There are some words in different languages that might look the same and sound the same…but they don’t mean the same! That’s why they’re called ‘false friends’.
While learning Polish, I’ve been tricked quite a few times. Here’s one of the worst (because it meant waiting for beer):
Myself and two friends once took an overnight train from Warsaw to Dresden. Before we left the station, the conductor came to our sleeping compartment, checked our tickets and said ‘if you want anything to eat or drink, just come to the last compartment where you can buy snacks, water, juice …’i ewentualnie piwo’.
Our ears pricked up at the word piwo – it was the start of a long weekend and we fancied a beer or two – but what did the conductor mean by ‘ewentualnie piwo‘?
None of us spoke Polish very well and we assumed that ‘ewentualnie‘ means the same as ‘eventually’ in English, meaning ‘after a period of time’ or ‘at the end’.
‘So we can buy beer eventually. What does that mean?’ asked one friend.
‘Maybe it means that we can buy it after a certain time or point in the journey?’ I replied
‘Yeah, they’re probably picking up the beer in Wrocław and we’ll be able to buy some after that,’ another friend agreed.
So we waited a few hours, checking our watches every few minutes and looking out of the window.
‘Any sign of Wrocław?’
‘No, we’re in somewhere called Leszno.’
‘Are they loading beer onto the train?’
‘Can’t see any.’
The journey was agonizingly slow, but finally the train passed through Wrocław and we went to buy three beers.
In a cruel world, there wouldn’t have been any beer left…but the train was quiet that night. Strangely, the beer was from Elbląg and it wasn’t even on the route!