Cognates are words that share an etymological origin. Students of Spanish recognize that there are many cognates between English and Spanish, which allow learners to “estimate” what words in English would sound like in Spanish, and vice versa. However, there are also false cognates in the world, and this can lead to some potentially embarrassing situations.
According to the story, a sister missionary had arrived to a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America and was struggling to learn the language. When the bishop introduced her to the congregation, he asked her to come up and bear her testimony. Flustered by the request, she still dutifully went up and explained to the congregation to please bear with her poor Spanish. She was grateful for the opportunity to bear her testimony, aunque estoy muy embarazada debido a que el obispo. The sister missionary tried to say “even if she is very embarrassed because of the bishop.” Unfortunately, embarazada is a false cognate; it doesn’t mean “embarassed,” it means “pregnant.”
Needless to say, the reaction from both the congregation and bishop was not exactly what she expected.