We all know that in order to learn a new language you have make mistakes and prepare yourself to feel a bit embarrassed every now and again. Even though being an English teacher means that you may not have to risk a faux pas in front of an entire class of students, the streets are not such a safe haven.
At Tt Towers we have heard plenty of hilarious anecdotes from our grads about their run ins with the Spanish language. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these revolve around “false friends”. These are word pairs (one Spanish word and one English) that appear to translate to the same thing but do not; telling someone you’re “embarazada” in Spanish (that you’re pregnant, not embarrassed) is a rite of passage during your first year learning the lingo.
Lucky for us, these make for some pretty funny stories (#SorryNotSorry) so we thought we would share some of the most common ones. Have any of these ever caught you out?
- “There are less preservatives in the food” translated to “hay menos preservativos en la comida”: literally means “there are fewer condoms in this food.”
I know we all have to defend the food from our home countries against this country’s love of Jamon and Tortilla, but that may be going slightly too far.
- “I am really excited” translated to “estoy excitada”: literally means “I’m aroused”.
No-one wants that conversation with their school director/boyfriend’s dad/girlfriend’s mum/landlord #awkward
- “Estoy constipado” understood as “I am constipated”: literally means “I have a cold”.
We all know that our Iberian friends love to over share details of their bodily functions (“I really didn’t need to know that you go to the loo at 11am like clockwork, profe”) but this is a tricky one and still makes most English natives shudder.
Spanish grammar can be a false friend in itself. If you forget an accent or go masculine with a word that should be feminine, what comes out of your mouth or gets sent out in a mass email could get you into hot water.
- Advertising “Classes de ingles”, hoping to find new students and finding that a lot of creepy people are getting in touch? Ingles without the accent means bikini line/groin area so you should definitely double, triple and quadruple check that before hitting send.
Masculine and feminine are hard to get your head around but you might be feeling extra confident and think that chicken in its feminine form just needs a nice little –a adding. Well, you’d be very much mistaken and very red faced. Pollo=chicken and polla=male genitals. Here are some of our favorite ‘pollo/a’ stories:
- Making things McAwkward by asking for a McPolla in McDonald’s. Come on! Hamburguesa is feminine so pollo should be… oh forget it.
- One of our grads was at a market and asked for “una media pechuga de polla”. After realizing what he had done, he tried to cover it up “no, pollo, pollo, pollo!”. The damage has already been done.
Anos/ Años and Cono/ Coño
- The word ano or anos without the Ñ symbol does not mean “year” and coño with the Ñ symbol does not mean cone. They, in fact, mean… nope, we can’t bring ourselves to say it. We’ll have to leave you in the capable hands of Wordreference.
And this one is just for fun…
Problems with Google Translate
One of the grad’s students while doing an art presentation on the Mona Lisa translated the painting title as The Smooth Monkey.
These false friends are inevitable during your first few months in Madrid and making a few comical errors is a rite of passage for any non-native. TtMadrid’s Spanish Academy, LAE Madrid, offers “Be yourself in Spanish” courses every other Saturday that can help you to spot these errors and get immediate correction. For more information, contact our super star class coordinator, Andrew on firstname.lastname@example.org.