jane, Dear Professor Smith, Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Amazon team, etc.).
  • In Japan, locals call certain types of apartments (or flats) “mansions,” which can cause much confusion for American and British English speakers. In the States, if a Japanese native says that they live in a “mansion,” American may misunderstand and think that Japanese person is very wealthy. Japanese people also say the phrase “don’t mind” for when they want to express “don’t worry about it.” Americans may be unsure what “don’t mind” means when they hear this Japanese-English phrase.

“False friends” may also cause problems for English learners. “False friends” are words that look or sound similar in different languages but have different meanings. For example, *gift* in English means “a present” while in German it means “poison.”

Non-native speakers may tend to base their learning of English off of their first language, so such “false friends” that hold certain meanings in their own languages may be so strongly imprinted that English learners may use such words or phrases incorrectly in countries like the US or England.

So how do you learn all the American or British uses of “false friends”? Or the American or British expressions of the borrowed English phrases in your language? Consuming a plethora of content in English through movies, TV shows, podcasts, or books will help immensely. Finding content that interests you will also help motivate you to continue absorbing content while having fun.

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