Archive | November, 2012

Fun with Languages

29 Nov

As you may know, learning a new language always has hiccups.  Here are some of my favorite hiccups in language that I experienced.

Go to the rudeness store  today.  Stop playing around, just go buy the food at the rudeness store.”- turns out the word for grocery store in Portuguese is the word for rude (ria at the end indicates store in both languages) in Salvadoran Spanish.   The cook was playing with me pretending to not understand something earlier, I thought she was still joking around so i was saying this non-sensical sentence at her in a stern tone, i am not sure if that is ironic, or just moronic.

“NO!  Of course Not!”   Again me losing my temper during a misunderstanding, for my farewell dinner from the Korean school, they asked me if i eat dog.  I had covered this a week ago in class when a kid asked me, i made a joke about it, after he told me dog was delicious “Your brother might taste good, but you don’t eat your family,” and all the other teachers knew I had a dog back home.

Wait, you are saying duck aren’t you, yeah i eat duck, no problem.”  Moments later when the best speaking teacher started to explain it is kind of poultry.

You are very breast” my ex gf was telling a woman in who had played piano and sang with her in church.  She had a problem saying words with consonant clusters that included an l… blessed became bressed (sounded more like breast)

He is a breast man, a breast man”  the same ex gf trying to tell a friend not to call me guapo loco (she didn’t think it sounded spiritual) , to call me a blessed man (i still recall his laughing asking  “how is that better?”)

“kiss her for me”give her a kiss from you?(playfully)” “yeah kiss her on the _____(womanly part)”  Probably the grand-daddy of all my language mistakes.  i was trying to say kiss her on the cheek.  Brazilians always send a kiss as a greeting, as my ex gf tried to joke with me about it, i told her to kiss her friend on the cheek  and then she got mad and told me not to use the word for cheek, just say kiss her on the face, since i said a cuss-word instead of cheek.

“Are you sexually excited about it?” me trying to ask  the female staff if she was excited (non-sexual meaning) about an event.  Luckily my brother who actually attended language school was close by and corrected me.

If you are offended by these comments, keep in mind i was never trying to say these things.  It’s just what happens when you try to speak languages you never studied. Slothfulness does indeed have consequences, who would have thought.(or in the case of others, have difficulty pronouncing words in your second language.)  If you have a similar experience go ahead and share.






The Social Awkwardness Game

6 Nov

I often am in the habit of playing games that no one else knows we are playing.  One of these games is called the social awkwardness game.  The basic idea is that i carry around a level of social anxiety that is probably an 8 on a scale of 10.  Never knowing exactly what is socially acceptable to say, the bigger problem is that being always pitted against my brother in competition (he is 15 months older than me) i tend to view everything as a competition.  So, if i am feeling more social anxiety than everyone else, i must be the loser.  So, if i can say something to make everyone else’s social anxiety higher than my own, i become the most socially adept person in the room, and therefor the winner.  One of the key points to the social awkwardness game is that it is not simply offending other people.  If you have offended someone they know exactly what to say, or what they want to say or do to you.  The point is to say something that makes no one know what to say.  Here are a few examples:

When I was teaching, i suddenly realized i had spring break to go wherever i wanted to.  I called up my semi-brother Marco, who lives out in Portland.  I hadn’t seen Marco in about 5-7 years at this point in time.  Talking over the trip, he said he was engaged now.  So, i brought a souvenir from one of my trips to give to Marco, i don’t remember what it was.  However I do remember what i brought for May(Marco’s fiancee).  I gave Marco his gift, and then told May that since i had never met her and i only had seen her photos of her on facebook, I brought this bikini that i bought while in Brazil.  It was a thong bikini.  Unfortunately May is such a good sport and so people oriented, that she immediately started making jokes about making Marco wear it.  Unfortunately instead of becoming super awkward and making me the most socially adept person in the room, it became something that was lighthearted and funny to remember… points…….

My sister-in-law Jill and I have an ongoing battle with the social awkwardness game.  In fact you could argue that her name is a battle of social awkwardness game, in that her real name is Barbara, and her nickname is Babs( she hates Barb).  However Barbara is too long, and Babs is less than my favorite thing to say, so i nicknamed her Jill.  Since she doesn’t want to give in and demand i call her either Barbara or Babs, for years now i have referred to her as Jill.  Well anyhow, Jill is trying to win the social awkwardness game with me one day by asking about my girlfriend at the time.  She sees how uncomfortable it is making me, so she keeps asking more questions.  She finally asks, “tell me about your first kiss.”  Not wanting to give away the social awkwardness game i respond with “well,  she really didn’t like our first kiss.  See in Brazil, every kiss is a kiss with tongue, doesn’t matter if it’s the first kiss.  However, Erica was different,(Erica is very different than other Brazilians, the only Brazilian woman  i have ever seen wear a one-piece swimsuit, even the old ladies wear bikinis) she hated that tongue was involved in the first kiss.”  Although there was further conversation, i think we both agreed i had earned the point in the social awkwardness game.  (although i didn’t inform her of the social awkwardness game until years later.)  However that wasn’t the end of the game.  One day at church i am calling to my nephew (Jill and Marshall’s son) in Portuguese to come here.(Since he wasn’t old enough to speak at the time, i figured he was kind of like dogs, that hear tone of voice from people they recognize and generally get the picture of what to do. )   Some teenager in the youth group asked Jill what I was saying, Jill explained and introduced me to the teenager who was maybe 16 or 17.  As the girl was telling me about her missions trip, Jill sticks out her tongue.  When the girl asks why, Jill explains the story of my first kiss with Erica. Point for Jill.

Sometimes the social awkwardness game i win without being there, this didn’t make it any less of a win.  One day as I was at the house, the phone rings.  It turned out to be a lady from the church calling to ask if i could share anything about my mother that no one would know.  I tell the lady on the phone one of the best stories I have ever heard about my mom, and was somewhat surprised by the silence on the other end.  Anyhow the women’s retreat happens, and as the lady goes around the circle each “surprising fact” was super tame.  “She loves to scrapbook”  “She once met the queen”  and then when my mom is announced they tell the story “while Carolyn’s older sister broke off her engagement on the porch, Carolyn went and found a wedding march to put on the record player for when her sister came back inside.”  Now i had shared that mom was like 9 years old and didn’t realize the gravity of the situation, but i am not sure that got put into the story of the women’s group.

In Korea, it’s best not to play the social awkwardness game, you can’t win.  The best example was when i worked at a private language institute.  This academy had 14 native speaker English teachers, and 18 Korean English teachers.  All of the Korean teachers were women.  I was the only native speaker at the time who wasn’t part of a couple, and almost none of the Korean teachers would talk to me, evidently their social anxiety was as high as my own.  Katie decides to talk to me one day as we are on a work retreat.  As we are walking she says “Morgan teacher is very pretty.”  Morgan was their with her boyfriend of like 5 years.  But i can’t give up the social awkwardness game that easily so i reply “yes, there are different standards of beauty, for the North American standard, she is it”  to which she replies “who is the prettiest Korean teacher”  Like i said, you can’t win the social awkwardness game in Korea.