We’ve all been there at some point. Maybe you’re at bat for kickball in gym class and you picture yourself doing this awesome Pele-worthy shot but Ack! you misjudged your aim and all of a sudden you’ve done this jerky duck-step over the ball and now your’e crumpling chin-first into the pitcher’s Pumas in the kind of slow motion that lets you see everything coming but leaves you powerless to do anything but yelp in mourning (and in slow motion) for the drop in social cred you are about to suffer the instant you hit that floor while two periods of Mr. Smith’s gym class watch you take yourself immediately to last-picked for all of your future physical education classes.
Yeah, I did that. More than once. (Even despite my superb ability to collide head-on with key members of the opposing team in football or anytime really, rendering them temporarily incapacitated and leaving my teammates to score or touchdown or run as many bases willy-nilly as their feeble preteen hearts desired)
Picture that kind of Middle School terror but with the language you use and the words you say as an adult. Except you don’t know because most people, aside from teachers, are too polite to tell you.
The fact is, foreign languages are hard. No matter how much reviewing you do, you aren’t going to get anywhere if you don’t play around a little and let yourself make mistakes. The best thing, I think, is to laugh about it and move on.
“I’ll have a chicken juice, please!” to the waiter at the Library of Alexandria or “Me ten years old!” to the security guard at the grocery store. “The street is very scared,” said sagely at the Thanksgiving party or “I am so snake!” to a bewildered taxi driver.
Here, for your perusing pleasure, I have listed some of the sillier language gaffs I’ve heard over the past semester. Most of these are Egyptians trying to speak English. I’d list more of mine, but either I don’t make enough or people around me are hesitant to alert me to my mistakes. Egyptian dudes, especially, seem to think it’s adorable that a little blonde Western girl is trying to learn their language, so I make my toddler-speak sentences and everybody claps and feel like I’ve just won “most-improved” in Pee Wee tee-ball… Anyway:
- Ouch! I stuped my toy!
- We will make a chicken=We will check in.
- Ew! That makes me want to pook! (puke)
- queasy-state = quasi-state
- Whose nose? = Who knows?
- Hello. Bitch? = Hello, foreigner. Do you wish to enter the beach?
- To pee or not to pee
- It’s so excited = It’s so exciting
- Beer in mind
- go with the flu! = go with the flow!
- I’m so easy! = I’m very flexible
- intercourse = discourse
- We will not let him get late! (read that one aloud to know what I mean)
- Cut the crab!
- I’ll have beetch! = I will have some peach (gelato)
- the Egyptian delicate = the Egyptian dialect
- the best one so far: one of my classmates was trying to make a comparative-superlative sentence using Goldilocks. Our fusha professor turned to the class and asked “Googlelax?! Who is Googlelax?”
And a cautionary tale: pay attention to pronunciation!
Dave was a pretty cool dude in my German class. He could conjugate verbs well, had enough vocabulary to talk about going to the supermarket for a good five minutes, and had a solid comprehension of Oktoberfest. The only problem was that he was overenthusiastic about certain words and the teacher either didn’t notice or didn’t have the heart to correct the poor sap, since Dave didn’t know exactly how important the subtleties of “schw” versus “zw” in German pronunciation. In most cases, he’d be well understood, but in one case the problem was particularly severe:
Dave had no idea, but 20 in German is “Zwanzig” while what he was saying, “Schwanzig,” though sounding appropriately Deutsch to the untrained ear, means “Penis-y.”
We staged an intervention.