Bilingual Bloopers

Home/Bilingual Bloopers

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 […]

After church while we were waiting to eat, some church leaders asked me if we had corn in America. I said, “Yes, but it is not a staple food like it is here in Tanzania.” They then asked me what our staple food was. I answered that there are many different types but my favorite was shoes. They looked quite puzzled. One asked me how we cooked that. “We boil them in water until soft […]

Many words in Bislama are duplicated English words. For example lukluk is look and fatfat is fat. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking this applies to the majority of words. A missionary trying hard to do things the Ni-vanuatu way told the visitors arriving at his hut to come sitsit. Unfortunately, the Bislama word for sit is sidaon; sitsit means (to put it politely) go to the bathroom. Not quite what the […]

A newly arrived missionary in Costa Rica wanted to go to the market and begin learning Spanish. He looked up how to ask the price of things in his Spanish-English dictionary and found the words for “how” and “much” to be “como” and “mucho.” Then he walked around the market pointing at things and saying, “Como mucho.” Everyone laughed because he was actually saying, “I eat much.”

While preaching in an open air market I was giving an illustration using clean water and dirty water. I held up the clean water bottle and said, “If I hit this water, it brings satisfaction.” Realizing immediately that hitting water is an expression meaning to drink hard liquor, I tried to correct myself before anyone had enough time to let it sink in—but it was too late. The crowd one by one slowly “lost it” […]

A missionary preaching in Mexico City from the story of Hannah read where Hannah told her husband that she wouldn’t take the child Samuel up to the tabernacle until he was weaned. Instead of saying “destetado” (weaned), he said “destazado” (to chop up). It was even more hilarious when Elkanah responded, “Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have ‘chopped’ him.”  —RLC

When our language helper, Lilee, asked me what kind of meat I like to eat, I attempted to say “kai kap muu kap NGUA” (chicken and pork and beef). But instead, I came up with ‘kai kap muu kap NGU” (chicken and pork and SNAKE)! Lilee gave me a funny look and replied in English, “Really?!” –K.R, Laos

Our language tutor was teaching us to pray in the Indonesian language. We write out our prayer for his review and then read/pray them before class begins. My wife was thanking God for his mercy, but omitted an “h” sound in the middle of the word. She thanked God for his spider webs instead! —D.C.

After dismissing his congregation, a missionary in Germany went to the back door to greet people as they left. He greeted each member with a handshake and smile and told them, “Gutten nackt.” They realized that he meant to say “Gutten nacht” meaning good night, but grinned or snickered because he had actually said good naked. The preacher was greatly embarrassed when a member at the end of the line corrected him. —Christine […]

A basic conversation goes something like this: Sabaidii! Jao sabaidii baww? (Hello, how are you?)

Khoi sabaidii. Jao dee? (I’m fine. [How are] you?)

Khoi sabaidii. (I’m fine.)

It’s a good thing Jon was only practicing his language skills because instead of saying,

Jao dee (How are you?), he accidentally said, Jao dai! (You die.)!

—Chris, Laos

Go to Top