Learning a foreign language: What wrong or obsolete words did you find in textbooks?

When I first started learning German, I bought a small paperback introductory book with line drawings captioned by phrases and words. The word Rock was defined as a man’s sport jacket, but I learned later that it really means ‘skirt’. Imagine the hilarity that would have ensued if I hadn’t gotten that straightened out before I went to Germany.

Similarly, I was taught that gehen means “to walk” or “to go”, and that laufen means “to run”. But when I got to Goettingen, I found that people seemed to use laufen to mean “walk”. “Run”, IIRC, was expressed by the verb rennen, which does seem to make sense.

So when learning a foreign language, what similar experiences did you have?

Hah, hah, hah. My high school French teacher taught us that “baiser” means “to kiss”. Well, it used to. It doesn’t anymore. I did get that wrong in classic manner. (Now it’s more like “to fuck”.)

Oooooh, I went to Göttingen too! Ain’t been colder in my whole LIFE. I’ve got a picture, taken after a snowstorm, of a tree where the right half of the tree is white and the left half is black, the wind had been terrible.

Most of my stories are either about my own language and differing word usages (each synonim of “take” is a dirty word in a different country; let’s not go into the many meanings of food items), or about pronunciation problems.

I discovered the dirty meaning of “beaver” in English after writing a Beaver Pond in a MUD. My English “walker” (editor) hadn’t thought about that meaning at all. I didn’t even know it. Over 2/3 of the playerbase didn’t know it, so they learned a new dirty word when someone freaked out and turned all my beavers into otters (pure ctrl-H substitution, so you got otters building a dam and so forth). That same person decided it was about time we got rid of the Magic Shrooms; the coder who got the “refood project” was my walker. Now you can eat your date, your banana, your nuts, etc.

I was quite in shock when I got to New Hampshire at 19. In Ireland, where I’d been at 15 with a group from my school, most people had gotten my name right on the first try; strange things happened to some vowels but in general our English was adequate enough to understand and to make ourselves understood. In NH, the a in my name (a as in cat) somehow got turned into an eh (UGH) or an o, people would choke trying to pronounce my poor name, and we all got laughed at for pronouncing the letter t. Yes, they even laughed at the british. Uhm, sorry, but didn’t they kind of invent English? As a Scot once said in a different context, “damn colonials!”

My name is Mariluz. Pronounced Mary-Lou. And that a is, quite surprisingly, an a, damnit! Not an e or an o. In Ireland they get it right, sniff

Going to Philly was even cuter. First, I found out that there are people in this world who, not being content with writing Shakespeare and saying Chéspir, write Schuylkill but say Skokie. Which must be linked to them being the only people ever who treated the CH in my lastname as a K. CH like CHocolate. Thanks for trying! The Italians know that a Spanish CH is equivalent to their CCI, not their CH (which is a K), they got my name right.

I also was ordered to take English lessons. Kind of wondered why, since I’d already lived an worked in the US for over 4 years, but hey, it was Company Policy for people from non-english-as-official-language countries. I had an interview with a guy from the language school and he told me that I had quite a heavy accent which would have been all right in, say, Texas or California but was not in Philadelphia and that they’d teach me to speak Philadelphia English. I explained that my “aksent” is definitely much worse when I’ve been working for 14 hours, the last 3 on the phone in Spanish (as was the case); I also asked whether they could teach me Texan instead. He blinked. Twice. Said something very articulate, like “uh?” and I explained that half the people I’d be working with were either from or in Texas, so I figured that Philly English wasn’t necessarily all that good of an idea. Oh, other customer locations included South Carolina, California and Kentucky, which as I’m sure y’all know are either locations renowned for having specific accents - or the locations which he had used as examples of places where a Hispanic accent would be fine :stuck_out_tongue: It took him about a minute to recover and offer Neutral American Business English. OK, that I’ll take.

Uh, you keep some strange company - *moves away from Zsofia *

Yes, *baiser * is the one that first came to my mind too.

I lived there for a year and we only had two good snowfalls the entire winter. The thing I remember most about German weather, or at least in that part of Germany, is constant. cloud cover. and. dampness. It hardly ever actually rained, but was misty or drizzly almost the entire time I was there. Then, during my last two weeks, it was hot and clear like a Chicago summer.

I also went on a tour of Andalucia and the Madrid region once, in early Spring, and I remember it got quite cold in the mountains north of Granada. The Sierra Nevada is the name of those mountains, right?

That was the one that leapt to mind for me too. Luckily it wasn’t me that learned it the hard way, but a friend did when he tried to say something in class about kissing his mother on the cheek at the airport! :eek:

At least in that case it was an outdated dictionary at fault, and our teacher set the whole class straight on the actual meaning of the word these days.

Well, I didn’t learn the really hard way, but I was trying to talk about a movie to the desk clerk in a hotel in Paris, who set me straight in a hurry.

What company do I keep, pray tell? Can’t you imagine a thousand examples in which you’d need the word “kiss” and be very unhappy if that wasn’t what it meant?