Language Immersion Anecdotes

September 24, 2008 By: erik Category: Funny, Musings, Spain 870 views

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One of the things I love about living in a foreign country immersed in a foreign language, is that sometimes your minimal understandings of things leads you to draw conclusions that, in retrospect are humorously idiotic, but that, at the time, seemed perfectly reasonable. Here I provide two of my favorite anecdotal instances.

Danish Homosexuals

Marga’s first experience immersed in a foreign language was when she went to Denmark and had to survive speaking only English. As I have mentioned before, Spanish has acquired many English words that are pronounced with a Spanish pronunciation. You probably know what the Spanish pronunciation for “ay” is (think “¡Ay caramba!“). When the word “gay” changed meaning in English, it was adopted into Spanish with its new meaning. As you might imagine, it’s pronounced the same as the English word “guy”. So put yourself in Marga’s brain, not knowing the English word “guy”, hearing sentences like, “I was talking to this guy on the street yesterday, and these other three guys came up to us and…” Naturally, her reaction was, “Good lord, there’s a lot of homosexuals in Denmark!”

There’s something about María José

My first Spanish language immersion came in England, when I moved there to live with Marga. One of the first people I met was a woman named Majo (which I later learned was short for María José). Later, as I was listening to Marga converse with other Spaniards, I kept hearing Majo’s name come up. I was fairly certain they were talking about something else, and then they’d mention Majo. I thought, “Man, they talk about this Majo girl all the time!” What I later learned was that, as with Marga’s confusion in Denmark, the word “majo” is very common slang in ordinary Spanish conversation. It generally means “nice”. Erik es muy majo. It can also be used as a generic name for a male friend. ¡Majo, mira a esto! I can’t remember if I figured out this meaning on my own or if I asked Marga and she explained it to me after she stopped laughing. I think it was the latter.

 
  • http://flickr.com/photos/aparejador/2776350355/ Raytibbitts

    Hear a few Argentineans talk led me to believe that Che Guevara must have had more influence of South American slang that I had ever imagined, Che!

    Then, I had to ask somebody, get laughed at, and learn my lesson.

    There are plenty others, but memory has a tendency to repress those moments when you learn something through ridicule.

    ¡Qué embarazoso!

  • http://landofnospice.blogspot.com Sharon

    my language gaffs tend to be more about mispronunciation or confusing two similar words (porro and puerro for example) rather than getting the wrong end of the stick about a word… or so i think, maybe i am getting it all wrong and no-one’s told me yet…

    in the beginning things were a little more complicated here, because i had not only spanish but euskerra to deal with, and with very limited spanish i had no idea if people were speaking spanish or euskerra (it all sounded like gibberish to me) and i did pick up an interesting mish mash of words from both…. now it’s easier, if i understand what they’re saying it’s spanish, if i don’t it’s euskerra!

  • http://flickr.com/photos/aparejador/2776350355/ Raytibbitts

    LEFTY? seriously? Lefty?

    I just remembered a recent one:
    Here in Málaga there’s a huge shiny building, that we passed a couple times on the freeway, while we were here on our first trip to look for a place to live.
    All I could see from the road were the words “Palacio” and “Congreso” on the front door.
    I assumed that it was the seat of government for this part of Spain.
    I had assumed that ‘Congreso” meant the government body.
    It turns out that it’s actually a Convention Center. Like what you find in Las Vegas (etc)

    Palacio de Congresos y Ferias

    http://www.fycma.com/