When I Should Have Just Kept My Mouth Shut

Rise flavoured ice cream instead of rice in Mexico.

Anyone who has ever learnt a second language or is in the process of learning one will know that it is far too easy to put your foot in it and, by mistake, utter words that you really wish you hadn’t. After reading susanaroundtheworld’s post on the topic I began to think back on the numerous times that I have, unwillingly, committed this type of wordicide.

This is something that happens far too often to me, and perhaps would be a bit more often overlooked if it weren’t for the fact that I spend almost 100% of my time with Mexicans who are far too quick to pick up on my mistakes for my liking. These slips of the tongue are not, however, confined to my time in Mexico. They go way back to when I first started learning languages and still continue today. Languages these days are limitless, making my opportunity for making a mistake also limitless.

There have been many of these unfortunate occasions, some forgotten and some so deeply embedded in my memory that I am convinced they will never be forgotten. Just the other day in class I went to far rolling my r and instead of saying pero which means but I ended up saying perro, meaning dog. Of course the children loved it; yes you can put your books away, dog, don’t forget your homework.

This is only a mild case scenario. Not long after returning to Mexico from New Zealand I told my partner that I wanted to go out to buy face wipes. Instead of saying toallas faciales as they are called here I announced that I wanted to buy pañales para la cara… which doesn’t translate to face wipes, rather face nappies (face diapers). Good one.

Even more embarrassing, was when I lived in Buenos Aires and I was trying to tell my French friend how lucky she was to have a boyfriend that always did such nice things for her. Instead, what escaped my mouth was along the lines of que suerte tienes para tener un novio que te hace tantas cosas lindas. Translation: you are so lucky to have a boyfriend that does so many nice things TO you. Yes, instead of for you I managed to say to you. All would have been well if it weren’t for the presence of some of our Spanish friends who found the situation hilarious. Needless to say, I have yet to make that particular mistake again.

I’m sure this isn’t the end of it. My language blunder will most likely continue on to my horror. At least it is good news for my partner, who can be assured that his near weekly bout of laughter at my languages skills will continue for a good while longer.


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