Language Fails 1

If you have spent any amount of time learning a language, you’ve made a mistake!  The trick is to not let it scare you away.  The best way is to learn to laugh at yourself.  Here are some of our language and culture learning fails.  Feel free to share your own, and if we like them, we’ll share them in a later post.

My seeing-eye broom.  (David)

While out walking with a friend one evening, we had to cut through an area with no street lights.  Thinking of the light on my phone, I confidently announced to him, “Don’t worry, I have a broom in my pocket!”

Where are we now? (David)

While driving across Eastern Europe with some local friends, one of the men in our car received a phone call from the people we were going to visit.  “Hey guys, where are we at?” he asked, to which I attempted to reply, “We are smack-dab in the middle of nowhere.”  They started laughing so hard that the driver almost lost control, and I later found out I had said, “We’ve been slap-dropped square in the center of no place.”

Shiver me timbers! (David)

While in another city with some friends, one of the women in our group became frustrated over something.  I tried to tell her that maybe it would help her to relax if she took a walk around the city.  Unfortunately, the name of the city resembled a certain part of a ship in her language, and I basically told her, “Why don’t you just go walk the plank and get over your attitude.”

Identity Crisis (R. from Texas)

I was overseas on a business trip, and tried to explain to some Russian colleagues that even though I speak several languages, I don’t know Russian.  So, I wanted to say, “Ya ne znayu rusky,” but what I said was “Ya ne zhena ruskaya,” which means, “I am not a Russian wife.”

Strange relations (D. from Minnesota)

A friend of mine was visiting Honduras and had a chance to spend some time with some local friends.  He had visited them once before and had seen some of their family out riding horses.  In the field near them, he saw a familiar animal, and wanted to say “Mira, ahí está el caballo de tu tío,” which means “There is your uncle’s horse.” Instead, he said “Mira, tu tio es un caballo,” and through tears of laughter, his friends six-year-old son explained that he had said, “Look!  Your uncle is a horse!”

About the Author: David

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