False friends are always fun to deal with, and I saw a pretty good example today in a social media post by a Brazilian who was trying to translate “Fui alfabetizado nos Estados Unidos” into English. Obviously as an English speaker, you automatically try and englishify it as “I was alphabetised in the United States”, imagining João arriving at the airport and being placed in an ordered list between Joana and Joaquim.
It’s a lovely image but no, it’s not that, obviously. Alfabetizar means to teach literacy – so he was taught to read and write in the United States. It’s not a very common word, but you’ll see a related adjective – analfabeto (illiterate) – quite often when people are criticising each other’s poor grammar online so hopefully it won’t be that hard to remember.
And are you ready for the word to use when you need to put your words in alphabetical order? It’s “alfabetar” without the iz. So not that different, but you probably want to keep them straight in your head or you’ll get funny looks when you explain to someone that you have been procrastinating from study by teaching your CDs to read. In fact, if they’re under 25 you night have to explain to them what a CD is first.