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Foreign language boo boos

What have you accidently done, due to language misunderstandings.
12 years ago, September 2nd 2008 No: 1 Msg: #47609  
One day, while my friend and I were traveling through Germany, we were very hungry. Though we didn\'t have much money, we decided to stop at a village market to get a little food. I chose some cheap cookies and went to the front counter to pay. Near the counter I saw some packaged cookies in a large bin. They looked good and they were a lot cheaper than the ones I had in my hand, so I took them instead.
We left the store and found a quiet place under a tree and we ate her sandwiches first, and then we ate my cookies. we thought they were great. \"Let\'s get some cookies again,\" I said. \"They are very cheap and they really taste good.\"
My friend could read some German but I couldn\'t. I gave her the package so that she could look for its name. She looked at it carefully and then started to laugh. \"Why are you laughing?\" I asked, \"Because they\'re dog cookies!\" She said. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 2nd 2008 No: 2 Msg: #47610  

So there wasnt a picture of a dog on the packet then?

I hope you dont mind that I changed the title of your thread. I think there are many of us who have made funny mistakes due to not knowing a particular language. It would be interesting/funny to hear everybodies stories.

When I was working in Ireland I was asked to take some calls comming in from Italy because there was nobody Italian there one morning. Everytime I picked up the phone and said something in English the Italian person on the line would impatiently say Pronto Pronto! I know some Spanish and pronto in Spanish is hurry up. I wondered why all these people kept telling me to hurry up when I had just picked up the phone and hadnt even asked their names yet. After a few pronto prontos they would hang up. I told my supervisor that I wasnt having much luck with solving the problems because they seem to think I should know what they want without my asking and they keep telling me to hurrry up and then hanging up before I get a chance to ask about the problem they are calling about. When the Italian supervisor arrived she told me that pronto means hello. She said the Italians I got the calls from are cranky because they dont like to speak English even though they all can. :D
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12 years ago, September 3rd 2008 No: 3 Msg: #47746  
When I studied in Russia, me and my classmates all lived with elderly ladies, and the first few evenings were uncomfortable for all of us, trying to bridge the language and cultural barrier. My friend (who spoke the best Russian) came to school one day and told us that instead of saying to his landlady "Gde vasha vannaya, mne nuzhno bryt'sya" (where is your bathroom, I need to have a shave) he said "Gde vasha vannaya, mne nuzhno bit'sya" - where is your bathroom, I need to beat myself up!

My favourite one from Ukraine is hearing about a man confusing tsukor with suka and offering his mother in law a bitch with her tea, not sugar!
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12 years ago, September 3rd 2008 No: 4 Msg: #47829  
B Posts: 71
Brazilian Portuguese is a funny language... As I have been learning I´ve been finding out there are subtle differences between words with vastly different meanings.

One time I went to a juice bar to get myself a cup of açaí, a delicious snack made from açaí berry and a bit like a slushy. I asked the guy in my rough portuguese for an "açaí grande". He gave me a strange look then a bit of a grin when he then yelled out to the guy who makes them either "Um açaí com pão" or "Um açaí com pao" Both seemed wierd because the first one means an açaí with bread and the other means an açaí with.. well... a certain part of the male anatomy. The açaí arrived and it all seemed normal, although I wasn't about to dive in since I didn't know what he said to put in it. Maybe he heard my gringo accent and thought it funny to screw me over. So I asked the guy what he said and what was in it. He said "Não, eu falei copão!!" which means "No I said copão!!" In portuguese copo means cup but when they want to say big cup they use the augmentative form which is copão... We don't really use the augmentaive form in english. All three, com pão, com pao and copão sound almost exactly the same to the untrained ear. So he wasn't trying to screw over a gringo afterall. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 3rd 2008 No: 5 Msg: #47834  
B Posts: 140
An Ecuadorian friend of mine was giving Spanish lessons to an American girl who was trying to say that it was a great shame (pena) that her boyfriend wasn't there with her as she missed him a lot but just kept going on about how her boyfriend had 'mucho pene' or 'muy grande pene' ('pene' - to borrow a phrase from above - is a certain part of the male anatomy.) He failed to see why she had a problem with this!

Another common problem would be the Estoy caliente/ Tengo calor, in Spanish or Ich bin heiß in German. Always a very easy one to get wrong as saying 'I am hot' in English is perfectly fine. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 4th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #47885  
When I moved to England, my English wasn't really good. I started working in a coffee place and my first ever customer asked me for a latte, to which I reacted giving him a large-tea.

I also got very confused with kitchen and chicken, and more than once I had problems with guy and gay.

The worse, though, was when I told a customer to "have a shit", instead of "have a seat".

Most of the people, can hear the accent and they understand that I don't mean it bad, and most of the time we have a laugh together when they explain me what I've done!!!!! ;oP

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12 years ago, September 4th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #47886  
How long ago was it? Your English now is brilliant!

My favourite mistake that Russian-speakers make when speaking English is saying 'magazine' for the Russian word for shop, magazin: A Ukrainian colleague saying she "found her boyfriend in a magazine", not "met him in a shop" :-) Reply to this

12 years ago, September 4th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #47901  
Well, thanks Jonathan... I've been living in England for the last 6 years... Reply to this

12 years ago, September 4th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #47973  

....the first one means an açaí with bread and the other means an açaí with.. well... a certain part of the male anatomy.

This reminds me of an American woman I met in Guatamala. She told me her name is Ann and that is what I called her for the following couple of days. She then told me her name is not really Ann. It is Penny, but she tells people it is Ann when she is in Spanish speaking countries. :D Reply to this

12 years ago, September 5th 2008 No: 10 Msg: #48038  
B Posts: 38
Funny topic!

I remember one of my friends, just moved to the United States - the land of slangs. One of his first encounter was a guy at the airport bathroom, saying "What's up!". So naturally he looked up and was wondering the heck that guy was talking about.

Another friend - she too just moved to the United States from Indonesia.
In Indonesian language, both the color 'brown' and the candy bar 'chocolate' is called 'Coklat'. So at her first day at school, she was frantically walking around the Iowa State campus, which has color-coded public transportation bus system, looking for the 'chocolate' bus. Imagine what people would react when she approached them and asked where to find 'the chocolate bus' with her broken English.

I came an encounter with a couple American tourists on the train to Venice from Rome - they have passed their destination of Florence and didn't get off the train when they were supposed to. So when the train ticket guy came to check their tickets and informed them that they have to pay the fare difference to a longer destination, the man got so angry and yelled (in English, of course!), 'What do you mean Florence is Firenze!!!'. Ah, ugly tourists.

Just be careful if you're tempted to speak some Cantonese in Hong Kong - if you want to praise a guy with 'Lei Hou Yan' (you're a good guy), make sure you say 'Yan' with the n. If you accidently say 'Yam' with the m sound, he has the right to punch you in the face - you are telling him that he is a pervert. Reply to this

12 years ago, September 6th 2008 No: 11 Msg: #48092  
B Posts: 12
I've lived in Thailand for the past 16 months and still struggle with the language. I think my biggest 'language mishap' was going around for about 3 months, thinking that I was politely asking people where the nearest toilet was, when I was actually saying 'I want a shit' aarrggh it still makes me cringe! Reply to this

12 years ago, September 6th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #48104  
B Posts: 228
I haven't had too many (yet!) language mishaps going my way, but when I was in South Korea the women at the hotel reception kept trying to direct my brother and I to the "terrorist information center". As someone mentioned above we, considered her accent and figured out she meant tourist information center. Lucky she was in wasn't in the US... directing someone to a terrorist anything over here would probably land her in jail!

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12 years ago, September 24th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #49707  
One that makes me laugh is when Americans talk about their fanny packs. :D The expression fanny pack is funny enough but the fact that you wear it hanging just below the waist makes it seem like they call it a fanny pack for the reason that we call wrist watches wrist watches. :D

I haven't had too many (yet!)

I bet you call it a fanny pack? :D
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12 years ago, September 26th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #49962  
B Posts: 228
Hehe i try not to use the term too much, as I know what "fanny' implies to some of the British :-) but i suppose i do call it that when i have to use the term for some reason. And I probably cursed myself saying I haven't had too many, I'll sure embarass myself soon! Reply to this

12 years ago, September 26th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #49964  
I dont think I will be able to call it a fanny pack, even in the US. Well, maybe if I feel a need to swear in the US, I will say 'Fanny Pack!!':D Reply to this

12 years ago, October 22nd 2008 No: 16 Msg: #52261  
Well, I haven't travelled outside of the U.S. too much, and I keep feeling so intimidated with everyone having been to all these fabulous places....but on our first trip to Italy, I thought I'd get by since my Spanish is fluent. Boy, was I wrong!

When we were in Pompeii, I jumped out of the car (as my husband double parked like a lot of the locals do) and I went into a post office since I needed to mail some post cards. I stood in line. I started sweating as the line got closer to the window. When I finally got up to the post guy, I froze. He looked at me. Nothing could come out of my mouth. He started rambling in Italian and carrying on about something or other. I placed the post cards on the counter, he kept on. I finally just through my money on the counter and said, as I flapped my arms, "I don't know! I just want to mail these post cards to the U.S. and I want them to go air mail!" -- everyone in line started roaring. I wanted to die. The man took my money, gave me my change and smiled and patted me sweetly on my hand.

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12 years ago, October 23rd 2008 No: 17 Msg: #52348  
I just had a conversation with a local here in Bangkok who wanted to know what I thought about the American erections. I about fell out of my chair, but when he asked about Obama I knew he meant "elections". Reply to this

12 years ago, October 27th 2008 No: 18 Msg: #52590  
B Posts: 83
When I was in Japan, I once did an all-nighter on a weekday (never do this by the way). Therefore, I was trying to buy an energy drink before work the next day but had no idea how to say "energy drink" in japanese...so I tried my best with the limited vocabulary I have...so I used the phrase "genki drink" (literally, excitement drink)

I got a bottle of something at a ridiculous price (equivalent to $30US), chugged it straight and then later at work, I got hard. Found out said "genki drink" was liquid viagra. Hilarity ensues...

I've written about it on my blog in this entry.

This occurred about a year ago... Reply to this

12 years ago, October 27th 2008 No: 19 Msg: #52596  
John and Lynne, maybe the man in Bangkok had met Gen a while earlier? :-) Reply to this

12 years ago, October 28th 2008 No: 20 Msg: #52688  
It may be an urban legend, but when I went to University of Edinburgh there was a story of a young foreign guy, staying with a family, who was told by a fellow student that to have a "wank" was to take a nap.

His first night he comes down the stairs, finds his whole host family already at the table, eating, starting at him. He says, "Sorry I'm late. I was just upstairs having a wank."

Still makes me chuckle. Reply to this

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