Monday, January 30, 2012

Poop and Scoop (or Carry)

Scoop that poop.
A few unfortunate pronunciation mistakes I have made are with the word "cargar" which means to carry or haul, but for some reason with my American accent it sounds more like "cagar" (to sh!t) to Spanish speakers. I also have had trouble with "cancha" (field), because sometimes it sounds like "concha"--which literally means "conch shell," but is also a very vulgar term for a part of the female anatomy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Matters of Life and Death

Answer: Death Valley.
Learning to speak Portuguese can be especially frustrating when you sit next to a know-it-all native Spanish speaker. I couldn't help but smile when my classmate, intending to ask a native Brazilian where she lived ("de onde você mora?"), instead asked, "de onde você morre?" ("Where did you die?").

-Tracy Thorsen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Compliment the Chicken

Knit your own poulet.
I had a teacher tell me a funny story about a time in France--she was trying to compliment a friend's sweater ("pull") and with a mispronunciation complimented her chicken ("poulet"). "Hey, I love your chicken. Looks soft. Is it new?"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beano Might Help
More beano!
 In Italian the word "scoraggiare" (to discourage or to dishearten) differs by only one letter from the verb "to fart": "scoreggiare." One time during a church meeting I tried to encourage the members to not be discouraged during the week, however, amidst a few smiles from the elderly, and raucous laughter from the children, I quickly realized that I had encouraged the entire congregation to try not to fart during the week.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Am Beautiful!

Some things you just can't hide.
While learning Dutch, some friends and I were leaving our dorm to enjoy the beautiful weather in the quad. Suddenly, one of my friends who was somewhat shy but apparently had a sudden burst of confidence, stood up on a bench and exclaimed "Ik ben mooi!" (I am beautiful!) While the statement was true, she's the modest sort of girl who wouldn't normally shout that across the quad. We all got a good laugh as she quickly corrected: "Wait, I mean; Het is mooi! Het is mooi!" (It is beautiful!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nice Little Monster Souvenirs
Monsters and postcards living in harmony.
When I was in the States my friend took me to a mall where I could get some souvenirs. She was American but spoke Polish to me as she had lived in Poland some years before. We stopped by one of the shops where my friend tried really hard to convince me that I could get really nice little monsters there. Little monsters are "potworki" in Polish. After about an hour stopping by many other shops I realised she meant postcards, which is "pocztówki" in Polish. I will never forget that one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Wonder Moses Was So Mad

Probably the same look Moses had on his face.
While serving a Spanish-speaking mission, one day my companion and I were giving a gospel lesson about Moses. My companion stumbled over his words and we all just listened patiently as he slowly put the story together. 

He said, "La gente abajo estaban . . . haciendo . . . uh. . haciendo. . . " (All the people below were doing . . .uh . . . doing . . ." 

He just couldn't come up with a good word to explain how Moses' people were misbehaving. The man we were teaching finished his sentence for him with "Un orgia" (an orgy). Ew. 

My companion, not recognizing the word, thought that it sounded right and said, "YES! Exactly. An orgy." He continued to explain that the people were orgying and orgying and that we need to fight in our personal lives not to fall into the bad habit of orgying. I don't think a missionary has ever used the word "orgy" so many times while teaching about the Bible. Good advice really. We all learned something that day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Woof Woof, Barf Barf

Downward Facing Dog
As I was learning to speak Malagasy, my group and I all got one phrase mixed up. While talking about prayer, instead of saying, "nandoalika" (meaning "knelt down"), we all said, "nando alika" (meaning "the dog threw up").

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So Wet

Caught in the rain.
An older American woman in Germany wanted to tell people how nice they were, but she kept saying the wrong adjective. Instead she told them, "Sie sind so nass, so nass!" (You are so wet, so wet!)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Russian Sugar

What a new missionary wanted to yell across the store to me in Russian: 

"Нам нужно купить сахар." (Nam nuzhno kupitʹ sakhar, or, "We need to buy sugar!")

What he actually yelled:

"Нам нужно купить суку." (Nam nuzhno kupitʹ suku, or, "We need to buy a b!+$h!")

Friday, January 6, 2012

Proud Partygoer
Proud weekend partygoer.
In German, I got the words "aufgeregt" (excited) and "ausgezeichnet" (awesome) mixed up, so for a long time I would say things like “Am wochenende werde ich zur Party gehen, also bin ich sehr ausgezeichnet." (During the weekend I'm going to a party, so I'm awesome.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eating Poop

Dagny in Brazil
Notice the lack of coconuts (and poop).
In Brazil:

Me: Eu não gosto de comer cocô. (I don't like to eat poop.)
Brazilian: Não? Eu acho que ninguém gosta! (No? I don't think anyone does!)
Me (looking confused): Ohhh. That's right. Eu não gosto de comer coco. (I don't like to eat coconut.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Michael Jackson

You didn't know he was Taiwanese, did you?
During my second trip to the U.S. (I'm from Taiwan), my mom enrolled me in a summer day care program, in hopes that I would learn English.

One day during recess, I was standing next to three classmates.

One asked me, "Michael, what's your last name?" I gave a puzzled look. She asked again, "What's your last name?" Again, I gave that confused look. She said, "You know, Michael . . ." and paused after my first name.

I thought maybe she was asking if I knew any famous people named Michael. So when she gave her last attempt and said, "Michael . . . you know, Michael what?" I blurted out "Jackson." Immediately the three burst out laughing, and I realized that I had said something completely out of context, but I still didn’t know what “last name” meant.

To make matters worse, the same girl later asked the teacher to ask me the same question once we returned to the classroom. Again I said, "Jackson." That's when my teacher politely corrected me and told me, "No it is Tsai, your last name is Tsai." That's how I learned what a last name is.