Mistakes you really don’t want to make in Spanish and they don’t want to make in English

Photo by Rebecca Gaulin

Photo by Rebecca Gaulin

It started out like any other beginners’ English class. There my students were chatting about morning routines when out it slipped. “In the morning, I have a big cock,” he announced, smiling shyly at his classmates, all pleased with himself. Susana joined in. “I don’t like Coca-Cola,” she said, “but I love coffee. I have two cups with milk and then I get dressed and brush my tits.”

Oh, how easy it is to get it all horribly wrong when you’re learning a foreign language!

I once told a kindly old man in my building he was a horse (caballo) instead of a gentleman (caballero) and then when he laughed, promptly told him I was pregnant (embarazada).

Worse still, if you move around, you’ll find that half the harmless words you learnt in one country will get you into all sorts of mischief in another. I learnt Spanish in Spain. So, when I arrived in Chile, I confidently told my host family that I had just had intimate relations with the bus from the airport (Cojí el autobus) and that the fare had cost me 2,000 pesos and a penis (2 mil y pico). Later, I almost slapped their 13-year old son across the face when he asked me if I played the lottery (¿Juegas la polla?). I think I made quite an impression.

Learn a language and you’re almost certain to make a complete fool of yourself. However, throwing yourself in at the deep end and having a go is the best way of picking up the lingo. Locals will love you for it and once you’ve made a linguistic faux pas, you’ll be certain not to make the same mistake twice.

To get you started, here’s a few to watch out for in Spanish and some classics from the English classroom, where you really have to pity anyone wrestling with our anarchic pronunciation and tricky vowel sounds.

Top 5 Spanish Pit-falls

 1. Unless you really are interested in the butcher’s breasts (pechos) ask for chicken ones (pechugas de pollo) instead. And if you travel to Spain, be sure to tell him you want a big juicy pollo (chicken) and not a polla (cock). That could lead to quite an unexpected exchange over the meat counter.   

2. Spanish-Speakers have heat, they’re not hot. Therefore, on a balmy February day, if you want to comment on the   weather rather than your level of sexual frustration during the chit chat with your bank manager, say “tengo calor” (I’m hot) rather than “estoy caliente” (I’m horny).

3. The Spanish alphabet has a few more letters than ours. One of them is ñ which is pronounced like a bit like the n in “new.” If you don’t pronounce it properly you might just ending up asking someone how many anuses they have (“¿cuantos anos tienes?”) rather than how old they are (“¿cuantos años tienes?”), and that definitely won’t get you their number.

4. ‘¿Que tal?’ ‘Estoy bueno/a gracias’. If you are smoking hot and want to tell the world then there you have it ‘Estoy bueno’. If you just want to say that you’re doing fine, you need to say ‘estoy bien’. After all, nobody likes a show-off.

5. If you want to ask the waiter if he has condoms, “¿Tiene preservativos?” is the way to do it. If you need to know if the food contains preservatives it’s “¿Tiene preservantes?”

6. When you pluck up the courage to invite that hot guy/girl to have a drink with you, it’s “¿Quieres tomar algo conmigo?” Don’t confuse your pronouns and ask “¿Quieres tomar algo con yo?”  That’ll just sound like you’re calling them a c**t (coño) which isn’t endearing in any language.

And from English students:

  1. After work I go home and molest my children. (annoy/molestar)
  2. In the morning I like to have a big breastf**k. (breakfast)
  3. My boyfriend makes love everybody. (He makes everybody laugh)
  4. Student: Can I have a piss of paper? Teacher: Sorry? Student: You know, a shit of paper?
  5. The best thing in the world is my breast. I love her. (I love my mum).
  6. In the summer I went to Pucón and fingered my friend. (hitch-hike/’make finger’/ hacer dedo)

First published here at Revolver Chile magazine.



Filed under Features, Teaching, TEFL, Travel articles

3 responses to “Mistakes you really don’t want to make in Spanish and they don’t want to make in English

  1. I have my new account. It’s easier than blogspot, I swear it.

    Cheers, B.

  2. I had someone once tell me he was the eunuch waiter at his restaurant. Of course he thought he was translating “unico” into “unique”… boy was he embarrassed when someone kindly explained that he probably was not, in fact, a eunuch!

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