Language faux pas’ or stuff ups can make even yourself laugh at your own mistakes. Sometimes we can’t understand what we have said wrong, while everybody about you is falling about the place laughing. But when we look back it even brings a smile back to our faces.
The first language mistake I can remember is when speaking German. I was doing an English- German language exchange and while speaking German, I confused the word to take of a piece of clothing with a grammatical structure called a reflexive verb and next thing I know she corrected by telling me that I was telling her I wanted to take off all my clothes. Basically get naked.
Another time in France, I was at a formal meal, and some other guests asked me a question about Australian wines. I’m not a wine conoisseur and simply repeated something I’d read in the newspaper about how Australian wines, achieve a taste that makes it more popular with wine savvy people. In French I said we put preservatives in the wine. Some jaws dropped. So I consulted with my cousin a French native speaker, what I should have said. To clarify the situation in French preservatifs= condoms. So we essentially were putting condoms in the wine. After the consult my cousin, he provided me with a word “conservateur” that sounded adequate and when I change the word, everyone seemed pleased more so about my improvement with my French.
French has also provided me with a great source of delight. One time I told a girl I was a nudist “Je suis un naturiste” and straight away I realised my error that a naturist is a false friend in French and quickly corrected myself, basically saying that I like nature “J’aime la nature” instead, and I was forgiven.
One time in McDonalds in Toulouse, France I had trouble with a possible Russian speaking French when ordering, and had to change my English pronunciation of English words, to something more French and then he understood me straight away “Je voudrais un McMonoo McBackonn” I want a McBacon Menu.
I have also heard of some other great ones where a Spanish native decided to translate ‘cabbage’ from Spanish directly to English. So ‘Repollo’ became Re-Chicken instead of cabbage.
I remember an acquaintance who once lived in Switzerland tell me she mispronounced feet in German and told them she had two left pussies (female genitals).
And on the internet I remember reading a story about a person in Germany who through mispronunciation ordered, ‘silly sausage’ and ‘leather cheese’ Bloedwurst and Lederkäse.
It’s easy enough to make the mistakes and give a laugh you will always remember. I’m sure you there are more of you out there with some great anecdotes. We would all like to hear from you.
- Language exchange 2 (streettalksavvy.com)