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Lost in Translation: Conquering Italian False Friends Like a Pro

Learning a new language is an exciting adventure, but it can also be full of unexpected twists. Enter the infamous “falsi amici,” those tricky words that look familiar but lead to hilarious misunderstandings, serving as a reminder that true understanding goes beyond surface-level similarities.

Don’t worry, language warriors, we’ve got your back! Today, we’re conquering 10 of these sneaky culprits, equipping you to navigate these linguistic traps like a native!

Attualmente ≠ Actually

Ah, the “attualmente” trap! This sneaky fellow looks like it’s about to drop some real talk, just like its English cousin “actually.” But surprise! “Attualmente” is more of a “right now” kind of guy, meaning “currently.” So, if you’re trying to emphasize that something is, well, actually true, you’ll need to switch to “in realtà,” which is basically the Italian version of saying “in reality.” 

Camera ≠ Camera

Proudly showcasing your “camera” in Italy might elicit raised eyebrows instead of admiration. Turns out, “camera” means “room” in Italian. Your trusty photo companion is called a “macchina fotografica” (quite a mouthful, we know!).

Confrontare ≠ To confront

Hold your horses before launching into a fierce “confronto” about pizza toppings! It means “compare” in Italian. For a friendly debate, use “discutere di” (to discuss) or “parlare di” (to talk about). This way, you can share your pizza philosophies without accidentally inviting a food fight. 

Educato ≠ Educated

While "educato" sounds impressive, it doesn't translate to academic achievements. It means "polite" or "well-mannered" in Italian. Use "istruito" (educated) to showcase your scholarly background.

Grosso ≠ Gross

Thinking “grosso” means something nasty in Italian? Time to ditch the English association! This word signifies “big” or “large” in Italian, not nasty. Use “disgustoso” (disgusting) or “sgradevole” (unpleasant) when you truly encounter something gross. 

Latte ≠ Latte

Ah, the classic “latte” blunder! You step into an Italian cafe, confidently order a “latte,” and…surprise! You receive a glass of milk. Why the confusion? In Italian, “latte” simply means “milk.” If you’re craving a traditional American latte, order a “caffe latte” instead.

Noioso ≠ noisy

Imagine being at a vibrant Italian gathering with lively conversation and music and exclaiming "che serata noiosa!" Your hosts might look slightly offended, well that’s because you just exclaimed “What a boring night!”. If you truly want to express discomfort with the noise, stick to "rumoroso" (noisy) or "chiassoso" (loud).

Peperoni ≠ Pepperoni

Craving a classic pepperoni pizza in Italy? While "pepperoni" in English equates to spicy sausage slices, its Italian counterpart, "peperoni," means bell peppers. For yoru pepperoni fix, you need to ask for "pizza con salame piccante," which translates to "pizza with spicy salami."

Preservativo ≠ preservative

Caution: this one can be quite embarrassing! “Senza preservativi” doesn’t mean “preservative-free”, but rather something without condoms! For food preservatives, go with “conservanti.”

Terrificante ≠ Terrific

Sharing a "terrificante" experience might not get the reaction you expect. This word means "terrifying" in Italian. Opt for "fantastico" (fantastic) or "meraviglioso" (wonderful) for positive exclamations.

Remember: Language learning is a journey filled with laughter and learning. Embrace these "falsi amici" as opportunities to grow and become a truly confident speaker!

Sign up with ICC's very own teacher, Roberta for a FREE 30 minute lesson, and let’s help each other expand our knowledge of the Italian language!


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