Favorite mistakes (your own or someone else's) made in language class

I took French in high school in the sixties. One girl was supposed to translate * Il a un poisson,* meaning “He has a fish.” She rendered it “He has a poison.” Everyone laughed.

One of the most common mistakes students in beginning (or later) Russian make is to not paying attention to stress and mutation. These are both real important things.

When a student misplaces the stress in the verb “to write,” it becomes “to pee.”

Misplace the stress in the word
“family,” and it becomes “semen/ seed.”

Mispronounce the first letter of the word
“long ago” and it becomes “shit.” (or maybe crap)

“There is nothing you ought to do, for the simple reason that you know nothing, nothing whatever- make a mental note of that, if you please.”
-V. Nabokov

Not in class, but in Japanese we have ‘oya’ for ‘parents’ and ‘baka’ for ‘fool’. So ‘oya baka’ is used in a friendly way to refer to parents that are gaga over their (in most cases) newborn.

However, to switch the words around ‘Baka oya’ comes out more like ‘ya fuckin bitch’ which is how I referred to my mother-in-law who was doing a little fawning over my wife.

You should have seen her eyes.

Speaking of Japanese, I still don’t understand it, but accidentally adding “-san” to the end of your own name used to just tickle our teachers to death. All they would say is that it “sounds funny.”

Guess it’s one of those things you have to be a native speaker to understand.

staying with the Japanese…the word for the number 9 is Kyu, or sometimes Ku. Add the suffix -sai to a number, and you have an age. My friend was teaching a group of kids, and it was one little girl’s birthday. He asked her, Are you ku-sai? Kusai means stinky.

Well one of the mistakes most people in Spanish classes forget is the proper translation of the verb “gustar” which means “to please” and NOT “to like”. I heard many people say “me gustas” when talking to friends in the class, which has a sexual connotation (and means: you please me).

My problems were forgetting the genders of adjectives and accidentaly using a feminine form to describe myself (I am a guy).

‘The beginning calls for courage; the end demands care’

Not really a mistake, but once in French class I was busy staring at April Ludwig’s legs when the teacher asked me a question. I replied intelligently “Deuh?” which happened to be the right answer. I was asked what French was for “two” (deux). Lucky break on my part.

While in France, a guy (American) in the same hotel was eating breakfast next to me. When asked by the waitress if he wanted more coffee, he replied “Si.” I don’t think the waitress even blinked.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

This is one of those " It sounds funny in english" things.

To say " Have a good trip." in German is
“Habe eine gute farht.” (Have a good fart, for you linguistically challenged :slight_smile: )

Never ceases to bring a round of chuckles from the english speaking folks.

I once confused the words soap and soup in Spanish class, so my sentence came out as, “I wash my clothing with soup.” Nobody would have caught it if my teacher hadn’t turned red from laughing so hard.
There is a method of training for long distance running called “Fartlek” (Swedish for “Speed Play,” I think) My junior year in High school, our cross country coach printed up T-shirts that said “FARTLEK: It’s a running thing. You wouldn’t understand.”

In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King.

In American Sign Language, the sign for ‘work’ which is the two wrists one on top of the other, is often confused with the sign for ‘fuck’ which is the two wrists together.

I ask someone new to sign [they don’t know the F word sign yet], ‘What did you do today?’ They often say, “Fuck’d”

In freshman year Spanish class, I made an error in my notebook. I didn’t even know I’d made it until my teacher corrected me after i used it on a test. The mistake? Mierda for mieda. :o

Just so the laughs aren’t solely at my expense, I’ll relate this nugget, said by a French exchange student whose English was less than perfect.

I love clowns, they make love to children. . .


We all stared at her, and it took her a moment to realize why.

“Oh we were brought up on the Space-Race, now they expect us to clean toilets. When you have seen how big the world is how can you make do with this?”
Pulp, “Glory Days”

From Chinese class, where I got the name–

Chinese has no word for “no” (as in yes/no); you have to combine “not” (bu) with the verb. The verb “to be” is “shi”. The “” means both are pronounced quickly with a falling tone. So the response to “Ni/ ba\ba shi\ dai\fu ma?” (Is your father a doctor?) is “Bu\shi” If you say it quickly, and you aren’t too practiced, it sounds remarkably like “bullsh*t”

(It wasn’t me, it was my friend Megan)

When I was taking German in high school, one of our assignments was to read a paragraph (auf Deutsch, naturlich) out loud in class. The subject matter was something to do with driving to another city. As soon as I hit the word kilometer, which in German is pronounced “kee-lo-MAY-ter”, I dropped into my customary drawl and said “k’lomiter”, then shifted back into approximately proper pronunciation for about two more words before my teacher shouted out “Nein! Nein! Kee-lo-MAY-ter!”. I hadn’t even realized I’d read that one word in Amurrican before she brought my attention to my error.

A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.

I had a Spanish class with a guy named Jason, who usually went by J. T. On the first day of class, the teacher asked what his name was, and he answered with his initials in Spanish, jota te.

That was how we learned that the Spanish word for “fuck you” is jodete. For the rest of the year, he was known as Jason.

There was a girl in one of my Spanish classes who could never remember that the way to say “I’m hot” is tengo calor, and instead she kept saying estoy caliente, which means “I’m horny.”

French class–part of the lesson was on foods. One of the foods was “green beans” or “haricots verts.”

One student, when telling what the family had eaten actually pronounced “amicaux verts,” which I don’t think actually properly translates to anything meaningful, but it’s close to “green friends.”

Our teacher chuckled at this and said, “Oh, ils vient de Mars?” (Oh, they come from Mars?) I apologize to any French speakers/linguists–but it’s been 20 years.

4 days ago–
Que haces en casa?
(what do you do at home)
Necesito Limpiar mi madre, es sucio
(i need to clean my mom, she’s dirty)

The girl couldn’t figure out why the class was cracking up

I was walking down the street when something caught my eye… and dragged it 15 feet.–Emo Phillips

Someone said to me, “Make yourself a sandwich.” Well, if I could make myself a sandwich, I wouldn’t make myself a sandwich. I’d make myself a horny 18-year-old billionaire.

Allow me to clear up my last post. Mieda is Spanish for “fear.” Mierda means “shit.”

On a latin quiz, we were supposed to give the Latin for fruit,' which was fructus, -us.’ One of my classmates, after the quiz, asked, “What was fruit (froo’-it)?”

(Because fruit looks like a third person singular verb in Latin.)

The following two anecdotes are not exactly language mistakes, but…

Once, my Spanish class got embroiled in a discussion on the difference between “perro” (dog), and “pero” (but). This one guy stood up and said, “So, if you get them mixed up, you’re essentially saying ‘I did my homework, dog my but ate it.’” And then, as laughter spread through the room, he realized exactly what he had said…

Another Spanish teacher I had demonstrated the importance of knowing the local dialect with this story: It seems there was this guy, from somewhere in South America, who was on vacation in Mexico. Anyway, he needed to go somewhere, but did not know where the bus stop was. So he asks this guy sitting on a bench: “Perdoneme, donde puedo tomar la guagua?” The Mexican promptly fell off the bench, laughing. You see, in the part of South America that our protagonist was from, “guagua” means bus, but in Mexico, it means “dog”. And in Mexico, “tomar” (to take) carries the additional meaning of “to sodomize”… Our tourist friend was very lucky, though. In some countries, “guagua” means “baby”.

Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!