People like to share stories about the worst mistakes they’ve made speaking a foreign language. Asking your father-in-law to pass the condoms instead of the jam (préservatif =/= preservatives) Casually telling people that you’re horny while taking off your sweater (je suis chaud vs j’ai chaud).
But my worst mistake is way more basic than that. Once I forgot how to spell my own name.
I walked into the bank, steeled and ready to have a very awkward and broken conversation with the receptionist about making an appointment to open an account. All was going smoothly. I remembered that nom is actually your last name and they’ll probably ask that before asking for my first name, prénom. I had noticed that the French tend to say a word has “two Ls” instead of saying each L individually. I have three sets of double letters in my name so I was ready to test this new construction.
D-O-deux N-E-deux L-uhhh…. I totally blanked on the word for Y.
The receptionist stared.
I said it in English. I giggled nervously. I drew it with my finger in the air.
“Egreck ?” She asked, stone faced.
Today two french adults told me, completely separately from each other, that they had no idea how to say the French letter N in English. It’s pronounced exactly the same as in English… So I guess it goes both ways.
4 thoughts on “Adventures in Spelling”
I have two:
Japanese – when speaking with someone above you, you have to use very polite language. When stating your name to someone, you must say “Charlotte to mou shimasu” but the first time I tried it, I accidentally said “Charlotte to omoi masu” (“I think I am Charlotte”).
German – there was a bar called Nachtleben in Frankfurt, nacht – night, leben – life. However with my lazy pronunciation I accidentally missed out the throatal sound and told people to meet up at “Naked Life” Nackt Leben. Oops…
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Love it. All you can do is laugh!!
I love that the receptionist couldn’t even crack a smile over this!
I’ve made my share of silly mistakes… once I asked for a “capote” instead of a “compote” and another time I accidentally said “teton” when I meant “tetine”! Super embarrassing.
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