Spanish is pretty easy to learn, right? Constitución means "constitution," nación means "nation," and decepción means "deception," right? Not exactly. True, most words that end in -ción can be translated into English by changing the suffix to "-tion." And the pattern holds true for the first two words listed above (although constitución refers to how something is constituted more often than does the English word, which usually refers to a political document). But una decepción is a disappointment, not a deception."
Spanish and English have literally thousands of cognates, words that are basically the same in both languages, having the same etymology and similar meanings. But combinations such as decepción and "deception" are so-called false cognates — known more precisely as "false friends" or falsos amigos — word pairs that look like they might mean the same thing but don't. Let's look at a few others, shall we?
1. Asistir: Means to attend or to be present. Asisto a la oficina cada día, I go to the office daily. To say "to assist," use ayudar, to help. This word has a kissing cousin. Atender: Means to serve or to take care of, to attend to. If you're talking about attending a meeting or a class, use asistir.
2. Billón: 1,000,000,000,000. That number is the same as a trillion in American English but a billion in traditional British English. (Modern British English conforms with U.S. English, however.) Confused? Me, too.
3. Bizarro: Somebody's who's this way is brave, not necessarily strange. The English word "bizarre" is conveyed better by extraño or estrafalario.
4. Boda: If you go to a wedding or wedding reception, this is what you're going to. A body (as of a person or animal) is most often cuerpo or tronco.
5. Campo: Means a field or the country (in the sense of living in the country, not the city). If you're going camping, you'll probably be staying at a campamento or even a camping.
6. Carpeta: Although this can refer to a type of table cover, it doesn't have anything to do with carpets. It most often means a file folder (including the virtual kind) or a briefcase. "Carpet" is most often alfombra.
7. Compromiso: Meaning a promise, obligation, or commitment, it does not usually convey the sense that one has given up something to reach an agreement. There is no good noun equivalent of "compromise" that would be understood that way out of context, although the verb transigir conveys the sense of giving in to, yielding to, or tolerating another person.
7. Destituido: Someone who has been removed from office is destituido. Someone without money is indigente or desamparado.
8. Disgusto: Derived from the prefix dis- (meaning "not") and the root word gusto (meaning "pleasure"), this word refers simply to displeasure or misfortune. If you need to use a much stronger term akin to "disgust," use asco or repugnancia.
9. Éxito: It's a hit or a success. If you're looking for the way out, look for una salida.
10. Minorista: Means retail (adjective) or retailer. A "minority" is una minoría.
11. Once: If you can count past 10, you know that once is the word for eleven. If something happens once, it happens una vez.
12. Revolver: As its form suggests, this is a verb, in this case meaning to turn over, to revolve, or otherwise to cause disorder. The Spanish word for "revolver" is close, however: revólver.
13. Ropa: Clothing, not rope. Rope is cuerda or soga.
14. Sopa: Soup, not soap. Soap is jabón.
15. Suceso: Merely an event or happening, sometimes a crime. A success is un éxito.
And your bonus word....
16. Order this at a desert restaurant and you'll get edible cactus. A tuna is also a college musical glee club. The fish is atún.
I hope you found this to be helpful and useful for you. Spanish is a popular and growing language worldwide and being able to converse in it, even a little bit is worthwhile.
Tomorrow is Wednesday and that means a visit from my wise teacher, The Dharma Frog. Please stop by then to see what lesson he has instore for me. Who know? It might be something beneficial to you, as well. Until then, dear reader, I wish you