Best Blunders In The Lands Of Other Languages

Friday, February 5, 2010

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.

By Luke Armstrong


About the Author

LukeArmstrongLuke Maguire Armstrong lives in Guatemala directing the humanitarian aid organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.” (@lukespartacus)

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