So we´ve all heard: Learning a second language is hard. It´s also often hilarious to the ears of native speakers. Countless novice Spanish speakers have accidentally been very horny when they meant to say they were hot. During my friend Kayla´s first week studying in Japan, she found herself sitting awkwardly at a table of hushed Japanese businessmen when she accidentally made a toast to “penises.” My first month in Chile, when people asked me why I chose to study there, I told them because I “wanted to learn to suffer,” instead of expressing my desire to learn surfing.
Those who have a better command of the language can also use others’ lack of skill for mucho fun. I once had a friend visit me in Guatemala and told him that “Serote” was how to say “Sir” or “Ma´am” in this country. “Serote” actually translate closer to “Shithead.” It was not easy to hold back my laughter when he went in to a store and the following conversation took place in loud Gringo Spanish:
Friend: Hey shithead, I would like a Coca-cola.
Store owner: (with a murderously amused expression). A Coca-cola?
Friend: Yes, shithead.
(The store owner slowly grabs the soda and my friend pays.)
Friend: Many thanks shithead!
Most travelers have plenty of their own stories of their own mistakes in other languages. So here I encourage you to leave a comment below, sharing other hilarious language blunders you’re encountered.
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