7 things only those in a bilingual relationship can understand

When people talk about how to learn a foreign language, they always say that you just need to have a relationship with someone who speaks that language. Does it work ? Sure. And nothing is sexier than a cute accent at the start of a relationship, but after a few years you discover that there are some challenges that you just didn’t anticipate.

1. Despite the fact that you could speak two languages, you ONLY speak 1 with your partner.

Much like the first few weeks of marriage are dedicated to assigning certain tasks to each partner for life, for example who takes out the trash, the first few weeks of a bilingual relationship are dedicated to deciding which language you will use… FOREVER…

Even if you eventually learn your partner’s language. Perhaps by living in the country or speaking with friends or family, you will ALWAYS speak to your partner in the original language.

Speaking to your partner in any other language becomes weird…. like putting on a cold wet t-shirt….

2. You and your partner speak a combined 2 or more languages, yet neither of you can remember how to say “[Insert expression/object]” in any of them.

3. Each conversation includes some aspect of taboo, pictionary, or charades. And you are always the loser.

You would think this is an advantage for game night with friends (fantastic movie, go see it), but in reality no; you are constantly spending your time gesturing, explaining, and getting frustrated that your partner doesn’t understand you or that you can’t understand them.

Partner : Can you hand me the laces pasta?

You : Sorry, the ‘laces’ pasta?

Partner : Yeah, you know.. *gestures like tying a shoe*

You : *thinking over the options, tying shoe and laces… must be long and string like*… Ok, *hands over spaghetti*

Partner : No! Not that one! *comes over and takes farfalle/bow tie pasta*

You : OH! Tying a shoe… like bowtie… Well…FML.

 

4. Your partner continues to make small mistakes in your language, but they’re so cute that you refuse to correct them even after many years.

This one is actually fantastic. It’s cute, it’s a reminder of when you first met and everything was just so damn COOL! It makes even the most mundane daily task like grocery shopping a little bit more exciting.

Partner : Can you go get a chariot?

You : Yeah, sure *grinning like an idiot*

When you see on the shopping list “napkings

5. The only things you can say in your partner’s language are : “I’m fine”, “This is delicious”, “I love you” and about 25 different curse words and swears.

The first three you learned at the start of the relationship. When you had visions of both of you becoming completely bilingual. You were eating dinner and felt like adding “this is delicious” in their language just to remind yourself that yes, your partner is foreign and thus 10 times cooler than any of your friend’s partners.

But your learning stopped there. The only other things you will learn in their language over the next 6 months to forever are the 25 different curse words that your partner will use when :

– Their computer doesn’t work

– They’re in traffic with you

– Your cat intentionally knocks the glass off the table

– You forget to put the top on the toothpaste tube the ‘correct’ way

 

6. Every visit to your partner’s family includes the same conversation.

Their family member (in their language) : Hello

You (in their language) : Hello

Their family member (in their language) : How are you?

You (in their language) : Fine, and you?

Their family member (in their language) : Fine… How is the food?

You (in their language) : Delicious…

…..long pause….

Their family member (in their language) : How is your [their language]?

You : *Fuming because you want to explain that you’re not an idiot, that you just don’t have time, that your partner refuses to speak their language with you because it’s like putting on a cold wet t-shirt, and that you HAVE learned something, but that it’s only swear words so you can’t repeat that to them*….

You (in their language) : Meh… *gestures with hand so-so*

 

7. Your partner can never appreciate your super cool cultural references and/or sense of humor and you can never appreciate theirs.

Yes finally the bilingual relationship is not as easy as we thought, but despite all the difficulties your partner is still your better half and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

This is a guest post by Bryan Le Grand, the founder and head teacher of American Way Formation, an English training center on Réunion Island. Bryan has been an ESL Teacher for more than 10 years and has taught both children and adults of all ages in Asia and Europe. Teaching is his passion and enjoys his job the most when his students reach their English learning goals.

 

 

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Too funny for public transport?

So goes the blurb for “Lost in Translation“, a 2006 book by ‘Charlie Croker’ (aka Mark Mason) about “misadventures in English abroad” which I’ve just finished reading. It demonstrates some of the very best and worst instances of ‘grammar-gargling’ from around the world. Sometimes you can guess what is meant (especially if you speak the language in question), but other times you’re left scratching your head. As the author cautions us however, we should never forget that although other nations’ mistakes with English are amusing to us, their English is generally much better than our Japanese, Vietnamese, Arabic etc (and the book includes some examples from English speaking nations).

I thought I’d share with you some of the examples I found most amusing, but don’t worry there’s still plenty more in the book (and in its sequel Still Lost in Translation)!

British Council ad, reportedly a sign from a hotel restaurant in Acapulco

Italy: This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.

Thailand (offering donkey rides): Would you like to ride on your own ass?

In a hotel in Tel Aviv: If you wish breakfast, lift the telephone and our waitress will arrive. This will be enough to bring up your food.

French hotel restaurant: Wondering what to wear? A sports jacket may be worn to dinner, but no trousers.

Madrid hotel restaurant: Our wine list leaves you nothing to hope for.

Finnish hotel fire procedure: If you cannot reach a fire exit, close the door and expose yourself at the window.

Nairobi restaurant: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.

Laon, France, English translation of a sign in French reading “En cas de feu – restez calme”: In case of fire do not lose your temper.

Restaurant menu: Sole Bonne Femme (Fish Landlady style).

French menu: Nut of Holy Jacques jumped, guinea fowl stinks to it and its farce with cheese-topped dish, almost cheese-dish of mould in spice on bed of spinach.

Roguefart – on a Japanese restaurant French cheese menu

China, describing a pancake dish: Waiter will roll in front of you.

Chelsea, London: Plat du jour, changed each day.

Japanese washing machine instructions: Push button. Foam coming plenty. Big noise. Finish.

Sign at a Philippines ferry terminal: Adults: 1 USD. Child: 50 cents. Cadavers: subject to negotiation.

A Japanese copy of a Meatloaf album includes the following tracks: ‘Sixty Six Per Cent Is All Right’ (for ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’) and ‘You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouse’.

In an Israeli butcher’s: I slaughter myself twice daily.

Shop in Amman: Visit our bargain basement – one flight up and in the same shop they sell: Pork Handbags.

Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.

At a Hong Kong costume shop: This merchandise is to be used for turning a trick on Halloween.

On Japanese toothpaste: Gives you strong mouth and refreshing wind!

On a Japanese tea bag: Do not wet with water.

Malaysian road sign

Resort at Iguaco Falls: We offer you peace and seclusion. The paths to our resort are only passable by asses. Therefore, you will certainly feel at home here.

Chinese temple: Please take one step forward and crap twice.

Swimming pool sign, resort, Philippines: Drowning absolutely prohibited.

Sewage treatment plant, as marked on a Tokyo map: Dirty Water Punishment Place.

Newly appointed Danish minister: I am in the beginning of my period.

On a French pest-control firm’s website: Small animals nibble you the life. They give you the cockroach?

In an East Africa newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.

Slogan on mugs produced by Warwickshire County Cricket Club, who wanted to bill their star bowler ‘King of Spin’: Ashley Giles – King of Spain.

cover, Lost in Translation

The book certainly brought a smile to my face and just goes to prove – you always need a translator!

Links:

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Toad of Road Hall?

Killing time in a cheap toy shop today I couldn’t help being struck by the labelling on the (Chinese-made) toys.

While the substitution of T for R made the first the most amusing to me, the language of the others left a lot to be desired, with their invented words and meaningless sentences…!

IMG_0203

What about frogs?

Is it just me, or is the F badly placed?

Is it just me, or is the ‘F’ badly placed?

Maybe this next one is just me. ‘Ideation‘ apparently does actually exist as a word, but it’s not exactly common, is it?

IMG_0204

If I knew what ideation was, maybe I could enhance it.

The following text is apparently a recurrent error on packaging, given these links: Cheap Toy Poetry, Make Five and Engrish. Presumably should be ‘Once owned, nothing else will do’.

Presumably should be 'Once owned, nothing else will do'.

But what about if ‘Once owned, I don’t like?’

The last one is apparently pretty common too, on doll packaging.

Pure gobbledygook!

Pure gobbledygook!

P.S. Talking of toads, here are two more amusing pictures on the theme. The first was a sign outside an Italian restaurant in Essex:

The second was posted on the windshield of a vehicle parked in the (empty) car park of the Murfreesboro Learning Center:

 

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Translation troubles

I got back a few days ago from a month-long trip to (mainland) France, the UK and Iceland (I’ll be blogging about the Icelandic language soon), and I wanted to share some surprising or humorous translation errors I came across while travelling.

First of all, when we dropped our hire car off at Edinburgh airport on our way to Iceland we came across this surprising sign:

The ‘keys’ have of course been translated into the other languages using the word for computer keys and not car keys. Thankfully the context and the illustration help you understand what is meant.

Also in Edinburgh we came across the following sign when leaving a car-park:

I don’t speak German, Italian or Spanish so can’t vouch for the other languages, but in French a new word, renez, has been created.

While we were in the UK the Korean flag scandal happened, and two days later a chain of British opticians capitalised on it with the following newspaper advertisement:

Although I lived for three years in South Korea my Korean isn’t fluent enough to be sure when there’s a mistake, however a Korean friend confirmed that while the Korean itself is correct, ‘Specsavers’ should be at the beginning and not the end of the sentence. Presumably the advertisers wanted the Korean to look like the equivalent English sentence (an advertising slogan which is well-known in the UK): “They should have gone to Specsavers”.

The day after my return to Reunion Island I went to a local restaurant with a friend who was passing through. This particular restaurant is one of the few in Saint Denis that’s taken the trouble to translate its menu into English, however they insist on using internet translation and unfortunately that gives the following results:

Drop in for dinner?

For those that don’t speak French the Crotin [sic] de Chèvre Chaud should be ‘Warm Goat’s Cheese’ in English and not ‘dung’! (This photo was featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ ‘Best of January 2014’ photo gallery)

Another example from the same menu:

Puts a ro-dent in your appetite?

Here Souris [d’agneau] (knuckle of lamb) has been translated literally as ‘mouse’. (This photo was also featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery). Things have improved however, as a few years ago filet was translated thoughout as ‘net’ instead of ‘fillet’, and cabot de fond (a type of fish) was translated as ‘dog bottom’!

Have you seen any translations that have made you laugh out loud recently?

P.S. By the way, the level of English in Iceland was amazingly good – I virtually never saw (or even heard) any mistakes in English. 

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Mauritian musings

I recently took a trip to Mauritius, a place I know fairly well as it’s Reunion’s neighbouring island, but where I hadn’t been back to since 2001.

Mauritius doesn’t have official languages, although English is the ‘unofficial’ official language, used for business and government, and French is used more in culture and education. However inhabitants’ native language is Mauritian Creole, which although still French-based, is sufficiently different from Reunion Creole for me to have trouble understanding it (although of course I’m not a native speaker of Reunion Creole; mother-tongue speakers of the latter have less trouble understanding Mauritian Creole than I do).

Mauritius has its own Google, available in Mauritian Creole.

Generally speaking Mauritians will spontaneously address a foreigner in French, but switch easily to English if that foreigner is non-French speaking. However the Mauritian bilingualism can sometimes lead to confusion, such as on the following sign which mixes the English “sale” with the French “chemise”, with amusing consequences if you understand both languages.

Another sign also made me smile, as the writer had obviously forgotten the English word ‘butt’ for a cigarette end while writing it!

Just the tonic!

I was recently in India and couldn’t help but smile when I saw the following on a drinks menu in Delhi:

Name your poison – toxic or tonic?

I know India has a reputation for bad drinking water, but “toxic” is taking it a bit far! As for “Beverage’s” I found plurals written this way all over the country. (By the way this photo was featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery)

Also while in India I saw the following slogan for the state of Rajasthan. While technically not a mistake, I felt sure the double meaning was not intentional:

Living and travelling abroad I’ve had the occasion to spot other mistakes. The sign below was in an airplane lavatory on an Air Koryo flight from Pyongyang to Beijing (it also featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery).

Hips don’t fly

As I lived in South Korea for three years I had plenty of chances to see mistakes in English language signs. It’s not easy when English is not your native language, and the Roman alphabet is not yours (Korea uses the hangeul alphabet).

fish from hell?

future alcoholic dogs? (p and b are the same in Korean so they’re often mistaken for each other when written English)

I used the following product but I’ve still got my eyes and lips…

does “sensitive” mean it removes them carefully?

Do you have any photos you’d like to share?

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