Language Learning Curves

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Today, I thought I would write about something which has long plagued anyone who studies a language – slip ups! I think that one of the most fantastic things anyone can do in a foreign country is have a go at the language. Whether you’ve been doing it for years or have found a couple of phrases in a guide book, just showing that awareness that not everybody on the planet speaks English is amazing. What’s more (and even better) is that everybody will make a mistake in which they use the wrong word or phrase, regardless of years studying! I have been doing Spanish for 12 years now and I still make the odd slip up, after which I pray for the ground to just swallow me whole, but the results of such blunders can be just as amusing as they are embarrassing. I have a few little anecdotes to explain exactly what I mean…

Back in July of this year, when I first arrived in Spain, I started my trip with a family holiday. One evening, we drove up to Benahavis (also known as ‘restaurant town’, with good reason) for a lovely dinner in one of our favourite restaurants. It was a warm evening and the breeze could only be likened to a hairdryer blowing down the streets. The maître d’ came over to check that everything was to our liking, and so arose an incredibly amusing situation which makes me smile every time I think of it. My father looked at him with a smile, gestured towards his suit jacket (warm evening, keep up) and said ‘eres caliente!’ I know that my fellow Spanish speakers are already chuckling to themselves. What my father had just said was ‘you’re hot!’ Initially, the maître d’ just looked a little bewildered, before realising that dad in fact meant to say ‘tienes calor?!’, and began to laugh. I explained the mistake to him, after which he looked at dad with a deadpan expression and said ‘pues si, estoy caliente tambien!’ and winked at us. And ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to say that yes, yes he was caliente.

I would not be surprised if the caliente/calor distinction was in fact, the number 1 blunder made by Brits in Spain (probably due to the fact that it is always so bloody warm here). Another common mistake definitely has to be agreeing adjectives whilst mid flow through a sentence – if you’re not careful, you could end up like my friend Katy, myself and I am sure many others and have people think you’re the wrong gender! Cue confused faces…

Here’s one for the German speakers out there. My friend Jess messaged me to say that she’s had a slip up or two so far where she  keeps saying “ich bin so heiß!” when trying to say it’s really hot which actually means you’re horny…She has also found that she instead of introducing people as her friends, she is telling people they’re her boyfriend/girlfriend…(direct quote – I’m realising writing this I really need to stop doing these!)

Perhaps the most amusing language mistake I have ever had the pleasure to read about, was the one made by my friend Alasdair whilst he was out in Spain this year. Rather than re-tell the story in my words, I shall let him tell it…

Whilst helping out a local tennis club I had a fairly drastic slip… Before starting, a few pre-practice warm ups were in order, with the 6 to 8 year olds; due to the fact we were an odd number I asked a kid if he wanted to race me round the courts and my fractured Spanish betrayed me…

I had meant to say “¿quieres ir con migo?”, but in fact I managed to say “¿quieres ir con yo?”

For those of you who don’t know Spanish I’ll translate: rather than saying “do you want to go with me”, only I could ask a 6 year old “Do you wanna go c***?” (Oh dear)

Perhaps by fate, I was promptly moved to tackle the 10 to 12 year olds on another court instead…’


I think it’s fairly safe to say that I shall end this post here, because there is no other blunder which could ever top that.


Hasta la proxima!


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