Learning a new language presents a challenge, but it can be a lot of fun, too. Sometimes, it’s the challenges themselves that bring the entertainment! Bridge employees share some of the more humorous mistakes they have made while speaking foreign languages, from ordering the wrong foods to giving themselves strange medical diagnoses.
“When I was studying abroad in Japan in high school, I was still pretty unfamiliar with the language, and I frequently made slip-ups. One time, I was trying to tell my friends I was hungry, but instead of saying onaka ga suita (which literally translates to “my stomach is empty,” or “I’m hungry”), I said onaka ga suika, which translates to “my stomach is a watermelon.” Needless to say, I never lived that one down!”
– Alissa, Bridge International Program Advisor
“During my first semester studying abroad in Italy I visited a local farm stand. I started looking at the fresh fruits and veggies and finally made my decision and asked for what I thought were 6 beautiful looking peaches (sei pesche), but what I accidentally asked for was 6 fish (sei pesci). The man helping me burst into hysterical laughter and from that point on whenever I returned to that farm stand he referred to me asla ragazza di pesce (the fish girl). It was a mistake I never made again and the type of funny memory that makes learning a new language so fun.”
– Sarah, Bridge Social Media Specialist
“While in Mexico studying Spanish recently, I was shopping at a store and found a purse I wanted to buy, so I took it to the register. The woman informed me that they only took cash, not credit cards, and I had no cash on me. That was fine, I explained to her, because I needed to “tirar dinero” anyway, so I’d be back. Later, while I was waiting in line for the ATM, I realized that I had meant to say “sacar dinero” which means take money out, but instead I said I needed to “throw money away.” I guess she must have just assumed I was a frivolous spender!”
– Jen, Bridge Content Manager
“I was at a pharmacy in Paris with a cold and was a little out of it. I was asking for cold medicine and couldn’t remember the word for a cold (un rhume). I was saying froid, or I was cold as in temperature, instead of I had a cold. It took a little while and a few confused looks but we got there.”
– Colleen, Bridge Staff Accountant
“When I moved down to Costa Rica to do a 6-month Spanish program, I arrived semi-confident in my ability to speak Spanish. I had a low-intermediate level but could communicate fairly decently. When I arrived at my host-family’s home, I was trying to tell them something like “Hello. Pardon me, I am a little embarrassed about my Spanish.” I used the false-cognate embarazado to tell them that I was embarrassed. Embarazado means pregnant. They proceeded to congratulate me on my pregnancy after I shared the wonderful news! It was a very humbling experience!”
– Andrew, Bridge International Outreach Manager
Do you have a funny or embarrassing story about a language slip-up? Feel free to share it with us in the comments! If you’re thinking about studying a new language yourself, Bridge offers courses in all of the languages described above, and more! Browse our foreign language courses in Denver.