The "American English" thread got me thinking about the times I've inadvertently made an ass of myself when speaking a foreign language. I thought it might be fun to discuss. I've lived abroad for about 1/3 of my life. I speak French, passable Spanish and I know a little German (he's right over there - rimshot!). My most notable fuck ups: 1. At the end of a successful business lunch in El Salvador my new clients wanted to "hear the gringo speak more" - my Argentinean colleague explains they think my accent is cute. So I start inelegantly running at the mouth. When we were leaving, I announced that I was very excited to do business with them. Unfortunately I used the word exitado, which does mean excited, but was the equivalent of loudly announcing, "I'm so happy right now I have a huge hard-on!" When I went to shake their hands goodbye one of them said in English, "No, no, don't get up." 2. When I was 16 I lived with an exchange family in France. My first weekend we had a big family dinner, Mama, Papa, kids, two sets of grandparents about about half a dozen assorted relatives. The rule of the house was that I was forbidden from speaking English. They believed immersion was the only way to learn. Even though I'd studied French for a few years... as soon as you get off the plane the first time you realize you're screwed. I'm sitting in the middle of the family, everyone chattering away. I have bread in my hand, and I'm staring at a pot of jam that's just out of arm's reach. My French "sister" notices what's going on and says "Do you need that?" I nodded and smiled. "Then you must ask for it." Fucking bitch. As if it wasn't already obvious that I'd totally blanked on the word for jam (confiture). So I start thinking of possible words, my brain rapidly scrolling through English and Latin when it hits me. Jam = preserves. Preservatives. That's it! And I clear my throat and in crisp, perfect French I ask one of the grandmothers, "S'il vous plait, passez-moi les preservatifs!" The entire room abruptly went quiet. My French sister and brother stare in shock, then start laughing. What I asked their grandmother was "Could you please pass me some condoms?" 3. Same family two weeks later, ski trip, eating fondue. Mom asks if we eat fondue in America, and I say sometimes. She asks if we have any traditions about dropping your bread in the cheese. When I was a kid I remember a game that if you dropped your bread you had to kiss the person on your right or you'd have bad luck. Instead of using the verb "kiss" I thought of the noun "kiss"... which sounds like a verb... so I conjugated it and said that if you dropped your bread you had to "baise" the person on your right. French dad - who was on my right - did a spit take. The verb baiser doesn't translate perfectly to English, but basically means "to fuck, in a really dirty, raw, passionate way." 4. Running late and totally, hopefully lost in Paris I start franticly asking random people where the train station is. "Ou est la gare? Pardonnez-moi, mais ou est la gare?" Everyone looks at me like I'm on crack because with my American accent it sounds like I'm saying "Ou est la guerre?" Where is the war?