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Funny language situations


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I was driving by the train when two girls came to me and asked if I could help them. They were from Mexico and wanted me to help them buying tickets. We drove by the train to the station and went to the ticket shop.

The women there asked me where they want to go and so on. Then she asked me what language they speak. I answered: Mexican.

Well, not quite funny. More embarassing

How about you?

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One of my classmates was in Peru, and spoke some Spanish.  SHe was trying to be friendly with a waitress so was talking Spanish. She wanted to say she's 21, but mispronounced the word for age, and said she is/has 21 anuses.  OOOPS

When she figured out why the waitress was laughing she was so embarrassed and wouldn't try speaking Spanish to anyone after that.

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In Germany, I had saved up enough Marks (In the 80's there were still marks) to get a perm in my hair. I stopped by a local shop and made an appt. When I got there, I tried to convey that I wanted a "body perm". Their eyes got pretty big because  I used the word for "dead body". Oops!

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In Germany, I had saved up enough Marks (In the 80's there were still marks) to get a perm in my hair. I stopped by a local shop and made an appt. When I got there, I tried to convey that I wanted a "body perm". Their eyes got pretty big because  I used the word for "dead body". Oops!

Leiche?

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English lets us all meet new people and communicate with them, even though at different levels. However, believing English will convey everything is not always so smart, especially not when the other person of the conversation is a beginner of English.

So, as I have stated in several posts, my boyfriend is from Turkey, and thinking about funny language situations reminds me of the night we went out the first time about 1,5 years ago. We were out on a club and I still did not know his name (my friend and I had been with a larger group where he was in also, but I had not talked to him). I had asked him one or two times, but the loud music was making it hard for me to hear what he said, so when he said he would put his number in my phone I got secretly happy, because I thought it would be too embarassing to ask his name again.

The name he typed in my phone was 'Darling'. And I just decided that I would let it go. We would probably not meet again anyways, so why did it matter what his name was?

However, two days later we were still together, and I still did not know his name - so I had to ask his friend to not only say his name, but also spell it out. The funny thing is that his name is like the most common name in all of Turkey.

How this is a funny language situation is not really about the language itself, but a factor that many forget because they believe that English will get them anywhere. Cultural differences, and also societydifferences, vary so much that the information that is transmitted in the English may be understood differently in a conversation.

Like when I for example accidentally told him that I make about 30,000 dollars every month because I calculated wrong. In Turkey, Swedes are seen as rich, so he did not correct me.

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I had a friend who used to teach English and would often use the phrase "Take it easy" when saying good bye.

After several weeks of this one of his students asked him if he was afraid of him or something. After some confusion and back and forth he realized this student was aware of the use of that phrase to ask for calm and was wondering why every time they talked my friend urged him to chill out!

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I heard a story about a Filipino elevator operator at a hotel and a Filipino hotel guest. When the Filipino guest got into the packed elevator, he greeted the operator in Filipino, he then asked him the question "Bababa ba?" and the operator quickly nodded answering "Bababa". The other people in the elevator were stunned and couldn't figure out what language they were speaking. Baba means down and ba-baba is a version of this word meaning going doing, and ba is a work used to ask a question is Filipino example, umuulan ba? is asking is in raining? in English.

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I heard a story about a Filipino elevator operator at a hotel and a Filipino hotel guest. When the Filipino guest got into the packed elevator, he greeted the operator in Filipino, he then asked him the question "Bababa ba?" and the operator quickly nodded answering "Bababa". The other people in the elevator were stunned and couldn't figure out what language they were speaking. Baba means down and ba-baba is a version of this word meaning going doing, and ba is a work used to ask a question is Filipino example, umuulan ba? is asking is in raining? in English.

Wow, I would have ask myself what language that is and if any at all.

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We Dutch people believe we are excellent English speakers, and we're proud to demonstrate. We get English classes in school from an early age, we mainly have American and British shows on tv that are all in English, just with Dutch subtitling, so we do learn a lot, but that can lead to many funny situations when overconfident Dutch people try to communicate in English.

There's a word for our escapades, and it's listed on Wikipedia: Dunglish (a portmanteau of Dutch and English).

Although I assume it's funnier when you know Dutch, you might still have a laugh. One of the more famous anecdotes is the one where an English speaker says to a Dutch man how nice the weather is: "Spring is in the air." The Dutchman, confused, answers back: "Why should I?" as 'spring' is Dutch for 'jump', so the man thought he was asked to "jump in the air".

There's a Facebook page that frequently posts such Dunglish phrases, it's called Make That The Cat Wise. Probably funnier when you actually know Dutch though :P

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I heard a story about a Filipino elevator operator at a hotel and a Filipino hotel guest. When the Filipino guest got into the packed elevator, he greeted the operator in Filipino, he then asked him the question "Bababa ba?" and the operator quickly nodded answering "Bababa". The other people in the elevator were stunned and couldn't figure out what language they were speaking. Baba means down and ba-baba is a version of this word meaning going doing, and ba is a work used to ask a question is Filipino example, umuulan ba? is asking is in raining? in English.

That's really cool. If I was in that elevator I would be confused too. I can only imagine how unique the words get from there haha.

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I heard a story about a Filipino elevator operator at a hotel and a Filipino hotel guest. When the Filipino guest got into the packed elevator, he greeted the operator in Filipino, he then asked him the question "Bababa ba?" and the operator quickly nodded answering "Bababa". The other people in the elevator were stunned and couldn't figure out what language they were speaking. Baba means down and ba-baba is a version of this word meaning going doing, and ba is a work used to ask a question is Filipino example, umuulan ba? is asking is in raining? in English.

Haha. I have experienced this one and the foreigner in the elevator was stunned for a second there. Thinking we were minions (Despicable Me). Haha. This is a very common instance here in the Philippines. Bababa ba? Bababa.

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Me, my friend and her boyfriend are having dinner. Her BF is american. My friend is telling us something about her childhood friend and her friend is a GUY. Sometimes she will use HE, sometimes she will use SHE in pertaining to her friend. Then her BF ask her " Babe is your friend really a HE or SHE, it's confusing. Then my friend got embarrassed and realized her mistake. We just laugh after. :wink:

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  • 7 months later...

My girl friend was mocked and talked about in New York as she traveled on the subway. She allowed the girls to have their way until she came to her stop she let them know all that they had said about her. They were quite shocked. If only they knew that she was a high school Spanish teacher none of it would have happened.

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A friend of mine went to buy some chicken at the market, but forgot the tonality for "chicken" so she took up an egg, and pointed to it, as she told the grocer in Mandarin, "I want its mother!"

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A friend of mine went to buy some chicken at the market, but forgot the tonality for "chicken" so she took up an egg, and pointed to it, as she told the grocer in Mandarin, "I want its mother!"

That's so funny! I've had to act out many situations when talking with foreigners, but thankfully, it never got to the point where I needed to be as drastic. I'm sure I'd resort to the same decision if it happened to me, though.

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Elly, I like that one. How did your friend ever think of such dramatization. That must have caused everyone to have a good laugh. I hope your friend wasn't embarrassed. :grin:

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I'm sure its par for the course that when words fail, miming things out can be roughly international...but maybe that's for another thread.

She wasn't embarrassed, since that was quite creative and by all accounts the chicken was delicious  :grin:

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