Relationships are difficult enough when you are both speaking the same language, but things get to be a whole new level of interesting when you add a language barrier to the mix. Where miscommunications happen, hilarity ensues.
Reddit user cpasgraveodile asked:
Redditors who are married to someone with whom you don't share a common first language, what hilarious misunderstandings have you had?
When I first met my now wife, she thought every baby animal should be prefixed with puppy, as in puppy dog.
So the were puppy cats, puppy birds, puppy sheep, puppy horses etc... It was gold. It was so funny that nobody told her it was wrong.
She got me back by teaching me how to say "I'm tired" as "I'm stupid" in her language. So when we moved to her country to live, revenge was had.
Edit: by popular demand, my wife is German.
Same Language, But Very Different
For me being an American who married an Aussie I always got a kick out of her saying she was going to wear a "sloppy joe". Which meant a hoodie to her and to me it's a type of loose meat sandwich in a tomato sauce.
Be Careful Of The Slang
Once jokingly called my Brazilian wife a little piranha because she was devouring her food.
Turns out it's slang for « slut/whore » in Brazil
Edit for linguistic purposes: « piranha » is a loan word from the Tupi language. It's the same in Portuguese, English, French etc (with a few spelling variation)
Enunciation Is Important
She didn't like it when I jokingly called our son Buster, because she thought I was calling him a bastard.
But generally, we have no problems with communication. Her written English is far better than mine, and she's generally fine with the spoken language unless it gets too slangy.
Husband learned English from school/studying so he isn't very good with swear words. We were sat in a bar with another couple who started having an argument. The woman stormed off, shouting "You just don't give a f*ck." My husband turned to me and said "They don't have sex?!?"
It's Almost The Same, But So Much Worse
Kinda late but I love this story too much to not post.
I had a short phase where I would say "horse sh*t" a lot. My wife isn't a big swearer but one day we were texting about something that happened at work and she says to me "It's total whore sh*t!!!" Had we been speaking I never would have noticed.
I was both appalled by how vulgar she was and also overjoyed with how mich funnier whore sh*t is vs. horse sh*t. Greatest day of my life.
Joke's On Her
When I was dating my wife; she was taking me to see a popodai farm. There will be popodais everywhere, you can touch small popodais, they have awesome popodai show and you can even eat popodais! I had absolutely no idea what she's taking about, but more I asked, more she got frustrated, so I just went with it.
2 hours later I was like AHHH, CROCODILE FARM!
I spend rest of the day making fun of her. Then we met her friend. And she asked her, how do you say "crocodile" in English? Her friend looked me dead in the eyes and said "POPODAI"! I lost it there... .
Embarrassing Her Probably Isn't The Way To Go
My wife is Chinese and oh man is this one ever bad.
In China, a lot of people get a plastic surgery to give themselves a second eye fold. It's called "shuang yan pi" - shuang is double, yan is eye, pi is skin. Double eye skin. Got it? But flip "yan pi" to "pi yan" and now you're saying "butthole". Chinese is a tightrope walk where you're an inch away from a terrifying misinterpretation at any moment.
At this point we're dating and it's early in the relationship. I'm meeting her best friend for the first time and I am determined to make a good impression. So, we're down in the food court of some Chinese shopping mall and I know that her friend has recently done the surgery. Great. Free conversation topic, but I accidentally flip yan and pi: "you have a nice double butthole!" I say, like an idiot. "What?" they both reply in unison. My wife's jaw has dropped; I don't notice. I'm guessing they haven't heard me. So here I am, practically yelling over the noisy cafeteria crowd "YOU HAVE TWO BUTTHOLES! THEY LOOK GOOD!"
At this point my wife is urgently telling me to shut up: whatever I am trying to say, I'm saying it really wrong. I'm still loudly repeating it, though, but now I'm motioning to my eye "DOUBLE BUTTHO---" and my now-wife grabs my arm and says "just describe what you mean".
We eventually figure it out. I never live it down.
That Could Be Disastrous
The "th" sound is pretty hard for some (most) germans and they often substitute an f. Imagine a three year old with a lisp who cant say th sounds.. well that's my boyfriend. It's really cute but it annoys the sh*t out of him when I laugh at it.
One Word Can Make All The Difference
I was with my husband and the lawyers office regarding one of his clients. In describing the issue to the lawyer, my husband was very frustrated with his client because he felt his client wouldn't stop jerking him "off" — I politely stepped in to say AROUND... around...he meant around.
I have a German wife. This might be a little hard to understand in text, but I'll give it a shot.
There's a cadence to the "yes" and "no" sounds. When you say "mm-hmm," the tone starts low and rises. "Uh-uh" is the opposite. But apparently in Germany, to say "yes," they make a rising "hmm" sound, which sounds just like a question in English. So we had (and still have rounds) of me asking a question, her saying yes, and me thinking she didn't understand and asking again. Usually culminating in one of us getting annoyed.
That is kind of similar in japan. Here a short "un" (うん)means yes and an elongated "uuun" (ううん)that goes up in the end means no. But a monotone "uuuun" (うーん)means that the person is still thinking about it and undecided.
Google Translate Is Your Friend
When we first started dating my Swedish husband would use a particular phrase - "kn*lla i munnen" - to describe delicious food. I picked up on it because he repeated it a lot. A couple months later we went out to dinner with his Swedish mom; it was my first time meeting her. I wanted to impress her with my knowledge of Swedish so when we first tasted our food I said it was "kn*lla i munnen." She went kind of silent and just looked down at her plate. My husband's eyes went wide. Super awkward for rest of the dinner and I didn't get why. Translation of this phrase in Swedish (husband told me later): "like a f*ck in the mouth."
You must be a great cook if he repeated it so often you picked it up?
I think he might have been playing the long game, and wanted her to pick it up just for this occasion.
We Need A Shart
Wife is swedish, I am american. We are fluent in each others languages so our f*ckups are way more noticeable/funny.
We arrive at a store in the US (Target I think) and she tells me to go get a 'shart' and walks away into some aisle. I freeze, pondering what the hell she meant, while stifling my laughter. At this point there is some distance between us (as I had no idea how to process her request) and she yells angrily across the store 'WE NEED A SHART!' and gestures to the front of the store.
I start dying of laughter as I realize she means for me to get a shopping 'cart' and I quickly run over to her and explain that she was using the wrong word. Fine. It happens. 'But why are people looking at me weird?' I had to explain what 'shart' meant as well. The look on her face was priceless.
Didn't help that she was looking around in the pants section of the store afterwords.
Ship, I Saw A Ship!
My cousin's wife is from Spain. The first time she came to our American family reunion she was so excited about the wildlife (we do a camping/hiking trip every 2 years)
She came back to the group after a day of hiking and was excited to tell us about the "ship" she saw. Obviously we were confused and after a few rounds of back and forth she was getting pretty frustrated. Her response: "you know, a f*ing ship! Baaaaa"
She'd seen a big horned sheep and we only caught on after her sound effects. I've got some good stories about her.
Same Sounds, Different Meaning
First time she saw my penis my wife gasped and told me it was "wide" (pronounced why-duh), which got me excited (nobody ever said that before, all this time I thought it was below average), but nearly a year later I found out that it meant "crooked" in her native tongue (she didn't know the word for crooked).
And yes, the shame does burn.
Syntax Is Crucial
Not my husband, but dated a Persian guy for almost two years.
He looked me in the eye with so much tenderness, and said, "I love you from the heart of my bottom."
I'm a bit late to the party, his native language is Spanish, mine is English. He doesn't get sarcasm at all. He also uses "anything" for "nothing," and "anyone," for "no one."
My favorite though has to be when we were on a road trip and he was trying to say "chick" but he didn't know the word, so he described them as "puppy chickens."
Our early relationship was filled with constant miscommunications over text, when his English was still a little rough. It can be both adorable and stressful.
Right Meaning, Wrong Word
I'm Canadian and he's French. We were trying to decide what show we should download and watch together and he excitedly blurts out "Malcom in between!" I usually try to restrain myself from laughing when he tries to say certain words or phrases in English so he doesn't get discouraged but damn I couldn't hold in my laughter for this!
Ah yes, Betwixt Malcolm...
Oh, Malcom in the Midst is my favorite.
Always Ask The Meaning Of New Words
I'm Indian, and switch between two or three Indian languages while speaking with my family and friends, and I speak great English. Husband is American and knows only English.
Typically our misunderstanding are because he's only heard a word said, not spelled, and when I've only seen a word spelled and not said. We were once confused about hors d'oeuvres. It took us an hour to realize what was being said.
So unbeknownst to me, I cuss a lot, and one common curse I use is 'shata' which in kannada means pubes. I didn't know I said it that frequently, but my husband picked up on it. He didn't ask me what it meant, he assumed it meant something like 'omg'. In practice, it can be used to mean 'bupkis', but usually it's seen as a very rude, uncultured, uncouth word.
We went to meet my friends. They were being oddly formal around him because my husband comes off as a very serious, focused, quiet person. They ask him if he's learning any Indian languages, and then in a serious voice he said 'i know shata'.
They double over laughing hard, falling off their chairs at a serious looking white man saying 'shata' so casually, and seriously at a fancy Italian restaurant, especially in a grammatically and contextually correct sentence.
I had no idea I used that word that often around him, or that he actually picked up on it and remembered it, and the whole time I was like 'how do you know that word?'.
English Has A Similar Comparison
The first time I met her family and her mother had made a delicious lemon chicken, I wanted to show how much I liked it and impress with my limited Spanish so I asked:
Quiero más polla.
Next thing I know my gfs brothers were laughing and nearly choking through tears.
Unfortunately pollo is delicious chicken and polla is a dick.