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Foreign language boo boos

What have you accidently done, due to language misunderstandings.
11 years ago, October 30th 2008 No: 21 Msg: #52963  

One that makes me laugh is when Americans talk about their fanny packs. :D

TeeHeeHee! Check out posts 20 and 21 of the following. :D

What is your favourite outfit for travelling?
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11 years ago, November 19th 2008 No: 22 Msg: #55005  

.. well... a certain part of the male anatomy.

Now, I remember another one. That part of the male anatomy seems to cause a lot of them. :D

One time I was in the baby changing room of a cafe in Germany when my daughter was 3. A women with a 5 week old baby was in there. When she took off the babies diaper, my daughter pointed and said, ''that baby has a tail''. The woman asked me what my daugher said. Tail in German is about the crudest, rudest slang word for it available. The women was looking at me with that proud, new mother look, hoping for a compliment about her baby as I tried in my head to find a translation that did not sound like something from a porno flick. :D
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11 years ago, November 19th 2008 No: 23 Msg: #55039  
B Posts: 171
i have to confess to having made the mistake of asking my spanish flatmate
"estas caliente?"
she thumperd me in the arm and explained. this means "are you horny" not "are you hot"

another day i offered a chicken sandwitch but mistook the word "pollo" for "polla"

meaning i actually said - would you like a dick sandwich?
another thump in the arm....

its one good way not to forget what a word means.!

also i will never forget the day she told me she was "constipada" .. which actually means you have the sniffles.

and one day in ecuador i mistook the word "dueño" (landlord ) with "duende" and asked the (coincidentally) small girl at reception of my hostel if she was the leprechaun!
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11 years ago, November 20th 2008 No: 24 Msg: #55051  
B Posts: 52
A few tips for those travelling to China:

1. Avoid saying "what's up" to close acquaintances here. In Chinese it sounds like you're saying "I f****". Since many Chinese are not familiar with colloquial English phrases you may get some funny stares.

2. If you see a bee that might sting someone, don't say aloud "BEE!". "Bee", it turns out, is also one of the most vulgar words in the Chinese language, referring to the sexual organs of a woman in a very demeaning way (all languages have them I guess...).

3. Be mindful of tones when ordering dumplings in Chinese, and make sure your Chinese friends help you. If you ask "how much is it for dumplings?" in the wrong tone you may end up asking "how much is it to sleep with you?".

Fortunately I've only found myself in the first circumstance. I was warned about the other two by coworkers who have many stories of foreigner mishaps so I plan not to repeat them! Reply to this

11 years ago, November 20th 2008 No: 25 Msg: #55094  

"estas caliente?"
she thumperd me in the arm and explained. this means "are you horny" not "are you hot"

For anyone learning German, watch out for that one too. Just about every English speaking foreigner learning German comes to Germany and announces that they are frigid by translating ''I am cold'' directly into German. :D
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11 years ago, November 21st 2008 No: 26 Msg: #55201  
The worst foreign language issue that I ever have is when I'm visiting amsterdam, holland.
I was shopping in a local shop and there is a woman that keep on talking to me all the time. And I'm completely speechless.
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11 years ago, February 27th 2009 No: 27 Msg: #64258  
My boyfriends French work colleague just came out with a good one. :D

He said to one of my boyfriends other colleagues ''I have already stress DJ(my boyfriends name) with this, so can I show it to you''.

What he meant is that he has already told my boyfriend about it and now wants to pass the information to the next colleague it concerns. Reply to this

11 years ago, February 27th 2009 No: 28 Msg: #64280  
Last week I asked for a bottle of ice tea with a red roof ("krysha" in Russian), not a red lid ("kryshka"). Not especially embarrassing, but I got a sympathetic look from the lady in the shop!
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11 years ago, February 28th 2009 No: 29 Msg: #64320  
When I was a college boy I took a young British couple to somewhere in town, that was an assignment from my professor. I was concerned the possibility of pickpocking and trying to alert'em that. The trouble was I told'em "watch your tolet" in staed of "wallet".

Most of time native speakers can fingure out some wierd CHINGLISH through by guessing, but I guess this time was really hard for'em. They stared at me for a while and I could see that they were trying to catch what I really tried to express. Unfortunately they failed. I can still remember the wierdest looking on their faces.

That really really sucks and I'm so so sorry about that.

Since I picked up my current job which English needs to be pretty much used I made up my mind to terminate stupid mistakes and I found a smart way--watching movies. I now own over 500 DVD, all holywood movies. The new issue is those "dirty words" in movies. That's absolutely a challenge for a Chinese who only use a definitely correct OXFORD dictionary to skip all those bad parts that I'm not suppose to command or even use'em in reality till I found an amazing web site--Urban dictionary, meanwhile subtitles do a lot of help as well, and I'm now using both of'em. The way is I play subtitles while watching movies so that I can fingure out which part I should skip. hoho Reply to this

11 years ago, March 7th 2009 No: 30 Msg: #65208  
This gave me a really good laugh! It reminds me of when i was living in France for a while and the guys used to have a good time amusing themselves at my expense with the following question
"Je t'allume?" To me, this meant "shall i light your cigarette for you?" was always accompanied with a lighter or match so I thought it was very innocent and could not understand all the giggles that happened when I replied "oui, merci"
Turns out it also means "do i turn you on?" Oh dear!\

By the way, If you come to England with a fanny pack on, we'll probably laugh anyway, even if you remember to call it a bumbag. I suppose they are useful for safety, but they stopped being a desirable piece of luggage in about 1993! Reply to this

11 years ago, March 9th 2009 No: 31 Msg: #65410  

...even if you remember to call it a bumbag.

Bumbag could also be interpreted as a rude word by some. There seem to be few words in English that cant. :D

I was on a flight from Dublin to Munich one time. There was a stewartess in her 50s serving on the flight. She found out that a 20 year old guy on the flight was gilted by his future wife and this was supposed to be his wedding day. She stopped with her trolly beside him and spent the entire flight saying comforting things(that probably completely embarassed him). Like a lot of Irish women of that age she didnt realise how many double meaning phrases she was using. Every time she would say one of these things, the guys pack of 20 year old friends would throw bumper packs of condoms around the plane which other people would throw back and all the other Irish people including the younger stewartesses would snigger. She seemed so unaware of the scene she was causing. The Germans on the flight did not understand the double meanings so just looked bewildered by the chaos and now and again ordered something from the air stewartess who would ask people to pass it back to them so she would not have to leave her role of comforting the gilted guy.
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11 years ago, March 9th 2009 No: 32 Msg: #65411  

That really really sucks and I'm so so sorry about that.

At least it will give them something to post on this thread. 😉 Reply to this

11 years ago, March 19th 2009 No: 33 Msg: #66560  
This one isn't so much a foreign language, but a huge difference in English:

So my partner and I were testing out tents in the REI in Seattle. I had asked him if we wanted to get a tarp to put under the tent in case of rocky or muddy ground. So he then turned to the sales lady to ask if she had any hootchies. I fell over laughing and the sales lady had no idea how to react.

To an Aussie who has spent time in the military, this term refers to a multipurpose tarp that serves as a tarp, shelter, poncho, carrying sheet, you name it.
To a North American, it means something entirely different. Reply to this

11 years ago, April 2nd 2009 No: 34 Msg: #68024  
This one is not exactly about foreign languages, but I thought it was a funny misunderstanding.

When I was in Mexico, I met a girl who was disgusted by a guy who gave her his Hotmail address. She said, there is no way she wants to email a guy so arrogant that he would call his email Hotmail. I explaned to her that he did not name it that himself, and it is the name of the email service and I told her what my hotmail address is. She decided she would email the guy afterall. Reply to this

11 years ago, July 2nd 2009 No: 35 Msg: #78161  
There is one I often hear in German.

When someone does not have a third level education they say they are not educated. Calling somebody uneducated to me is calling them bad mannered. I usually apply that expression to somebody I consider to be an oaf. :D
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11 years ago, July 4th 2009 No: 36 Msg: #78385  
B Posts: 119
I once responded to a guy in a KFC in Prague asking me what sauce I wanted with my meal with the expression "je mi to uplné jedno", which I'd heard my friends use in conversation and believed it to mean "I don't mind", but its actual implication, as I found out when I got home that day, was more like "I couldn't give a toss". Reply to this

11 years ago, July 4th 2009 No: 37 Msg: #78399  

One time I was in a shop in Germany with my daugher when she was 2. She took some toothpaste off a shelf and put it on the checkout counter. I didnt want to buy it, so I put it back on the shelf. The check out person asked me where the toothpase is, because she thought I wanted to buy it. I told her in German that I put it back. She looked a bit annoyed. Later I found out that what I said was I dumped it back. She told me to show her where I had put it, and at the time I didnt see why she was making such a fuss about my having put something I didnt want back. :D Reply to this

11 years ago, July 7th 2009 No: 38 Msg: #78707  
B Posts: 602
Growing up with a business that is international - I have a great many stories of such. What is strange is how many of them are English to another English idea.

Example: A guy from Australia was out shooting bow and arrow with another group. He had just moved here. He wanted to say "Why don't you come pick me up some time?" But he used a phrase from back home which was, "Why don't you come knock me up some time?" To be knocked up here is to be pregnant.

When I was 17 I was in England. I was staying with business associates. We had gone to dinner one hot and muggy night. The lady of the house kept saying how she was 'hot and bothered'. It was more than this poor kid could do to keep a straight face on that one. It is a crude way of saying you are very turned on here.

They kept laughing at me when I would make statements. Like one time they needed to turn around and I said, 'Why not just make a U'ie?' U'ie being a U-Turn.

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11 years ago, July 7th 2009 No: 39 Msg: #78737  
B Posts: 171
my mother sometimes tells the story of the time when we used to run a guest house, we would often have french , italian and spanish families staying with us.

early one evening we got a knock on the kitchen door, when my mother went to see, the french lady asked "can we have a nighty?". my mother was perplexed !
(a nighty being a nick name for a womans night gown" and this was an unusual thing to ask for.
anyway when my mother found her one, we realised this was not at all what she wanted..

she had been asking for an "high tea !" which is a term for an evening meal which is not used around here.

interestingly though, you could argue that the french lady was saying it right using "an" with a silent "H", even though im enclined to say that most english speakers would ignore that and say "a high tea"

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11 years ago, July 11th 2009 No: 40 Msg: #79192  
I suppose many Italian speakers have made the mistake of asking for donkey, instead of butter in Spanish speaking countries. :D
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