When learning legal terminology in a bilingual context one of the first pitfalls encountered are so-called “false friends,” words or expressions that appear to be cognates, but are actually unrelated in meaning. Many years ago I set about identifying the “Top 40 False Friends in Spanish-English Legal Translation.” As the list grew I had to change the title to “101 False Friends.” In my collection I now have well over that number and will be sharing some of them in this blog. To be fair, many are only partial false friends that may actually be cognates when used in one branch of law, while perhaps qualifying as false friends in another legal practice area. And in some instances the cognate may simply not be the most appropriate rendering in legal contexts.
colegio electoral ; Electoral College
With the upcoming November elections in the US and with two general elections in Spain within the last six months, perhaps this is a good time to take a look at these obvious “false friends.” In current Spanish usage colegio electoral denotes a “polling place” or “polling station”, i.e., the place where voters cast their ballots on election day. In contrast, in the US the Electoral College is a body of electors from each state who every four years elect the President and the Vice President of the United States. By tradition, the US President and Vice President are not elected directly by popular vote, but rather voters in each state elect a given number of electors to the Electoral College who, in turn, then elect the President and Vice President.