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Thread: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

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    Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    Alternate titles; how to learn humility while increasing your vocabulary or how to learn the simple words you missed out on while studying the more sophisticated words in your textbook.

    I am an American living in Morocco where a local dialect of Arabic is the primary language. I have studied many different languages and have achieved varying levels of fluency with each. Learning a new language is hard work and requires a sense of humor and the ability to not take yourself too seriously because you will make mistakes, some of them quite embarrassing.

    I thought I would start a thread where we can share these sorts of experiences. This first one is a made-up example to get us going. If there's interest in the thread then as we get going I will give a few real life examples from time to time...I could actually write a book and fill it with personal language learning embarrassment stories.

    This is a made up example of what it's like living in a land that speaks a different language. I've lived this scenario several dozen times, but with different vocabulary.
    Setting: store that sells beads

    Clerk: Hello, may I help you?
    Me: Yes. I can't remember what it's called, but I need a special kind of bead.
    Clerk: Can you describe it.
    Me: It's flat, round, and has four holes in it. You sew it on clothes so you can open and close them.
    Clerk: Um...do you mean a button?
    Me: Yes! (excitedly) That's it! A button. Do you sell buttons?
    Clerk: No. This is a bead store.
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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    one time i said "j'ai l'envie de toi" in lieu of "je t'envie" to a parisienne.
    that was interesting...

    a close friend of mine speaks romanian. i said "te iubesc" (meaning 'i love you'), and (as i thought) she replied "when you say that, say i also." i thought she was correcting me for leaving off the subject pronoun, but she actually said "when you say that, i say it too." needless to say, my romanian is not so great.

    i was a little embarrassed when i asked my 10th grade spanish teacher what "cabron" meant.
    Last edited by dbbolton; January 2nd, 2007 at 12:16 PM.

  3. #3

    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    how to learn humility while increasing your vocabulary or how to learn the simple words you missed out on while studying the more sophisticated words in your textbook.
    So true. Keep it simple and things go so much better.
    Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. Abigail Adams ( 1744 - 1818 ), 1780;

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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    Don´t know if this qualifies but...

    When I was very young, one of my teachers noticed a bandage on my hand one day and asked me how I had injured myself.

    I was very shy back then and nervously replied that I had a few warts on my hand but my mother had been applying Preparation H® to them. Although, as you know, I should have said, ¨COMPOUND W®¨ instead of ¨Preparation H®¨ as the former is a wart removing compound, while the latter is a hemorrhoid ointment.

    Of course she, and the rest of the class burst out laughing but through tears the teacher was able to reply, ¨you had better watch what you put on that hand¨.

    I thought the teasing would never end for that one.
    |~Comfortably Numb~|

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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    I was trying to complement our hostess when my wife and I were invited to a friend's house for a meal. I intended to say, "You are a very good cook." Instead what I said in Arabic was, "You are cooked very well," which could have multiple meanings including the flirtatious (and somewhat off color). Luckily my wife was there and the person I said it to knew where I was in the language learning process and we all had a good laugh.
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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    During my student days, many moons ago, I and a few of my friends went to Amsterdam for a short holiday. We were in a bar one night, where we met up with a few German students who we had never met before.

    Although we couldn't speak German at all, and they could not speak much English, we all got on really well, and had a great time drinking and chatting to each other as best we could.

    One of the German students, whilst lifting his drink in the air in a gesture where we would say "Cheers!", asked us,

    "In German we say 'prost', in English you say?"

    "B****cks!" was our reply.

    We spent the whole night saying "B****cks!" to each other when we should have said "Cheer!s"

    The next day I had the mother of all hangovers, but we had a great night.

    I wonder to this day if German friends still use the same expression when out drinking with their friends.

    Cheers!

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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    i'm pretty much way too lazy to learn a foreign language (those people have a different word for everything! wtf?). at one point, though, i knew how to say f*** you in sixteen different languages.

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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    Learning another language gives you a different view of their culture, you can read all you want about another culture in your own language, but until you try to speak the other language you don't know anything.

    My italian teacher always said that if you can say bad words in the other language you are a step closer to mastering it.
    First they ignore you.Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you.Then you win.Gandhi
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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    Quote Originally Posted by scrooge_74 View Post
    Learning another language gives you a different view of their culture, you can read all you want about another culture in your own language, but until you try to speak the other language you don't know anything.

    My italian teacher always said that if you can say bad words in the other language you are a step closer to mastering it.
    I agree with your teacher on both counts.

    BTW, I've learned lots of really bad words in Arabic while trying to say perfectly normal and acceptable words that unfortunately are quite similar to the bad words. Pronunciation is an important skill when learning a new language and it doesn't come all at once.

    Examples that have happened to me or friends of mine:

    -Going into a store thinking that a light bulb was being requested only to discover it was really urine that was being said

    -Asking if someone is enjoying the (fresh) air and accidentally asking if they were enjoying sodomy

    -Trying to buy a zipper from old men in the traditional cloth market and not realizing that the word being used is actually a slang term in Berber for a male body part (a woman did this...utterly hysterical!)

    -While trying to say "the other one" accidentally saying a crude slang term for fecal matter

    The list could be a lot longer...I've learned if people gasp or start laughing not to repeat the word but instead politely ask for help and describe what I'm trying to say another way.
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    Re: Funny language learning experiences, real or made up

    Hm, as every foreigner who comes to Holland should know the phrase "Neuken in de keuken" I teach it to a lot of my foreign friends. It is quite funny to see when they keep saying that in the weirdest places!

    (For those without the even the faintest knowledge of dutch it means... ahum... 'making love in the kitchen' ).

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