Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fighting Carrots and Purple Sugar

Michael and I have been keeping track of a few of our language "mishaps."  Because today was our last day of classes I thought I'd share a few of our favorites. Just like in English, at times there are words in Spanish whose meanings change with only one letter, or even more difficult, the same word can have different meanings depending on how the word is pronounced or the context.

Here are a few of our best (or worst) language slips:

1. When we were first here Michael went to the local tienda (small store on the street) to buy some saltine crackers because he had an upset stomach: 

"Tienes calcetines?"

In English this would have sounded like, "Do you have socks?"
Saltine. Calcetine. So close. Yet so far.

2. One day we saw the cook at our school peeling carrots really well with just a knife, producing thin, long peels. In awe, Michael said,

"Tu peleas la zanahoria muy bien con la cuchilla."
[Insert blank stare.]

The word for peel [pelar] and for fight [pelear] are separated by one measly "e." Therefore, Michael informed our wonderful cook that,

"You fight carrots really well with a knife." 

In the conversation we also informed her that we normally use a special tool for peeling carrots. This must have come out sounding like we have a special tool for fighting carrots.

3. At a Father's Day party at our girls' school we were talking with another couple. They live near a place we had visited and we were trying to tell them we had stayed in a Catholic retreat center there. Michael told them we stayed in a "retrete." They insisted that that couldn't be the right word and we didn't know how else to say it. Later, Michael looked up retrete in the dictionary. Apparently,
it's the polite way to say toilet. I'm not sure how that couple kept a straight face, but they did.

4. I was translating a scones recipe for my teacher and didn't know how to explain the action of patting the dough into a ball to cut into triangles. The verb "to pat" that I looked up actually meant something more like "to caress" or "to stroke." It turns out there isn't really a good verb to use here. Now the recipe just says "form a ball with the dough."

5. In many Spanish speaking countries the word coche means car. Michael was talking with his teacher about how there are so many coches in the city, and that the coches are loud and keep us awake at night. She seemed confused and tried to explain that she had never heard of any coches existing in the city. Finally, we realized that in Guatemala, coche is another word for pig, and it's true, there aren't pigs in the city. 

A few other words we've inverted:
    1. I wanted to say viaje (trip) to talk about our recent visit to Honduras. Instead I used viejo, so instead I was talking about our "old" Honduras. 
    2. Moreno (brown) and morado (purple). Once Michael went to the market and was searching and searching and was surprised to find that no one carries purple sugar. 
    3. Cansado (tired) and casado (married)...maybe these are similar for a reason? 
We're thankful for the two months we spent studying Spanish. I definitely think I can communicate so much better than I could before. I may get the opportunity to study a little more after our job training is finished. Now we need to practice, practice, practice!! 


Jennifer Jo said...

My husband asked all around the produce section of the grocery store for "limas." He meant limes. He was saying "files," as in a file to sharpen things.

This is a great post. (Have you told them you're pregnant yet? That was one of my first slip-ups ever.)

Jamie said...

Thanks for the laughs! Oh what fun it is to learn another language! Glad you are feeling accomplished in your speaking ability though!!

the Chapmans said...

@Jennifer Jo, that's funny about the limas. Especially because we were told limas are lemons. (Limones being limes). And no, I haven't said estoy embarazada because it's one thing I had always remembered from Spanish class in high school!

@Jamie, I'm glad we could make you laugh. I though you'd appreciate this list.

Krista said...

Oh, these are funny! Language mistakes are awesome! ;)
I once heard a missionary tell about swimming in the ocean and having a guy ask her if she was casada. She heard cansada and said yes... and she was glad she had so he left her alone even though she was single! ;)