Here at Flaherty´s Irish Bar Barcelona we have a great international staff where different languages are flowing in abundance. However, since we are located in Spain (Barcelona, Ibiza, and Zaragoza), the main language of communication between our staff and guests is usually Spanish, English or the crowd favorite: Spanglish. Normally, there is a great desire amongst most to learn a second language and many people take the opportunity while traveling, working, or just chit-chatting with others to practice and improve their language skills. What most of us learn through this process is that some things just don’t quite translate from language to language, which usually incites comical moments. Those “false friends”, expressions, and ways of describing things are difficult to learn, but make practicing a new language exciting, fun and gratifying once you have overcome the obstacles. So, we have compiled a few hilarious mistakes in Spanish and English that I have heard over the years for you all to enjoy.
Spanish speakers learning English:
One of the funniest false friends that Spanish speakers tend to use is “constipated”. Now fair enough, “constipar” in Spanish means to have a cold/stuffy nose etc. Therefore, most Spanish people translate constipar to “I am constipated”, which will provide a good chuckle to an English speaker because of course this means you cannot poop or “estar estreñido”. Other times the pronunciation is the problem. During the summer months we all want to go to the beach to splash in the ocean and sunbathe on the sand. However, many of my Spanish friends pronounce “beach” (playa) the same as “bitch”(zorra) and therefore ask me if I would like to go to the “bitch” instead of go to the beach. This usually tickles my funny bone. So be careful because pronunciation does matter! Finally, English can be difficult because there are words pronounced the same, but spelled differently with different meanings. For example, by, buy, and bye can be extremely confusing for English language learners. I know first-hand because I brought my Spanish boyfriend home to experience an American Christmas and as my mother and I went to the store I receive a message: Can you please BYE me deodorant.
Now we are going to take a look at English speakers learning Spanish, which is equally hilarious:
One of the most classic mistakes English speakers make is falling for the false friend trap and translating “I am embarrassed” to “estoy embarazada”. This is completely wrong because what you are really saying is “I am pregnant”! The correct way to express yourself and say “I am embarrassed” is “estoy avergonzado/a”. You will thank me later! Also, in English we may have one word with different meanings such as “breast” which could mean a person´s chest or a chicken breast, referring to the type of meat you are ordering. But, in this instance the sly Spanish language uses two distinct words which throws English speakers for a loop-d-loop. “Pecho” refers to a person´s breast, where as “pechuga” refers to a breast of chicken (pollo). Therefore, when you order a pecho de pollo you are telling the waiter you want chicken boobs! Don’t worry he will appreciate your efforts and have a good laugh with you. Lastly, Spanish uses the verb tener (to have) to explain physical sensations. For example “to be thirsty” is “tener sed” which would literally translate into English as “I have thirsty”. Therefore, a comical mistake made with beginners is that they forget to use tener and instead use estar(to be) to express physical sensations because that is how we express ourselves in English. So if you are hot please do not say “estoy caliente” because instead of saying you are hot, you are literally telling the Spaniards you are horny! The correct way is “tengo calor”.
Learning a language is a journey and we should all be able to laugh at ourselves because we all make mistakes. So have a good chuckle and remember that your blunders will help you move on and up! Plus, like I said we have many internationals enter our doors here at Flaherty´s Irish Bar Barcelona each day, and it would be a great way for you to improve your language skills! It all starts with practice, and don’t, forget, we have some great cocktails to help you overcome the embarrassment and get after it!