Bilingual Bloopers

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While visiting a church in  the USA, a missionary told of one occasion when he was preaching a sermon (possibly his first) in Japanese. “Sin will ruin your life; you must forsake your sin!” he cried, only to see bewilderment on the faces of the congregation. After the service, a kind Japanese man explained, “I think you meant to say sin; but the way you pronounced the word, it means wife!”

 

An American missionary was preaching in Romanian on the subject of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Vividly describing how the people shouted praises as Jesus rode into town, he failed to realize that he had mistaken the word Magyar (Hungarian) for măgar (donkey). The Romanians, of course, enjoyed a few laughs over the idea of Jesus being carried around on the back of a Hungarian.       —G. Sutek

 

Years ago a missionary in Indonesia wanted his worker to cut the grass. However, he kept telling the man to get a hair cut. (Rambut means hair, and rumput means grass.) After three hair cuts and a nearly bald head, the error was detected.

Another blooper from Indonesia is the frequent misuse of the words kalapa and kapala. Kalapa means coconut and kapala means head. Though it is quite okay to drink coconut juice, it is […]

Once in Oaxaca, Mexico, while teaching in a home Bible study about Sabbath observance, I meant to say “sabatistas” (those who worship on Saturday), but I said “sabanistas.” “Sabanas” are bed sheets. Someone said, “Yeah, sabanitas are the people that stay in bed on Sunday and worship God between the sheets!” My preaching may not have always been edifying, but it was entertaining!         —Rex

 

Today I sent my very first text message in Chinese characters (with the help of an English-Chinese dictionary). But I was still admittedly pretty proud of myself until I was double checking the last word… 谢谢 (xie xie-thank you) and realized it was the wrong characters… 腹泻. Although also pronounced xie xie, it has a totally different meaning (loose bowels or diarrhea).          —Julie

 

I wanted to tell my language helper that we were finished for the day. But instead of saying “ta so(we are finished), I said “ta sio” (go away). Thankfully my helper had a sense of humor and informed me that my way of dismissing people was probably not the best if I want to have friends. At times, living and learning in the village is very frustrating, but God is very abundant in His […]

Yesterday, one of my fellow students said to me, “Tu es belle.” I responded, “Oui, c’est vrai,” because I thought he was saying the weather was beautiful.  He chuckled a little.  I replayed the short dialogue in my head because his chuckle seemed out of place, and it was an unusual way to remark about the weather.  As I thought about what he said, I realized he was telling me I was beautiful (I was dressed […]

I was helping to clean the kitchen after a meal in Peru and called for a rag—or so I thought. The co-laborer to whom I was speaking stopped, looked at me quizzically, and burst out laughing. Since I had asked for a “tropa” instead of a “trapo,” she thought I wanted a “troop” of soldiers to help us clean the kitchen!    —Cheri

 

 

Lungandan, a tribal language of Uganda, has many short affixes which give an utterance its meaning. These often string together to form long words which are difficult to read; and correct placing of word breaks is very important.  When reading a passage in church, a native who was a poor reader caused some laughter and irritation. He sounded out a few syllables, returning to the beginning and adding a bit more each time until he […]

Just before attending BBTI, Tim was visiting western Ukraine. He had learned some Russian, and his friends there asked him what he planned to do when he returned to the US. Not knowing the word for “institute,” he used the word for “university.” He thought he was saying, “I am going to enroll in (pastupayu) a university,” but he actually said, “I am going to buy (pakupala) a university.” They were completely speechless as they […]

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