As someone who has taught in other languages and currently lives in a non-English speaking environment for most of the year, I am aware of some interesting “cross overs” in the sound of a word….that has nothing to do with its actual meaning.
When I’m teaching my students (who all speak a local tribal language called Khasi at home) I know that sometimes they dissolve into giggles at a new word which obviously sounds like something with a totally different meaning in their own language. I only speak a few words of Khasi but I know their word for ‘rain’ is ‘slap’ and the word for ‘morning’ is ‘step’, so sometimes I have to remind myself we are not hitting anyone, it’s raining and we’re not climbing up the stairs, it’s just morning!
English has such a vast vocabulary and Khasi was an oral language until about 250 years ago so has limited scope. I am constantly trying to persuade my students to use words other than ‘beautiful’, ‘nice’ and ‘said’. The more they can try to think in English the easier it gets for them.
Many educated people in the country speak a variety of languages and dialects and put most of us English speakers to shame. But I’m sometimes unsure how well they actually put those languages together. I taught Spanish for a while to business students and they tried to translate from Hindi through English to say something in Spanish. Two memorable mistakes are when they tried to say ‘watchdog’ and ended up saying a ‘dog wearing a watch’ and a ‘vessel’ (the old-fashioned word for a pot or pan) and came up with cooking ‘rice in a ship’.
Language is just fascinating and when you love to write, the amazement grows!