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Off topic: What are the most amusing mistakes your students made?
Thread poster: Sara Senft

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:40
German to English
+ ...
German and English Oct 3, 2008

A friend in Germany wanted a certain haircut and ended up asking the hair dresser for a Kaiserschnitt (caesarean section).

Another friend here in the US didn't speak English very well when she was a child, so when she was 4 or 5 she went over to the neighbor's house and said, "Can I play with your girl?" (instead of "daughter")

As a matter of fact, my siblings and I didn't speak English as our first language here in the States either, and my brother thought English was
... See more
A friend in Germany wanted a certain haircut and ended up asking the hair dresser for a Kaiserschnitt (caesarean section).

Another friend here in the US didn't speak English very well when she was a child, so when she was 4 or 5 she went over to the neighbor's house and said, "Can I play with your girl?" (instead of "daughter")

As a matter of fact, my siblings and I didn't speak English as our first language here in the States either, and my brother thought English was Latvian pronounced differently, so he would just say Latvian words with an English accent and hope people understood him.

Last one: When my mother was teaching ESL here in Chicago, one of her students asked about the "fish museum" (aquarium).
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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 22:40
English to Russian
+ ...
Gender of nouns Oct 3, 2008

I was teaching a Spanish class to a group of homeschooled teenagers. I spent about an hour explaining the concept of the gender of nouns - something, I understand, that is very difficult for an English native to grasp.

After my lengthy explanation, we played a game. I had pictures of articles of clothing (cut out of the catalog), and my students and I were pretending to "buy" and "sell" them.

Then, one girl says "La sueter". I correct her, but she insists: "But it's
... See more
I was teaching a Spanish class to a group of homeschooled teenagers. I spent about an hour explaining the concept of the gender of nouns - something, I understand, that is very difficult for an English native to grasp.

After my lengthy explanation, we played a game. I had pictures of articles of clothing (cut out of the catalog), and my students and I were pretending to "buy" and "sell" them.

Then, one girl says "La sueter". I correct her, but she insists: "But it's a girly sweater!"

I's speculate that this girl simply could not accept the concept that nouns have genders without any rime or reason, and invented her own reason!
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LP Schumacher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:40
Member
German to English
The mysterious Faytenko Oct 4, 2008

A Quechua-speaking student turned in some homework in which the students were supposed to write a basic dialog of two people meeting for the first time. The student had written, "Hi, how are you, Faytenko" (multiple times, I'm afraid...). I racked my brain and scoured the classroom handouts, trying to figure out where in the world he would have run across a name like "Faytenko." I had one of my advanced students look at the dialog, and she immediately saw that the student had intended to write... See more
A Quechua-speaking student turned in some homework in which the students were supposed to write a basic dialog of two people meeting for the first time. The student had written, "Hi, how are you, Faytenko" (multiple times, I'm afraid...). I racked my brain and scoured the classroom handouts, trying to figure out where in the world he would have run across a name like "Faytenko." I had one of my advanced students look at the dialog, and she immediately saw that the student had intended to write, "Fine, thank you!"

And as for outside-the-classroom humor:

Daina Jauntirans wrote:
A friend in Germany wanted a certain haircut and ended up asking the hair dresser for a Kaiserschnitt (caesarean section).


My mother made this same blunder in a restaurant in Austria, intending to order to a "Kardinalschnitte" for dessert!

My husband also had us all rolling during a Thanksgiving dinner once, announcing that he was "coming out of his tail" (aus dem Tal heraus kommen)--while actually wanting to express that he was ready for his next helping. It has become a family joke since then (He's coming out of his tail again...).

And who knows how many ridiculous things I have said myself!
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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I've done something like that, too Oct 6, 2008

Eh, I've slipped, too.

While talking to the Spanish-speaking mother of a former student, I briefly lapsed in to French.

It's not as amusing as asking my student to take out a "piss of paper." That still shows that teachers can slip.

Steven Capsuto wrote:

One of my colleagues when I was in grad school was a woman from Spain who had a teaching fellowship.

She was dismayed that her Spanish 1 students always laughed when she asked them to "Take out a piss of paper." One evening, she and I spent a good 15 minutes working on the distinction between the English short I sound and the long E sound, but she never quite got it. Finally, her eyes lit up and she asked, "What if I tell them to take out a _shit_ of paper?!"

Ultimately, she wound up saying "Take out some paper."


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:40
German to English
+ ...
As for teachers Oct 7, 2008

My German teacher in high school was famous for mixing metaphors. The two that stick in my mind were "Put your John Henry on it" (she meant to say "John Hancock" - meaning signature) and "I have the ears of a hawk" (who knows about that one - maybe she was thinking of "eagle eyes")!

 

Melanie Nassar  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:40
German to English
+ ...
Things to do on the Reeperbahn Oct 7, 2008

In the essay section of the Goethe Institut language test, one of my students wrote that he wanted to go to Hamburg and "einen Abstrich auf der Reeperbahn machen" (take a Pap smear on the Reeperbahn, the red-light district in Hamburg). When we finished laughing, we assumed that he meant he wanted to take an Abstecher, a side trip.

 

Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:40
Italian to English
+ ...
In memoriam
Italian use of Lei Oct 8, 2008

My fault not a students..... I taught Italian for many years and was teaching the use of 'tu' informal and 'Lei' formal.

I was addressed as 'tu' by a young student and told him, without getting brain in gear, 'I think you should 'Lei' me'.

Needless to say, he didn't accept and no-one else offered!


 

Robyn Auer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:40
German to English
+ ...
In an essay discussing cultural diversity.... Feb 16, 2009

"I mean its not really often that twins have different skins, but on the other hand, its really helpful ..."

My student meant to write "different skin colour", however, he's certainly made a very good point - it is very helpful!


 

lluwch (X)
Local time: 07:40
Welsh to Polish
you're a ... Jun 16, 2009

I'm teaching english using Callan method (:| yeah, I know, but). During the lesson you give new words to the student and then immediately ask a question related to the new vocabulary. Grammar and phonetic mistakes are common, ommisions of auxiliary verbs and mispronunciations. So...

1: ...new word, COUNT means "____", like... I'm counting from 1 to 5... Now, one, two, three, for, five. What am I doing?
2:You... you're...You're a _cunt_. (You're counting)

Not, that
... See more
I'm teaching english using Callan method (:| yeah, I know, but). During the lesson you give new words to the student and then immediately ask a question related to the new vocabulary. Grammar and phonetic mistakes are common, ommisions of auxiliary verbs and mispronunciations. So...

1: ...new word, COUNT means "____", like... I'm counting from 1 to 5... Now, one, two, three, for, five. What am I doing?
2:You... you're...You're a _cunt_. (You're counting)

Not, that I can't take the joke. I couldn't explain the mistake to the student as he was only 14 (and already swearing).
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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:40
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Hardly a mistake but still amusing Jun 22, 2009

I teach English to Brazilians and some days after I had taught him the set of steprelatives (stepmother, stepfather, stepson etc), one of my students came up with:

"I met my STEPWIFE a few years ago"

An amusing euphemism for "lover", don't you think?


 

diana bb  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 08:40
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Long/short vowels and prepositions Jun 22, 2009

These two seem to cause some problems and misunderstandings for my adult Lithuanian students in the first year. Every year one or another announces that he or she 'spent the whole weekend on a bitch', that they prefer 'horny' to sugar in their tea. Recently, one student said he 'cooked a dinner from ten people'.

Diana


 

Lynda Tharratt  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:40
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
not a student's mistake but funny anyway Jun 23, 2009

I once overheard a bartender at a popular tourist hangout reply to the question "Have you seen any of my friends here tonight?" with "Yes, pieces of your friends are in the other room".

 

veratek
Brazil
Local time: 04:40
French to English
+ ...
ah! those headaches Jul 16, 2009

I walked into a French drugstore once and asked for pills for "des prises de têtes." The drugstore lady let out a long tickled laugh, while surrounding customers smiled. You must mean "mal de tête", she added. I immediately deduced that my chosen expression was not used in the medical sense in French. When I later told a French friend about the episode, he also let out a big guffaw and then he explained to me the French expression meaning. All I can say is that I wished they also sold "des c... See more
I walked into a French drugstore once and asked for pills for "des prises de têtes." The drugstore lady let out a long tickled laugh, while surrounding customers smiled. You must mean "mal de tête", she added. I immediately deduced that my chosen expression was not used in the medical sense in French. When I later told a French friend about the episode, he also let out a big guffaw and then he explained to me the French expression meaning. All I can say is that I wished they also sold "des comprimés pour les prises de têtes à la pharmacie !"

("Prise de tête" means a headache in a figurative sense and has a variety of meanings such as hassle or a very annoying person--see wordreference.com for discussions).
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BENAMAR FATIMA1
English to Arabic
fati1 Dec 9, 2009

Jim Tucker wrote:

Srta Sara wrote:

--While evaluating the English level of another student, she mis-identified a pencil as....a body part.



There is, in fact, an etymological relationship between the two words. Good old IE root.

[Edited at 2008-10-03 08:20]


 

Marina Menendez  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 03:40
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Eng>Sp massage the ego Dec 9, 2009

Conference interpretation in Argentina:

Speaker was talking about the need to give emotional support:

".... to massage their ego".

The interpreter (translating literally and phonetically) said:

"... masajearles el higo"



"Higo" is slang for penis.

; )


 
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