https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tobasi1

Funny French/English blunder

Dear fellow learners,

a funny blunder happened to me in San Francisco in a self service restaurant. Before, I had been speaking English, French and German in turn with three colleagues. I wanted to order something like falafel with bread. So I said to the man behind the counter

"I would like falafel with some pain".

I was using the French word for bread pronouncing it in the English way. Luckily he asked again giving me the occasion to reconsider my order.

Who of you has experienced similar situations of linguistic confusion?

May 24, 2014

61 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/michiness

After I had been living in France for a few months, I went to Scotland to visit a friend. I was looking for a bus and walked up to a random person, asking him if he knew where it was. He just kind of stared at me, so I repeated the question, making sure I said what I needed clearly. After a minute of this he very politely says, "I'm sorry, I don't speak French... maybe someone inside can help?" I turned bright red before switching to English for an apology.

The worst blunder of French-English vocab I can think of, though, happened during a high school France trip. A kid couldn't remember what the word for "jam" or "jelly" was, so after throwing a few gibberish words out he landed on "préservatifs." The increasingly confused waiter stood him up and walked him over to the condom machine.

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NathanLeee

There are condom machines inside of restaurants?

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/letsgofriday

Inside of the bathrooms perhaps?

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/michiness

Inside of the bathroom, as letsgofriday said. They're pretty much everywhere. Even on the street.

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sophiel9064

What IS a condom machine?

May 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NathanLeee

It's a vending machine, for condoms.

May 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/maddyis7

That is hilarious. Maybe also why I don't use the things and have 4 children. But I do like Jam which is marmellata in Italian, which is a bit annoying if you want some marmalade! :)

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/uomobionico

The other day I was reading that the word marmalade came from the Portuguese word marmalada which was originally made from quince, marmelo. I thought that was interesting.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/maddyis7

The argument for the origins of marmalade has raged for years, But it's place in British history has been a long one, which has run full circle. In the times of King Henry VIII, it was a very special gift imported from the likes of Portugal, (with their marmelo) Spain and Italy. It was the Portuguese who first learnt to make it from the Moors using imported quinces. The Moors also took to growing sour oranges (What we know think of as Seville oranges) in the very hottest southern regions of Europe; Portugal, Spain and Sicily.

But (and this only a small part of the story) It is held as a long tradition, That a Scottish lady named Janet Keiller, wife of a Dundee grocer invented 'orange marmalade, after her husband bough a surfeit of Seville oranges from a storm-driven ship, forced to seek harbour in Dundee. Now Janet didn't invent marmalade, but found that the method of 'stripping' them rather than pulping them, was faster and hence we ended up with our fine and course shredded marmalades.

It was some years later, that they found their way to being a breakfast preserve and part of the 'English Breakfast' which in itself was inherited in part from the Scots.

And not a condom in sight!

All arguments welcome

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/uomobionico

Fascinating! I didn't understand the not a condom in sight part.

May 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lastbullets2

I do not even know what it is!

May 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sophiel9064

What's marmalade?

May 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/WitchofTime

A few years ago, my French teacher told me how someone in her class tried to cheat and use a translator to get the French word for t-shirt (which is just tee-shirt). My French teacher could tell that he tried to cheat and that he did not properly type t-shirt into the translator, because on his paper he wrote "t-merde" which means "t-s**t" in English.

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_splendor_

wow so cool t-omg !!! t -sh***

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LizChris1

Beware of "faux amis" (false friends). In a French evening class, we were learning how to introduce each other, which should be "Je veux presenter ...." However, one of my fellow students introduced the female student sitting next to him with "Je veux introduire Mary ...." Our teacher couldn't stop laughing, later on looking it up at home, I realised he had said "I want to enter Mary"

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamanthaCHirsch

OMG. You just made me cry with laughter!! I give you a Lingot!

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ebung

I went to Mauritius to live and work and attended Alliance Francaise to learn French. The teacher asked us for the word for "milk" and I confidently responded "uht". She and the other students were really puzzled until someone realized that UHT, the largest print on the box of milk, meant Ultra High Temperature.

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jusquici

I learned in Paris that saying "Tu me prends?" does not mean "Will you take me there?" -_-

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Oleron3

Emmener. . . ;-) Unfortunately, google translate uses "prendre." ;-(

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

Ha! Awesome... !

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/visionzofexcess

I thought - On y va - was a way of asking if we are going to this place. So when i jumped on a train, pointed to my desired destination and said - On y va? The lady looked rather confused. I think it means - Lets go there or Do you want to go there.

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bjornmeansbear

Yeah, "on y va" is basically "Let's go!" — like "Prêt à partir? oui? d'accord, on y va!" (ready to go? yes? okay, then lets go!)

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/nightingale63

I have! I studied French in high school, then years later lived in Taiwan, and learned really basic Chinese. My husband and I would both occasionally blunder on vocabulary, using a French word for where a Mandarin one would be called for (confusing the hell out of people, no doubt); our brains, when reaching for "foreign", apparently weren't too discriminating as to which bucket they chose to dig a word out from.

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Moomingirl

Yes, that's a well known phenomenon. Sometimes my brain goes searching for a Finnish word, and if it's not there, it comes up with the Italian alternative instead. :)

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/michiness

I've been speaking French for nine years, Chinese for three, and I still mix up words in the two languages, if it makes you feel any better. :)

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/shakeyjake

Yes! I live in Korea, and when I first started learning Korean, my brain would jump to French or Welsh, the only other languages I had studied, in school actually, until that point. 화장실 (hwa-jang-sil) is toilet. I would often ask, 'Ou est le hwajangsil? Diolch!' Luckily this only lasted about a week, but the faces the Koreans pulled at me were hilarious!

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

Da iawn! Do you want to practice Welsh? I'm not Welsh, so I can't sing worth a fig, but I can say some stuff in Welsh.... let me know! Dwy mund yn ysgol rawn.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/shakeyjake

I ddysgu Cymraeg, ac yr wyf yn dod o Gymru. But I'm nowhere near fluent haha.

June 1, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

Does anyone know the name and physiology of this phenomena? I'd like to hear if you have any comments.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EntropyMan

I remember from a class in Linguistics, or was it the Teaching English as a Second Language class, that the term "linguistic interference" came up. The concept seemed controversial. Another interesting phenomenon; I know of a boy whose father is Chinese and mother is Japanese, and he is also hearing English from television and people around him. He seems bright and to understand what is being said to him, but he is late developmentally in starting to talk. He has a lot to process and sort out, and when he does start to talk, he will probably be very good at it, and trilingual. Does anyone have experience with late talkers due to a multilinguistic environment?

June 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

I have this problem in Russian. can understand, maybe at the intermediate beginner level. Listening, I can follow simple jokes, complicated jokes make me look like a deer in the headlights. I can't talk for the life of me, though. Reading is OK. This said, I learned most Russian from on online college course. I am very close to a Ukrainian family that speaks Russian at home. They have small children so I hear a lot of "Be quiet, Sit down! Come here! and Put it back!"

Oh well. These phrases would be good for Putin.

June 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Libbybeans

Same thing with my husband & me in Korea. Very strange phenomenon, we thought...

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hdcanis

Yeah, this is a familiar feeling, some time ago I was happily mixing my spotty German and Spanish and now when I started to practice speaking French again I had to be careful what I said didn't come out in Spanish...and now I'm sure if I tried to say something in Spanish it would come out in French.

And when I moved back to Finland after living some years abroad, during the first couple of days it was just so surprising that people around me spoke Finnish...it takes a while for the brain to readjust.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/coleschen

This absolutely happens to me. I'm working on German and the Latin translation pops into my head almost immediately.

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Libbybeans

My kids go to a school where everyone, even the parents, is supposed to speak French (which is awkward, because I don't, yet...) I have, more than once, asked the music teacher to borrow "un lutin" (elf) when I actually meant "un lutrin" (music stand).

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/letsgofriday

I took two languages in secondary school and one year my time table worked out I had a double French class followed by Irish. Nothing was ever achieved during that Irish class because everyone was still thinking in French!

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/alc1997

I spent about a month calling pencils 'Crayons' and every time has someone hand me a colouring crayon and so I would have to ask for a 'Crayon' again. no one thought to correct me until it just sort of stopped

I have a friend who in learning French and Japanese but knows English. She spent a Japanese class trying something new, translating from French to Japanese and vice versa in stead of the normal English to Japanese. Her next class she spent the first ten minutes speaking in all three languages ( sometimes all in the same sentence) and doing all her biology work in Japanese Kanji

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

I once went in for a translator job. A portion of the interview was to be in Spanish. A lady asked me a question and I replied in Portuguese. I was speaking for about 5 minutes before I realized I needed to be speaking in Spanish. Oops!

Another time I asked in French for someone to 'cut my horse', when I meant 'cut my hair'. Aaaah.. Finally, my friend Javi came to London for vacation. He saw a beautiful woman about to be splashed by a bus, he wanted to warn her, to yell "hey! Watch out!" instead, he blurted out "Hey!", she turns around and looks at him... "SHUT UP!"

The bus covered her in mud and water.

Sigh.. anyway, the confusion mounts.... "coger, pollo/polla, ano/an~o, embarzado".... the occasions to embarrass oneself are endless.

That said, I'm from the U.S.A. so, I don't get embarrassed easily. I just light firecrackers all at once on the 4th of July and while bringing democracy and hamburgers to the world.

When ask a question, just answer really REALLY loud, especially in a foreign language. People like that, especially those foreigners...oh, and aliens too. They don't speak American because they didn't understand you the first time, so be sure to SPEAK UP. Language is best acquired by yelling.

Well, that's it for today, I've got to get back to thinkamacating. Woe to you if you misunderestimate my devotion to learning.

"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."

-G Homer Bush.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/APMohar

I routinely pronounce English words how they would be pronounced in French by accident. Especially words that end in -ible and -able.

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jolynnedougherty

When I served my mission in France, a companion of mine was teaching a lesson on the Law of Chasity which says that you're only supposed to have des relations sexuelles avec votre conjoint (spouse). She told the people she was teaching that you could only have sexual relations with your cochon (pig). Everyone had a good laugh.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_splendor_

a falafel which suffer pains !! lol it must be tasty :)

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EntropyMan

Yes, if you eat too many of them you feel awful!

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

No, you feel falawful.

May 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/moz.

In school our french teachers were always "madame" and "monsieur." When I worked in a grocery store, the manager had a French last name, but was English, as was everyone and everything in the store. I paged her over the loudspeaker as "Call for Madame Gauthier on line one" instead of "Mrs." It may not come across as so incogruous in text-form but imagine being in a Walmart in Tennessee and hearing "Call for Monsieur Smith." I immediately realized my error but kept doing it every subsequent time out of instinct. :(

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AabLevellen

To me it was rather the difficulty to switch between two foreign languages, than any comic mistake. I was in France visiting a school. There I attended an English class. The English exercises were really easy, but all of a sudden I could not remember how to write number 3 in English. I was too concentrated to understand and make myself understood in French, that I had difficulties to reach my English vocabulary. English is my first foreign language while French is my second.

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

I drink "Espraeet" sometimes. It's a pain.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ScarletJean

I love reading murder-mystery novels and once while writing a "presentez-vous" essay I wrote- j'aime lire des romans merde, thinking that 'merde' meant murder...

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

Definitely eat all natural, never 'comida con preservativos' that's just not good for you and plain nasty.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rarcher2010

Aaaand, that's why Romans had a vomitorium.

May 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AthensKatnip

Once I went to french class and I said hi in english to the teacher and then when I went to math class I said bonjour to the teacher. I was so mixed up :P

May 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Julie_B

That is very funny! I was laughing when I read it.

May 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/meganelizabeth-

I'm around that point of confusion as well—lately I keep having to use a french to english dictionary because I'll completely blank on the word I'm looking for in english! :')

May 27, 2014

[deactivated user]

    When I was learning English, I always got confused between "kitchen" and "chicken" (because you pretty much just switch the "ch" and "k" sounds). Once, I think I said "let's cook the kitchen in the kitchen!"

    May 25, 2018

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MThoriqMalano

    Lol, I had that for almost like every day. It's troublesome yet so fun.

    May 25, 2014

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_splendor_

    sometimes i use PERSIAN words in my conversation with english ppl and they dont understand whAt i say and they "OSGOL NISHAN" see i used a persian word now :D haha

    May 26, 2014

    [deactivated user]

      That is so funny!

      May 26, 2014

      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sophiel9064

      I said once, (at school), that I was englifrancophone. In other words, my Mom is englephone and my Dad is francophone. How do you spell englephone?

      May 28, 2014

      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sophiel9064

      What does OSGOL NISHAN mean?

      May 28, 2014

      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/shakeyjake

      Pretty sure it's Anglophone :)

      June 1, 2014

      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sophiel9064

      Thanks!

      June 2, 2014
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