Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/CedarPrince

I Got to Speak Spanish the Other Day! And Failed!

Hey Duolingo,

I thought I would quickly tell a comical story about my Spanish learning adventure. So, the other day I was at my favorite Mexican restaurant, and I attempted to speak some Spanish. Most of the time I have no problem speaking Spanish to the workers there (most, I think, actually come from Mexico); you know, like ordering food and things like that. THIS time however, I failed! XP I ordered my food correctly in Spanish, but then when my waiter came back, he tried speaking more Spanish to me, and I think all I remember saying was, "Siiiii". Then I tried asking for a napkin, but he couldn't understand what I was saying, and I got really confused. I tried saying it again, and this time he understood me! Well, I think; I never got the napkin. So, when it comes time to leave, I head over to pay for my bill, and he tries speaking to me one more time, but he spoke so quickly that I was just like a deer in the headlights! We ended up switching to English, but I would say some Spanish here and there and he understood what I was talking about.

Lesson that I learned from all this: First, you are going to fail and make mistakes. Gosh! I felt so embarrassed afterwards! However this leads me to point two: you have to learn and move on from those failed attempts. I mean, hey, I spoke Spanish! He understood what I was saying (even if I didn't understand him), and I got some more experience.

I hope this gave you guys a small laugh, and just never stop trying to learn your language! It'll come some day!

~ Cedar

P.S. Do you have a language mishap that you would like to share? Feel free to post it!

EDIT: Hey Guys! I gotta say that when I was writing this, I did not expect all the feedback! It has been outstanding and encouraging! It has been awesome reading your great stories and experiences! This has been an awesome experience! Talk to you all later!

3 years ago

35 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Rob2042

A good phrase to know is, "Más despacio, por favor." :-)

Edit: but, as someone pointed out a while back, usually the native speaker will slow down for a sentence or two and then go right back to speaking fast. Keep that phrase handy and don`t be afraid to use it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CedarPrince

I actually did not know that phrase... You have saved my life, I am eternally grateful! Please accept a lingot as a token of appreciation! XP Have you gotten a chance to use that phrase? Would it offend a native speaker (I wouldn't be offended, but...)? I am just wondering; I don't think it would, but you never know. Does the phrase even work!?!?! XP

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rob2042

I was editing my original post as you added yours but I will expound on it. My experience has been that native speakers are very happy to find anyone who is trying to learn their language. Use the phrase and if you don`t understand something you can say, "No entiendo la palabra (x)." or "¿Qué quiere decir (x)?" Thanks for the lingot.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sebastosiano

"Como se dice ?" would be ok.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rob2042

Yes, "¿Cómo se dice en Español (x)?" is good if the person speaks some English.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

...or if you are good at pantomime. I do it all the time. You can point/gesture to what you mean and say "Qué es esto en español"?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Also, "puedo entender mejor si usted habla más despacio" is another option and it's less imperative. Most people do slow down, or I stop them to let them know that I don't understand if I get lost in the conversation.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RoryTeller

Well, there's always the time I said soutien-gorge (bra) when I meant collier (necklace). Or the time when I said mouettes (seagulls) instead of miettes (crumbs), so that I said there were seagulls in my butter... I speak good French now but such was not always the case.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Shefgirl21

Woooooow!!!! Lol this was funny!!!!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EmuLampen

My favorite was when I introduced myself in Spanish. I go by my initials in English - CJ. So I said Hola! Me llamo ce jota (Spanish pronunciations of c and j). I got a bunch of laughs from the group, and it was layer explained that ceja means eyebrow, and changing the ending from -a to -ota makes it a huge eyebrow. So basically, cejota is the Spanish equivalent of unibrow.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Maldito23
Maldito23
  • 21
  • 11
  • 633

I have heard worse. One time I was at an intercambio and a guy named JJ tried to use the Spanish pronunciation of the letters to say his name but he figured that he would replace the ending "a" with an "o" because he is a guy. This resulting in much laughing between all the Mexican folks that were there, my girlfriend, and myself. We had to explain that he had mistakenly used a derogatory term for a (male) homosexual.

The take home point for all language learners: Your name is your name. Do not try to change it to fit the language you are learning.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tbrzl565
tbrzl565
  • 18
  • 12
  • 5
  • 3

That sounds like a success, not a failure! This happened to me about eight years ago. An airport staff person needed to talk to me about something. She asked if I could speak Spanish and I told her that I could understand a little. She was game enough to try, so she started asking a question. Unfortunately, the airport was being remodeled and there was a crew of carpenters nearby who were cutting wood with a circular saw. The conversation went like this:

Me: Sí, entiendo un poco español.

Woman: Señ - BRRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (loud noise from circular saw)

Me: Perdón, no escucho? (at the time my spanish was very limited)

Woman: Por - BRRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Me: (smiling) Lo siento...

Woman: (opens mouth to speak) BRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Me: (start laughing)

Woman: (opens mouth) BRRZZZZZZZZZZZZ (starts laughing)

We continued in English and I had no trouble understanding her, even with the saw going off. That's when I realized that someone needs to create a course in Spanish for Noisy Environments.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ilmarien
Ilmarien
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 20
  • 13
  • 12

Well, there was that time I couldn't remember how to say "juice" in Spanish (I am terrible, I know) and said it in Portuguese instead and hoped for the best. (I had studied so little Portuguese I still remembered basics!)

There was also that time I told a Parisian waiter that I wanted to take the "plupart" (the majority) instead of the "reste" (remainder) of my food home with me. And it was a cognate too!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Cruise2525

I can speak words and phrases that I have learned; however, sometimes that gives the impression I know more than I have actually learned. Then I too find myself battled trying to understand what is being said to me. Then I also switch back to English. I have trouble being understood and especially understanding others in a foreign language on the telephone.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jazzfreak

If it makes you feel any better, I once told some friends in Spain that I'd heard a lettuce in a tree outside my room ("lechuga" instead of "lechuza", and on another occasion when a friend lost his wallet in Tenerife I told the police he had lost his postman! ("cartero" instead of "cartera"). What a difference one letter makes!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elainekrause

love these jazz

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Joshua.S.Taylor

I think this is a great story :) We are all going to fail when trying to speak the language, and that's ok. In my experience most native speakers just appreciate the attempt! And congratulations for having the courage to jump out of your comfort zone - that's a good lesson for everyone.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CedarPrince

You are totally right! Thank you also!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Monsieur_Bovary
Monsieur_Bovary
  • 18
  • 17
  • 17
  • 13
  • 12
  • 9
  • 4

I once said "a swallow person" instead of "a shallow person", eh eh...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Joshua.S.Taylor

Unfortunately the only story I really have in this regard involves misplacement of an accent in Spanish that turned a perfectly acceptable word for an animal into something rather X-rated, so it's not suitable to share :) Accents can be crucial, is the lesson :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EAJames1991

Good for you trying! I think my worst mishap was with a kid (one of my students in El Salvador). She was always climbing on me and everything else so I told her she was like a little 'mona', assuming that was the female version of 'mono' (monkey) (like gata is a female gato). However, there 'mona' is actually slang for a drunk. Thankfully my native-speaker friend was there to save me and explain to the kid what I meant, but I still felt awful (she thought it was funny though).

Whenever I don't understand what's being said I usually just ask 'Como?' (What?) and people will typically just repeat themselves or rephrase, hopefully slower. My friends get kind of snarky sometimes though and will repeat themselves super slow to make fun of me

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23
  • 22
  • 22
  • 22
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 15
  • 15
  • 14
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 1010

Oh, yes. Having a good sense of humor really helps. Also, lots of gestures, pointing and smiling. No entiendo and más despacio and repitalo, por favor.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/StarFreedom2

This is from an old Spanish teacher of mine: He was from Spain originally, so he was fluent in that kind of Spanish and taught it. Once, he decided to visit Portugal. Of COURSE, they are similar languages, so he would not need a translation book. // Once there, he dropped something, bent over to pick it up... and his pants split in back. He tied his sweater around his waist to hide it and looked for a local. // He told the Portuguese man (in Spanish) "My pants are ripped; I need a tailor." But the words "pants," "ripped," and "tailor" are different in Spanish than in Portuguese. The man did not understand. In desperation, my teacher used a more direct method: he turned around, his back to the man, and lifted up his sweater. // My teacher ended up spending the night in jail. // Moral of the story: if you visit another country, be sure to bring a translation guide, even if the languages are similar.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ridley-C
Ridley-C
  • 14
  • 8
  • 6
  • 6
  • 5
  • 3
  • 3
  • 3
  • 3
  • 2
  • 234

I once tried to speak to a French exchange student at my school. I ended up hearing something like: hasdj l;wej l;wkj ; ljfasjkl;ewkj kl !? I then made a note to myself to speak French faster if I ever travel to a French-speaking country. ;)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bolondgomba

My favourite mishap happened a few years back when I was an absolute beginner having a language course in Spain. After I realized there are many similar words in English and Spanish, I was trying to build on that, trying to use English words and making them sound Spanish, which sometimes worked :) When I went to an intercambio as a start I apologized for my poor Spanish by saying "no hablo bien el espanol y estoy embarazada" People were congratulating and cheering which I thought was weird but I took it as a sign of encouragement. As the night went on, I had several glasses of local wine and started to notice some judgmental and even nasty looks from people that I just couldn't understand, after all, I was not even tipsy. Eventually a lady came to me saying she didn't want to interfere but in her opinion I really shouldn't drink that much what with the baby on the way. As I had no idea where this case from, I started to worry about my figure.. I knew I developed a churros habit but surely it couldn't be that bad.... It took a while to figure out that at the introduction instead of saying "i am embarrassed because I don't speak Spanish well" I said "I don't speak Spanish well and i am pregnant" :))

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sebastosiano

To ask a napkin: "Una servilleta por favor"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

That's great that you are making an effort to use the skills that you are learning. Many people are very generous with those who are learning their language. The only caveat for me is to be aware if someone is very busy, especially if they are working. At times, I might say, "Querría practicar español." Or I might say, "I'd like to practice my Spanish, is that is okay"? I've never had anyone say no, but it's still nice to ask.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sarahvalero11686

Once I told a guy at work he left his huevos on the counter ( i worked at a grocery store) well turns out their called blancios and huevos are mens balls in slang.... thanks text book spanish the guys face was really red and he busted out laughing and i was like what

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EmuLampen

Blanquillo is the spelling you're looking for. My dictionary says it's commonly used in Latin America, especially Mexico.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Oh no!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elainekrause

Congrats to you!!! you risked and you did not fail because you grew in experience!! I will use your post with my students. Just one more thing.... was the waiter smiling and pleased you were trying to speak Spanish? I bet YES. If the roles were reversed the English speaking waiter/waitress would not be so kind..... thinking point for all. Elaine

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CedarPrince

Oh wow! The waiter didn't smile big or anything, but he was pleased! When I was saying something like "My Spanish is not that good; sorry!", his eyes got really big and he said that my Spanish was good and I just need to keep at it! He said he was happy I was learning the language and actually trying to use it! That made me feel pretty great too. :) Hey, I do have to ask, did you use the story with your students? How did it go?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Cathy_Gates

Oh, goodness. When I was beginning Spanish and had been to a week long language class in Mexico, I was trying to use the language when & where I could. Everyone was always helpful and giving me more words and phrases. Coming home, I got stopped at security in the airport as I forgot to take off my belt and the security lady wasn't sure what set off the alarm and I said-Oh, mi colchon instead of mi cinturon. She looked confused as I had said oh, my mattress instead of my belt. Then she laughed hard and in English told me what my mistake was and proceeded to tell me all the Spanish words for what I was wearing. I'll never forget the word for belt again!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SusanS1

Anytime that you practice is a success!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Em44
Em44
  • 25
  • 14
  • 2

I love reading about mishaps they make me laugh and also teach me extra words. I do not get to talk so I have not had them yet, but I am sure I will have lots to add someday. Thanks for sharing.

3 years ago