Вы перепутали! Words that are easily confused with their Russian homonyms

29 January, 2021

Here at Liden & Denz, our students usually come from all over the world, with current native tongues consisting of German, Slovak, Serbian, German, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, and many more. Needless to say, everyone mixes up their languages every so often, sometimes with quite humourous results! Here are some examples of vocab mix-ups from current Liden & Denz students.

Polish

Запоминать (zapominat) vs. Zapominać: In Russian, this verb means ‘to remember’, whilst in Polish, it means the opposite, ‘to forget’. It can confuse Polish speakers at first as to why your teacher keeps telling you to ‘forget’ your new vocabulary!

Czech

Ужасный (uzhasny) vs. Úžasný: Although meaning ‘terrible’ in Russian, in Czech this word means ‘fantastic’. Imagine the awkward situation when one Czech L&D student told their host family with a smile that they thought their new room was absolutely ‘uzhasnaya’…

Чёрствый vs čerstvý: In another case of complete opposites, this Russian word means ‘stale’, whilst in Czech, it means ‘fresh’. Although it might make sense to a Czech speaker to ask for ‘черствый хлеб’ (chorstvy hleb) at a bakery, a Russian will be very confused why they’re being asked for stale bread!

Serbian

Писать (pisaat) and писать (peesat) vs pisati. This is a word that catches out a lot of Russian learners- put the emphasis on the second syllable, and you have acceptable ‘to write’, but put it on the first syllable, and you’ll be talking about urinating. Enough of us have made a mistake with this verb during speaking class, using perfect grammar but putting the wrong emphasis on the verb. Pity Serbian speakers, then, as their word for ‘to write’ has the same emphasis as the russian word for ‘to urinate’. Embarassment guranteed if you don’t concentrate.

Неделя (nedelya) vs. nedelja. In Russian, we have here the word for ‘week’. The Serbian homonym has a slightly different meaning, ‘Sunday’. This mix-up won’t be embarrassing if you use it wrong, but don’t bother waiting in on Sunday when someone says they’re arriving ‘на следующей неделе’ (na sleduyushei nedelye), because they could be coming any day of the week!

Slovak

Вместе (vmestye) vs. v meste. In another opportunity for missed communication, here the Russian means ‘together’, whilst the Slovak means ‘in the town centre’. Make sure you’re not hanging around in town by yourself whilst your Russian friends wait to travel in together!

So there you have it- although some languages share similarities, there can be false friends waiting to catch you out. After a little practice, it’s easy to remember the differences, but often that practice can lead to some amusing confusion. Have you got any more examples of easily confused words, or stories about when you mixed up some vocab?

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