We all mistakes. We definitely all make mistakes when learning a foreign language. (Heck, we even make mistakes in our own language! Mario loves to point out when this happens to me in English.) These mistakes aren’t anything to be ashamed of; indeed, they are natural and fun ways to learn—if you have the right attitude! When I first got to Spain, I made a ton of mistakes. I swear, every other word that came out of my mouth was wrong! I’ve come a long way since I wrote on my Facebook wall that I was incapable of speaking Spanish properly.
Guiris make a lot of mistakes in Spanish. (I’m including myself among them!) This list is far from comprehensive; it’s just what first came to my mind. What sort of things do guiris like myself do wrong?
What do Spanish people call their frenemies? It’s simple, really—enemigos. Ha! Get it? Or am I the only one who thought that was funny.
Translation can be a tricky thing. It’s tempting to Englishize all the Spanish words we don’t know. Thus, problem becomes problemo (wrong) and perfect becomes perfecto (correct). But sometimes we get into trouble with this line of thinking.
My Top 10 Spanish Translation Mistakes
1. Estar embarazada vs. to be embarrassed
Come on, I can’t not mention it. Who hasn’t, on their first trip to Spain or Mexico or wherever, let it slip that they’re so embarazada? I know I have. Too bad embarazada means pregnant!
We were watching a soccer (football) match on television a few months ago when it hit me: I understood him—the commentator, that is. Even when a goal was scored and his words flew out faster than I thought possible, I understood. I wasn’t even trying. A few years ago, I would have been astounded to understand such commentary. (If you don’t know, they tend to speak very quickly.) Nowadays it’s almost old hat. What a change!
And I’m not saying this to brag. I got to thinking about the different levels of understanding a language. In my case, it’s Spanish, specifically Spain Spanish.
Of course you could go with levels, but I prefer my own method here:
Mario and I went to Italy on our honeymoon. (In July, no less.) It was there that Mario unlearned his very first Spanish word, the word for basil. You see, in Italy, we were eating quite a few Caprese salads (insalata caprese), a simple salad from Capri consisting of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, fresh basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. This salad? Our idea of summer perfection, so we ordered it more than a few times. Mario liked to fancy himself an Italian speaker, so he would order while I pretended I didn’t know English or Italian or Spanish. (Clueless guiri card? Yeah, I’ll play it, even in Italy.) He probably read the description of the insalata caprese a few times, all of which mentioned basilico.
Back in Spain, Mario kept referring to basil as basilico, the Italian word for basil. I thought he was just being cute and trying to remind me of our time in Italy, but it soon became apparent: Mario actually thought the word was basílico, when it was in fact albahaca. I let this go on for a few more days before kindly telling him, “Mario, en tu idioma se dice albahaca.”