Worst/funniest language mistake you ever made in a foreign country

Worst/funniest language mistake you ever made in a foreign country


What's the worst or funniest language mistake you ever made abroad? (like the classic "embarazado" :D )

updated ENE 3, 2011
edited by crazyjugglerdrummer
posted by crazyjugglerdrummer
I said to a laryngologist in Germany "Ich habe ein problem mit meiner Schildkroete".. he answered "Ich bin aber kein Tierarzt". I wanted to say "I have a problem with my thyroid (Schilddruese), instead my turtle (Schildkroete). He said , he wasn´t a vet. - graceboas, AGO 7, 2010

30 Answers


En un restaurante en Costa Rica, lo que quería decir al camarero “Es deliciosa”. En luger de eso, le dije “Soy deliciosa”.

In a restuarant in Costa Rica, I wanted to say to the waiter "It is delcious". Instead I told him "I am delicious"

updated AGO 7, 2010
posted by razz
Did you get a date? What did he say? - ian-hill, ABR 17, 2010
He looked a little stunned. - razz, ABR 17, 2010
Ja ja ja - LuisaGomezBartle, ABR 18, 2010
hahahha very funny/ jajajajaja muy graciosa I am not surprised he looked stunned Rofl hahaha - FELIZ77, AGO 6, 2010
Thats great - Snowleopard, AGO 7, 2010

My first year learning Spanish. The hotel pool was so "chlorinated" my eyes flared up terribly. I promptly went to the pharmacy and said,

Me duelen las ocas. Tiene un medicamento por favor.

My geese are killing me. Do you have a treatment (cream) please.

I confused ojo with oja and pronounced the "j" like a "c"

updated AGO 7, 2010
edited by Eddy
posted by Eddy

Ah... at last a place to unburden myself of this shameful, embarrassing story I have been carrying for many, many years now!

Many years ago, when I was a mere Freshman at a small Community College in the US, still very wet behind the ears and clumsily struggling with my English, I went to the college's cafeteria for lunch, as usual.

I picked my food and sat down to eat with a fellow Latino friend. Then I noticed, sitting on a table across from us, a gorgeous girl, sitting with her lunch tray in front, and crying her pretty eyes out.

I was distraught, and my chivalrous instincts surfaced unstoppably. I was going to cheer this gal up and make her smile again!

I walked up to her table and addressed her: "Hi, I saw you crying, I know you're upset".

She was startled and, no doubt, embarrassed.

Now, what I meant to say next was something like: "I'm sorry you're upset, and it makes me sad to see you cry. Is there anything I can do to cheer you up?" so something to that effect . In retrospect, that would have been bad enough of course.

But what came out was something like: "I see you are upset, and your crying upsets me too. It's bad to eat like that."

Of course she burst into fresh tears, and I realized that I had just made it much worse. I could only say "Sorry!", and ran back to my table, where my friend just looked at me and said "you just screwed up, didn't you?"

I felt sooo bad!

updated DIC 1, 2010
posted by Gekkosan
Well *I* think you were sweet for doing that. - Lrtward, ABR 18, 2010
Heh-heh... my heart was in the right place, but my foot was squarely in my mouth!! :-D - Gekkosan, ABR 18, 2010
Yes, Gekko Your heart was in the right place :) - FELIZ77, AGO 6, 2010
Thats so funny - Snowleopard, AGO 7, 2010

Mi primera vez en Acapulco.... volví a la habitación muy tarde y quería ducharme pero descubrí que la camarera no había dejado toallas etc. Fui a la recepción y pedí toallas y jamón. First time in Acapulco... I returned to my room very late and wanted to shower but I discovered that the maid hadn't left towels, etc. I went to the reception and asked for towels and ham.

updated AGO 7, 2010
posted by margaretbl
Una vez, hablando de cosas que no me gustan comer, dije "No me gusta el jabón." - samdie, ABR 18, 2010
Gracias Samdie, asique no soy la unica que hice ese error. Si ve que no hay nada nuevo en el mundo, verdad. - margaretbl, ABR 18, 2010
Hey, towels and ham might come in very handy in the hotel room! - amykay, ABR 20, 2010
ja ja ja , una historia my graciosa :) - Gatosuerte, AGO 7, 2010
jajajajajajajajajaja - Blackbull, AGO 7, 2010

In Spain, when I was sitting on the grass, eating and enjoying the sun, one man came and imagined to give me a Spanish lesson. It's so funny now, because I knew NO words in Spanish (I didn't even plan to learn this language!) , and he did not speak English. So our conversation was showing fingers to each other, to grass, to a dog... And the most funny thing was that I thought his name was Hombre. It took a long time for him to explain what "hombre" is. LOL

Another funny situacion that happened not to me, but I saw it... In Sweden with English knowledge: in a bank a hurried women says to employee - hello, we would like to change our money because we have to pay for our cat. We left it in the parking. That cat was a not a cat for sure, but a car.

updated DIC 1, 2010
posted by swing
"showing fingers to" should be "pointing to/at" - samdie, ABR 17, 2010
Good job you explained it, Swing, I was trying to picture her driving her cat lol No doubt the engine would work purrrrrfectly :) lol - FELIZ77, AGO 6, 2010
haha... samdie, swing is learning spanish, not english. - RAWRKAL, DIC 1, 2010

Denmark - Just learning the language - had a date with a gorgeous woman - agreed to meet outside the national theatre at "half past seven" she agreed that it was "hal syv" Problem is that I turned up at 7:30 and she never showed up. Later realised that "hal syv" means half before seven - in other words 6:30. I wonder how life might have been if I had been able to understand Danish that day.

updated AGO 6, 2010
posted by ian-hill

classic embarazada but even worse:

am on a party were the crowd is mostly spanish speaking. People are superfriendly and keeps offering me drinks. Im starting to feel bit to tipsy and wants to neglect the drinks by saying: no thanks im getting a little bit drunk. but confusing the word borracha i instead say;

"no gracias, estoy un poco embarazada."

then i change my mind and takes the drink. (no selfcontrol) funny thing is that i keep doing it for the entire night. neglecting drinks by telling them im "a little bit pregnant" but then drinking it anyways.

updated DIC 1, 2010
posted by LovisaNordqvist
That's hilarious! - RAWRKAL, DIC 1, 2010

Estuve en Argentina, y el papá de mi amigo me dijo que iba a llover el próximo día. Y le dije, bueno, está bien, tengo mi parabrisas. Y el me miró con una cara rara y me dijó que no, lo que tienes es un paraguas.

parabrisas = windshield paraguas = umbrella

También, dije a alguien que me gustó el mate (un tipo de té) con mente (the mind) en vez del mate con menta (mint).

updated AGO 7, 2010
posted by Samantha-Gans
Tan pesado, llevar contigo un parabrisas... - tennismom, ABR 18, 2010
jejejejeje... - Blackbull, AGO 7, 2010

Supposedly this happened to a Spanish speaking friend of mine from Chile when he was just a young college student here in the US (though this story might be more of an "urban myth").

A professor was making small talk with him and asked him how long he had been speaking English, that it was quite good.

My friend replied, "oh, thank you, I have been here and speaking English for 2 years now. I am getting better but I am still having trouble with my bowels".

doh. He meant vowels, of course.

updated AGO 7, 2010
posted by northmargin
A professor of mine in Madrid made the same mistake when he first came to the U.S. When asked what he found most difficult about learning English, he said, "The bowels." - tennismom, ABR 18, 2010
obviously the b and v thing - BellaMargarita, AGO 6, 2010

There are 1000s of these little language anecdotes.

One of my favourites was a sign in a Romanian hotel.

The lift was out of order and a sign fixed to it that said in English.

"The lift is not working so you will be unbearable for the next few days"

updated DIC 1, 2010
posted by ian-hill
Very funny hahahahaha - FELIZ77, AGO 6, 2010

This wasn't technically a "foreign language" mistake, as I'm a native English speaker, but this occurred in Glasgow and I was traveling abroad at the time...

Picture the scene: it's just turned dark outside. I'm waiting for a bus when this obviously inebriated man comes wobbling down the sidewalk toward me. "Do you want to die tonight?" he slurred. At least, that's what I could've sworn he said. It took me a second or two to realize that, with his thick Scottish accent, he really was asking "Do you want a date tonight?"

Luckily, the bus pulled up right then and there.

updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by CrazyDiamond
muy divirtido, lololo, gracias - margaretbl, ABR 18, 2010

One time when I was in Spain, I went to a little cafe to get some lunch and wanted to ask for a ham sandwich. But since jamón and jabón sound so similar, I accidentally asked the waiter for a soap sandwich LOL ...thankfully, he didn't realise that I'd slipped up and I got my ham sandwich

On that same trip, my Spanish teacher made a much more amusing slip up in her English one night. We were all staying in a hotel, and late one night the phone in the room that my friends and I were staying in started ringing. It was a drunk Spanish guy, and my friend could barely understand what he was saying. She hung up, but he kept calling us again and again. Eventually he stopped, but then there was a knock on the door - he was outside! We called our Spanish teacher, who went and told him to leave us alone, then afterwards she came in and said to us 'Don't worry, girls, he won't be molesting you anymore'. LOL We just looked at her and nodded, not having the heart to correct her after she'd saved us from the creepy guy.

updated DIC 1, 2010
posted by femaleking

Sin duda ........mi primer intento de una frase en español :- "Hasta el año próximo" ¡No es difícil adivinar qué palabra pronuncié mal !

Without doubt ...my first attempt at a Spanish phrase :- "Until next Year" No prizes for guessing which word I mispronounced ! big surprise red face

updated AGO 7, 2010
edited by pintor
posted by pintor
My wife has just reminded me I could fill a whole page with my errors ! - pintor, ABR 18, 2010
oh.....i just got it....lololol! - Desael, ABR 18, 2010
that's hilarious! and I've just learned a new word!! - silverlake, AGO 7, 2010

I had really worked hard teaching myself Italian with compact discs, etc. So my very first encounter with actually speaking the language with a native speaker in Rome was pretty defeating (though funny).

I needed an envelope to put some valuables in for the safe in my room. So I went downstairs to the front desk and asked, "Signora, per piacere, ho bisogno di un busto." (Please, miss, I need an envelope.)

The two women at the front desk tried to mask their giggles. It turns out my mistake was that I had thought the word for envelope was masculine (busto). But the correct word is feminine (busta) and what I had actually said to them was, "Please miss, I need a corset."

One of the women looked at my waistline and said, "Ma, no, signore. No credo que ha bisogno di un busto. Ma...forse...una busta?) (But no, sir. I don't think you need a corset. But could I interest you in an envelope?") She knew exactly what I meant!

They actually really sweet women and later, during my stay in Rome, we joked about this quite a lot.

updated AGO 7, 2010
posted by nimrod

This one is from a Cuban friend/sister of mine...

She was meeting with her supervisor here in the U.S....the window was open to let in the fresh air, and, it also let in a few insects...as the insects flew around her, she swatted at them several times and said, ¡Ay, estos bichos me molestan!... Her male supervisor, a psychiatrist from Puerto Rico, where "bichos" has meanings in additon to "bugs", finally advised her not to use that term, as, in this area, where most of her clients were from Puerto Rico, and were male, might interpret the word differently. Her suprvisor explained the additional meaning, which I will refrain from due to the spirit of the site, and she was mortified...I don't think she has used the word since...other than to tell this story...L.

updated AGO 7, 2010
posted by Lucrecia
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