Bilingual Bloopers

Home/Bilingual Bloopers

We asked our language helper for the two statements: (1) That is a shovel. (2) That is not a shovel. I felt certain he didn’t understand my instructions because the two statements sounded identical. I challenged him by confidently saying, “You are saying the same thing.” What was I doing, correcting my language helper when I knew so very little about his language? I felt so foolish when I realized that though the two statements […]

2022-02-28T11:33:07-05:00

The missionary’s  audience was a little perplexed as he told them the disciples were all on a “rock” in the middle of the sea.  The audience wondered why the disciples were there and how they even got there. It was even more confusing when the missionary illustrated that Jesus Christ is our “boat” that never moves.  They were curious to know how the motionless boat represented Christ.  The message was clarified when the missionary realized […]

2022-02-28T11:31:48-05:00

In Nepali culture, as in many cultures around the world, children are often a conversation piece. You often hear compliments such as kasto ramro chhori! which means, “What a GOOD girl!” given to the parents. However, an untrained foreigner who attempts to reproduce this compliment could easily offend the other parent by saying, kasto ramro chori! which means, “What a good THIEF!” —Justin

2022-02-28T11:31:23-05:00

We finished our first semester of Hebrew a few weeks ago. We are enjoying a break but are also looking forward to getting back to our studies. We now know enough Hebrew to be dangerous, and if we’re not careful, get into conversations past our understanding. The word for the phrase see you later is “lehitraot,” but I didn’t say it right. What I said was the word for pasta; it’s so easy to get […]

2022-02-28T11:30:46-05:00

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!”

 

2021-11-08T17:14:17-05:00

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

 

2021-11-01T15:30:41-05:00

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 […]

2021-10-05T13:32:55-05:00

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

 

2021-10-05T13:30:51-05:00

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

 

2021-10-05T13:28:49-05:00

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 […]

2021-07-08T10:19:38-05:00
Go to Top