As we complete our final week of language school, we wanted to share with you all some “mistakes” we made over the past 6 months in Spanish. When learning a new language, we have found that the slightest mistakes (a vowel, a stress syllable, or even the incorrect usage of a pronoun) can change the entire meaning of what we are trying to communicate. Below are some of our favorites.
Burro vs. Torro
One day when trying to pay me a compliment, Missy wound up calling me a donkey (aka jerk) instead of saying that I’m a “strong bull” because I always carry her stuff for her.
Tu estas vs. El cafe esta
I have often asked, “when did your body split open?” when asking people when their cafe opens for business every day.
Toquete vs. No toque
One of us told the 1 year old girl who is the grand niece of our host mom not to touch herself when trying to warn her not to touch a fragile nicknack in the dining room!
Protégeme vs. Protegerlo
One night while praying, Missy asked God, “please protect me from my husband,” instead of “God, please protect my husband.”
Me huele vs. Puedo oler
Instead of commenting on the delicious aroma of fresh baked banana bread, we communicated, “I stink.” Our host family overlooked the odd proclamation until we realized what was said. Much laughter occurred and we got to eat the bread without incident. I showered immediately thereafter.
Guapo vs. Gordo
In response to discussing my unhappiness with my weight, Missy reassured me by saying, “you’re not handsome, you’re fat!” effectively mixing the two words in the sentence. I’m grateful she loves me even if I am!
Hoja vs. Ojo
During the last bout we had with amoebas, we learned that the Guatemalans make tea from the leaves of a tree here to kill the parasites and soothe the stomach. Our house mom was cutting branches from the neighbor’s tree to make us tea. In trying to joke, we told her that she stole the neighbor’s eyes. Her immediate confusion led us to realize that we had not said leaves as we had intended. She still made us tea despite our bogus accusations.
And the most common mistake of people learning Spanish:
Hambre vs. Hombre
I HAVE MANY MEN! This is exclaimed instead of the intended phrase, “I’m very hungry” because of how Spanish describes hunger as something to have, not a state of being. In trying to say “I have hunger” we accidentally tell the world something completely different.
We have gotten used to people looking at us funny or conversations taking a wrong turn when these or many other linguistic mishaps have occurred. We also have become better at recognizing our mistakes faster before people get the wrong idea!
If nothing else at least these mistakes have given us something to laugh about during the stresses of learning a new language. We hope they brought a little humor to your day as well!