Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Focus on false friends- eventual, eventually

If you don't already know what false friends are in language learning, you haven't been paying attention. You can get up to speed by seeing this post and this one, too.

Now I'd like to focus on specific false friends, because it isn't enough just to know that a word is a false friend and look it up in the ole dictionary.

We'll start with the word "eventual" (and its adverbial form) for two reasons: the words are common in both English and Italian and their improper usage can bring about a real misunderstanding.

"Eventual" in English means that sooner or later something is going to happen. But in Italian "eventuale" means that it might happen. There is no equivalent term for "eventuale" in English, nor is there an equivalent for the English "eventual" in Italian. What do you do in such cases? You come up with a periphrasis, that's what. That means a phrase or combination of words that is a substitute for a word.

Let's look at some examples.

Eventualmente ti chiamo. Does not mean "I'll call you sooner or later." Does mean "I might call you." Not knowing the difference could invite relationship disaster. Not that relationships aren't disastrous anyway.

Per eventuali problemi, rivolgersi al ... Does not mean that you are going to have problems necessarily. Does mean that if you should have problems, you should contact ... whoever.

He'll eventually get a job. This should of course not be translated with the Italian "eventualmente," but with the phrase "prima o poi."

In translating "eventual" or "eventually" into Italian, you will probably use the words "prima o poi" or "infine" or " a lungo andare." Or similar terms.

In translating "eventuale" or "eventualmente" into English, you will use words such as "may" or "might" or "any" or "possible."

Don't despair. You'll eventually get it. Some of you, though, will eventualmente get it.