Foreign Language Accidents

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by hotbtminla, Jan 8, 2008.

  1. hotbtminla

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    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?
     
  2. Beanie

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    it know what you mean although i have never had the same experiences as you have.

    i have always thought that using the accent to the locals as closly as you can replicate to be important although it does leave me feeling a little stupid because you may seem pompus etc. but i think its the only way. being from the UK i think it is easier for us to use europian accents, dont know why just seems like it.

    If you dont want to sound like a fool i sujest japanese. i am studying it at the moment and it is very hard (i think so any way but im sure some one will dissagree) to pronounce the words correctly in your current accent, you seem to "drop" into japanese as the default for saying that word, but then again im not sure about the american accent but it works for me =]
     
  3. midlifebear

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    In Spain the verb coger is a perfectly good, everyday, common workhorse for to pick, to get, to collect, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. But everywhere outside of Spain coger means to fuck and often in the harshest terms possible. Why? Who the Hell knows. It's just happened over time. I speak Iberian Peninsular Spanish. I know it's wrong to use coger in every other country where Spanish is spoken, but I use it whenever I want to piss someone off who treats me snobbishly -- especially in Argentina.

    My worst outright dumb mistake was 10 years ago in Veracruz, MX when I stopped at an outdoor seafood taco stand and asked without thinking, "Quisiera tres tacos de maricas, por favor." I had meant to say mariscos, but somehow the one word in Spanish that transliterates into English as faggots slipped in. The poor woman running the taco stand just stared at me like a deer in headlights. Yes, I would like three faggot tacos, please. Why the Hell not?

    As for trying to replicate the local dialect, it can be a good idea. For example, if you can imitate Cheech Marín's "East El Lay" accent and apply it to speaking Mexican Spanish, you'll closely approximate the dialect of Baja (north and south), Sonora, and Chihuahua, MX. But when I returned to Barçelona after my first visit to Buenos Aires I had unconsciously picked up the very porteño habit of frequently saying "¡Que bueno!" This is tantamount to Valley Girl speech as in "like, ya know like . . . whatever!?" Not a good thing. As a result my best friends in BCN have given me the nick name "¡Que bueno!" Porteños are sort of laughed at, not in a mean way, but laughed at nonetheless because of their broad slurring of y's and ll's sounding them as zha instead of ya. And then there's the wide spread practice of phrasal inflection that sounds as if porteños are speaking Italian and not Castellano. I speak Castellano better than I do English and I cannot even begin to describe how many times I've been asked when I return home to Spain if I am Italian. That is one of the effects of over 10 million Italians have had by immigrating to Argentina from about 1900 to 1960.

    Al fin, no puedo quejarme de nada.
     
  4. dudepiston

    dudepiston New Member

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    This thread is fuckin hilarious! But it's also reason #347 that I'm not going to learn a foreign language, and travel to the country of origin & try to speak it. Not me! But it sounds like you've had some cool experiences, and I'm sure it was worth the embarrassment.

    :biggrin1:
     
  5. midlifebear

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    Beanie, if you can speak and understand Welsh I bow lowly before you as one who is unworthy. And while I'm down there I might suck you off. LOL!
     
  6. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    When asked what I wanted to drink at one place I asked for a Diet Coke with lime and translated it as, "Diet Coke avec l'agneau," because the damn tape I listened to in lab had a speaker who wasn't clear and I thought he was saying, "lime," when he was actually saying, "lamb."

    The waiter looked at me, started arguing and then stomped off and later padded the bill. Yeah, it was Paris. Rudest fucking city on the planet.
     
  7. HazelGod

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    When I started working in the real world, my first several weeks were spent handling corporate desktop PC support for Dell. Suffice it to say that on the corporate side, you get a lot of calls that sound the same...failed hard drive, failed monitor, broken CDROM, repeat...it's pretty routine, and at times I would just go on autopilot.

    The first moments of every call were scripted...we got a tag number from the caller to ID the machine with the problem. Entering this tag in our system would also pull up the customer's name and account info, which we had to verify with them.

    So one day I'm trudging along through the day, when a woman calls from California...from a town whose name I've heard before, but never actually seen in print. So, I ask her to verify that we have her correct address, reading the info I saw on my screen using standard English phonetics. She burst into laughter, and told me that yes, the address was correct, but she was pretty sure the name of her city was pronouced VEE-YA LA HOYA!
     
  8. Tristessa

    Tristessa New Member

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    I married a Swede (now divorced) and lived in Sweden for several years. The first time I met his parents, I tried to speak Swedish to them, but didn't always know the word to use. Sometimes I Swedified an English word, because it often worked . .

    It had been snowing a lot outside, and we had used little plastic sleds to slide down the hills. She asked in Swedish what we had been doing and I tried to tell her. I couldn't think of the word for *to slide*, so I just took the English word and tried to make it fit. What I said was *Jag tycker om slida* = I like to slide. What I actually said was "I like cunt".

    I should mention here that his family was atypically (for Sweden) very religious, but they took it well after a few seconds of jaw-dropping silence.
     
  9. drumstyck

    drumstyck New Member

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    in high school french class, one of the girls had "Violent Femmes" scribbled on her notebook...just like we all had bands we liked decorating our stuff...and one day she left the class for a minute for whatever, and the teacher saw her notebook on her desk...the teacher then told the student she should get a new notebook, because someone was harassing her or something...we were all totally confused...turns out "violent femmes" translates to "to rape women" or something similar...so our teacher thought someone was leaving threatening notes on a girl's notebook, not knowing that the Femmes were a band :)
     
  10. midlifebear

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    In Spanish pollo means chicken as in chicken meat. Pollo asado = rosted chicken. The word poalla (or poallo, depending upon your accent) is common slang for penis. Early one morning while shopping in the open market I ran into some female mormon missionaries all scrubbed clean and shiny who recognized me as an 'Merichun. Such fresh innocent things. They chatted me up and after getting past the "What do you know about the mormon church and would you like to know more?" rap I gained their confidence by explaining I grew up in Ewetaw. They asked for my help identifying the names of food and how to order in metric measurment. Imagine my evil joy when I had them convinced that the polloria (poultry vendor) sold poalla(o), not gallos or gallinas (live male and female chickens) and poalla(o) was what they needed to ask for if they wanted to buy a whole dressed chicken for Sunday dinner.

    Since I changed medications I'm much nicer person, honest. (NOT!)
     
  11. Andresito

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    Great thread.

    I don't remember any accident, but I do recall something.

    Last year Marilyn Manson came to BA, and I went to see him in the hotel the last day the were here (BTW, the stupid fuck never appeared and escaped)

    Some groupies they were making fun of one of them because she asked one of the band members if he was feeling confortable. But she just said "contable".

    Anyway, after making a show of an hour with more than 22.000 people on the stadium that sure had sense.
     
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