Dual Entry #2

"Language Bloopers"
UPDATED 4/10/2004

(Note:  this will be a running list throughout the year)

Language school has been very interesting.  We both knew that becoming fluent in Spanish would be a challenge.  While we both had some language training in college, we were still very far from being able to star in an Antonio Banderas movie.

Today, we're in better shape than when we started, thanks to the fine folks at Centro Maya de Idiomas, our one-on-one language school.  Still, we have had some pretty embarrassing flubs since arriving.  We'll try to keep a running chronicle here for your enjoyment.

Backwards OOPs #16

I love my brother-in-law, Owen.  He's always good for a laugh.  And, if he's not in the mood to be funny himself, he is always a good audience (ie, he laughs at everything, so you feel funny even if you aren't).  

When they were here to visit, we went to Graciela's brother's house (Noe) to see their shop and introduce the family.  Well, Noe is one smooth cat and is always so polite and cool, like his Dad.  Anyway, we come in and exchange pleasantries.  Owen, having grown up in the valley in TX speaks pretty good Spanish, so he busts out with a "Como esta?".  Noe, replies, as is his norm, "Gracias a Dios, bien.  Y usted?"  (Thanks be to God, I am fine.  And you?)

But what Owen hears is, "Gracias.  Adios.  Bien"  (Thanks.  Goodbye.  Fine.)  Owen wondered for hours afterwards why Noe wanted him to leave as soon as he arrived.  It wasn't til a few hours later when I was commenting on how much I like that Noe is always "giving it up to God, even in his greetings" and Owen starts laughing.

Ya gotta love him.  Who knew I was that funny.

OOPs! #15

This all started about six months ago, right after language school. Wanting to be cool and learn all the slang, I decide that I need to call Martin "pops" instead of "Martin" or our "father" in Guatemala.  So one day after my first few weeks I walk in for dinner and say, "Hola Popi (POPE EE)."  Martin immediately replies, while laughing, "No, Gaby, es Papi (PAH PEE)."  Have you ever had a time when in your head you see two words being spelled the exact same way and while you know they are pronounced differently, your brain refuses to get on board? (Like read and read).  Hence my problem.  I didn't catch on that they were actually spelled two different ways.  This would have been a big help.

So I stopped using it and decided that 't at all cool and however I was saying it, it just wasn't coming out right, if you know what I mean, and I think you will once I tell you the good part.  

It's now been  six months that we have been living with the family and one day, out of the blue I decide to try out my chapina slang again. 

"Hola Popi!" I say with glee.

"Aye, Gaby, no, it's Papi, P-A-P-I," says Martin.  At this exact moment my brain figures out the whole misunderstanding.  Lightbulb!

"Oh, ahora, entiendo," (oh, now I understand), I say.  "But what does "popi" mean anyway?"

"Popi es como mierda pero mas amable."  EXCELLENT.  So, it turns out for about a month straight I was walking into the house and joyfully saying, "Hi Poop!"  Literal translation of Martin's is "'Popi' is like shit but more polite."  Wow.  

Oops #14 (The best yet!)

I (Scott) am putting together a website for the place where I work.  It's a campus-like environment where people come for schooling, or simply to rent the facilities.

As I was taking pictures of the buildings, I decided it would be nice to include pictures of the staff on the website as well.  So, I went to the comedor (cafeteria) and asked all of the women in the kitchen if they would come outside for a group photo.  Unfortunately, very few of the women speak Spanish.  Only one or two understood me.  However, Marcos, another staff person, was able to translate into Quiché for me.

All of the women lined up, but none were smiling.  In english, we ask people to say, "cheese" so they'll be smiling when they take the picture.  In spanish, "cheese" translates to "queso", which doesn't do much for smiles.  So, here people say "whisky", and at times, I have heard them say "whiskil", the name of a local vegetable.

In my attempt to get the women to smile, I said, "WHISKIL" about a dozen times or so.  The women smiled, laughed, and looked a bit shocked.  None of them said it, but the pictures turned out decent.

About three hours later, my supervisor and I were walking out of his office when he started giggling.  I asked, "What happened?"  He replied, "I was just thinking of how you told all of those women to say 'whiskil' today."

I said, "What's so funny about that?  It's just a vegetable, right?"

He replied, "Sure... in Spanish it's just a vegetable.  But those women only speak Quiché."

My question came next, "So what does "whiskil" mean in Quiché?"

That's when he let me know that I am perhaps the first missionary in history to ask a group of women to repeatedly say aloud the vulgar term for female genitalia.

My face is still red.

Oops #13

Gabby was retelling the story of how she had to trudge a mile through thick mud.  She was tryig to explain how the trip wasn't so bad due to her rubber boots.  So, she told our host dad, 

"Yo tuve suerte porque yo tuve botas de huele."

He thought this was pretty funny.  It turns out that "hule" is the word for rubber.  What she said was:

 "I was lucky because I had boots of smell."

Oops #12
Gabby and Scott wanted to make their room feel more like home so they decided to hang some stuff on the walls.  Easy enough.  All you need is some nails and some stuff.  Stuff, check.  Nails... missing. So Gabby suggests to Scott, "hey, why don't you go ask Martin for some nails?  I just learned the word for them on my last trip.  It's calvos."

Scott says, "Are you sure?"   "YES, (with an air of confidence)" says Gabby.  In her head, however, Gabby begins to doubt her Spanish vocabulary.

Scott goes to ask Martin in the workshop and Gabby follows along.  

Scott: "Hola Martin, tiene calvos?

Martín: With a look of bewilderment, "No, no tengo calvos!" While at the same time pointing at his head with a new look of, what, can't you see for yourself?  The entire family present, laughs hysterically at their built-in gringo entertainment.

Scott takes one look at Gabby and makes note to self: must kill Gabby later.

Scott innocently asked for "balds" instead of nails.  Nails are "clavos".  Bald is "calvo".  Oops. Sorry Scotty.  The funny part is that Scott knew what calvos meant but with some prompting from his wife, he trustingly stumbled into yet another blooper, God love him.

Gabby's Teacher, Tito, 
Having A Bad Reaction To Gabby's Spanish


Oops #11

Scott was attending the regional meeting of the organization he's working for this year.  There were 50 pastors and community leaders in attendance.  Scott was asked to stand up and deliver a small introduction and inspirational message.  Being the poetic type, he took a sincere tone of voice and began... "Yo estoy emocionado para estar con ustedes.  Yo puedo ver el amor de Cristo en sus acciones, sus ojos, y sus rastros"

What he meant to say was... "I am really excited to be here with you.  I can see the love of Christ in your actions, your eyes, and your faces."

However, the poetic word for "faces" isn't "rastro", but rather "rostro."  So.. what Scott said was..

"I am really excited to be here with you.  I can see the love of Christ in your actions, your eyes, and your meat packing plant."

So... now everyone in Guatemala thinks Jesus works at the local slaughterhouse clubbing cows with a big hammer.  Nice one!


Oops #10

Here is a blooper that has now been made by Caridad AND Scott.  One day, a man came up and asked Scott where the bathroom was.  Being kind and considerate, he gestured toward the back of the establishment and said "Alli'!"  He looked at me as if I had insulted him, and walked toward the bathroom.  Mission accomplished.

Similarly, Caridad was explaining to another student that the ayudantes of the buses often try to overcharge you.  Their audacity requires you to be very confident and assertive.  So, she told the student that the ayudante might try to charge 8 quetzales for the trip, so you need to forcefully point to him with your five fingers and say, "NO, cinco quetzales!"  (No!  Five quetzales!)

What neither of them knew is that gesturing in Guatemala is dangerous business.  Our language instructors later informed us that it's OK to point with one finger, or even with your whole hand, so long as your fingers are together, side-by-side.  instead, both Scott and Caridad thrust their hand forward with fingers casually spread (kinda' like they we're trying to say "five"... which Caridad was.  Unfortunately, the bus driver and the man asking about the bathroom were greeted not only by words, but by our actions which said...

"$#%@ Your MOTHER!"

Thank the Lord that none of them ended up in jail or in the hospital.

Scott's Teacher, Keyla
Is Studying Law At The Local University

Pedro Is Caridad's Teacher
He's Also Her Host Dad For 5 Weeks


Oops #9

After a long morning of shopping n the market, Scott's new host dad struck up a conversation with him.

Martin:  Hola Scott, esta cansado?  (Hello, Scott!  Are you tired?)

What he meant to say was, "No, I'm not tired, but I AM hungry!  I want a big chocolate donut from the bakery!"  Instead, he said...

Scott:  "No, no estoy cansado, pero tengo hambre!  Yo quiero una doña grande, cubierto de chocolate!"

However, he should have said "dona" instead of "doña."  So, his phrase translated to... 

I'm not tired, but I AM hungry!  I want a big lady covered in chocolate!

After the laughter subsided, Scott realized that this probably wasn't the best phrase to use.  However, after some consideration... and remembering that his wife is on the trip... he is anxiously trying to talk Gabby into dunking herself in a vat of melted Hershey bars.

Oops #8

This could be the best one yet!  Caridad, is our resident "glass is totally-full" volunteer.  Her spirit is always uplifting, and we all admire how she takes things in stride.  She also has a heart the size of Texas - which makes this story so poignant.

Last week, we indulged and found an Italian restaurant here in Xela.  We all ordered our favorites (pizza, pasta or calzone).  It was a real TREAT!  Caridad and Jen split a calzone the size of a sofa cushion.  Unfortunately, they couldn't eat it all, so Caridad took the remaining portion "para llevar" (to go.)

Doggie bag in hand, Caridad was walking through downtown Xela after the meal.  She noticed a little, tiny, very old, hobbit-like homeless man.  He was dirty, shoeless, and shivering.  Her big heart guiding her actions, she approached the man and asked...

CARIDAD:  "Tienes Hambre?"  (Are you hungry)

THE MAN:  "Si, tengo hambre."  (Yes, I am hungry)

What follows is perhaps the best language flub in history.

CARIDAD:  (With a soul full of sincerity)  "Muy Bien!  Yo tengo un calzon in este bolsa para ti.  Tu quires?  Es muy bueno.  Todavia esta caliente, y no es muy viejo.  Solamente dos horas!  Por favor, lo tomas y come!"

THE MAN:  (Looking confused and little scared or surprised... she's not sure.  He said nothing.)

What Caridad meant to say was, "I have a calzone in this bag.  Would you like it?  It's really good!  It's still hot and only two hours old.  Please, take and eat it.

Instead, what she said was...

Very well then!  I have women's panties in this bag for you! Do you want them?  They are very good!  They're really hot and not very old -only two hours!  Please take them and eat them!

It wasn't until a week later that Caridad learned that he word "calzon" in Spanish (in Guatemala) is women's panties.  The man has yet to be seen again, but he now believes that women from the U.S. are the nicest people on the planet.

Daniel Is Jen's Teacher...
One Heck Of A Great Guy


Oops #7

Caridad was trying to explain the slogan of Jello commercials to her language instructor Pedro.  She told him how, no matter how full your stomach is, the commercial says, "There's always room for Jell-O!"

Pedro looks at her, disbelieving and says with a Guatemalan accent...

"There's always room for J-Lo?!  Jennifer Lopez!?  How interesting!"

Olga, Brian's Teacher, Is
Studying Economics At The University


Oops #6 

Scott was making a phone call to Brian, another volunteer, to invite him to lunch.  He was really nervous about making the call, becaus it's really hard to understand a new language without body language and being able to read lips, too.

He picked up the phone and dialed.  On the third ring, a man picked up the phone.

MAN:  Hola!  Buenos Dias.  (Hello!  Good day)

SCOTT:  Hola, Brian esta alli?  (Hi, is Brian there)

MAN:  "De parte de quien? (Literally translated, this phrase means "of part of whom?"... but figuratively means something else.  Still, Scott responded to the literal)

SCOTT:  "Cual parte de mi?"  Translated, this means

"Which part of me would he like to speak with?

So, this man now thinks I have multiple talking body parts.

Oops #5

In one of his first days of Spanish school, Scott was talking to his instructors about how he was a little shy to speak Spanish.  He meant to say, "I'm embarassed."  ("Yo estoy embarasada.")  Apparently, that phrase translates to...

"I'm pregnant."

He's going to be joining a local freak show to begin touring the country.



Oops #4

There is an awesome Mennonite bakery here, and they make killer pastries.  Pie is an especially big hit.  During our stay here, we have both made statements relating to pie such as "I love apple pie." (A Mi me gusta "pee-ay" de manzana").  The pronunciation of the word "pie" SHOULD be just like we pronounce it in the states if we're talking about the pastry... because our pronunciation translated to...

"I love feet of apples!"


Oops #3

Scott has been really fascinated by how women here carry huge loads balanced on their heads.  Since his teacher is Mayan, he wanted to know if she could carry stuff on her head, too.  So, he asked, "Can you carry on your head, too?"  ("Puedes cagar en tu cabeza, tambien?")  Apparently, the verb "to carry" is not CAGAR, but CARGAR.  The direct translation of what he asked is...

"Can you $&^% (poop) on your own head, too?"


Oops #2

One morning while reading the back of a coffee can label, Scott discerned that the verb "disfrutar" means "to enjoy."  So, when his female instructor asked him what he thought of the presentation that he had seen the day before, Scott replied "I enjoyed myself very much."  ("me disfruto mucho").  Apparently, "ME disfruto mucho" means something entirely different than "YO disfruto mucho".

The direct translation of that statement means that Scott was enjoying himself if in manner that should be kept very private.

Her red face finally subsided after 10 minutes.  The laughter lasts to this day.


Oops #1

Gabby was typing up one of her first e-mails home that was solely in Spanish.  She copied her sister and a few other folks.  Well, her sister Kerri plugged the e-mail into the language translator on the Google website.  What Gabby intended to say was, "We didn't get to see the house, but on Sunday, we did go to the church that will be our church for the year."  Instead, the translation came out...

"I do not see the house but in Domingo, we went to our church for this anus."

Apparently, if you don't put the little squiggly line over the ñ in the word "año" (meaning "year"), the word "ano" translates to "anus." Lesson learned.