Some of Our Favorite Language Learning Mistakes

My wife and I are now five years or so into our journey of learning the delightful and difficult language of our Central Asian people group. Along the way, we have made some cringe-worthy and hilarious mistakes. I remember reading in CJ Mahaney’s book, Humility, that being able to laugh at yourself is a good way to grow in being less prideful. So in that vein, I present to you our list of epic language mistakes.

  1. “Then Jesus sat down next to the canary and began to teach about the kingdom of God.” The words for shore and canary are extremely close! I said this while teaching in church.
  2. “The squeegee is our peace!” I meant to say that Christ is our peace… again, squeegee and Christ are painfully close, hinging on a throaty “h” sound that is quite hard for us to pull off.
  3. “Thanks so much for the monkeys!” When we were trying to say thanks so much for your hospitality.
  4. “But where are the monkey’s people from? Where are the monkeys people?!” I had not yet learned that asking where someone is from literally means asking where their people are, whereas another phrase is used for objects and animals.
  5. “This is so tasteless!” I was trying to tell my friend’s mom how delicious her food was without yet understanding how an”ey” and “ah” prefix vowel reverses the meaning of an adjective.
  6. “You are drunk!” When trying to say, “May your head be blessed!”
  7. “My death.” Instead of “My husband.”
  8. “I’d like the fat chicken, please.” Definitely meant to say the boiled chicken.
  9. “We live behind the frogs of spring.” Actually lived behind Spring Apartments.
  10. “How much Islamic Law should I fry for the rice?” Noodles, little noodles, not Islamic Law…
  11. “Please turn to song sixty sixty.” The local believers never let me live this one down, snickering for the next year every time anyone in our group said sixty six.
  12. (Singing) “I only want you, Tanya!” Who’s Tanya? And isn’t this supposed to be a worship song?
  13. “How old is your donkey? May his years be long.” When trying to ask about the age of a man’s son…

In conclusion, please be merciful to those learning your language. And if you are learning another language, be sure to laugh. A lot.

P.S. If there are other language learners out there, please feel free to leave your own language bloopers in the comments for our mutual edification.

Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash

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