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.