Funny language mistakes!
Hi, it’s Andy here. This is a FREE lesson from our fantastic magazine Learn Hot English! It’s based on some stories about language mistakes. First, learn some useful vocabulary. Then, do the listening activity. After that, scroll down for the script and listen again while you’re reading the text (this will develop your listening skills). Finally, do the quiz to see how much language you’ve learnt! Good luck!
• butter n = a soft, yellow substance (made from milk) that you can cook with, or put on bread or toast. “I put some butter and jam on my toast.”
• a donkey n = a type of animal like a horse but with bigger ears. “We rode the donkey to the village.”
• out loud exp = if you say something “out loud”, you say it so everyone can hear it. “I accidentally said the answer out loud.”
• to bump into phr vb = if you “bump into” something or someone, you hit that person accidentally with your body. “As I was looking at my mobile phone, I accidentally bumped into a lamppost.”
• to smash vb = if you “smash” a glass, you break it into lots of little pieces. “We accidentally smashed a window while we were playing football.”
• embarrassed adj = if you’re “embarrassed”, you feel bad or uncomfortable about something you did or said, the way you look, etc. “I’m embarrassed about the things I said last night.”
• a belly n inform = your “belly” is the front part of your body that includes your stomach. “He’s got a big belly after years of drinking lots of beer.”
• pregnant adj = if a woman is “pregnant”, she has a baby inside her. “Good news! My sister is pregnant again.”
• concerned adj = if you’re “concerned” about something, you’re worried about it. “We’re a bit concerned that we won’t win the game next Friday.”
Listening: Funny language mistakes!
Look at the words or expressions below. In what way could they be connected to language mistakes? What do you think the mistake was? Make notes.
butter donkey I’m high! embarrassed pregnant Yale jail
Listen to the article once to compare your ideas from the Pre-listening activity. Listen without stopping and try to get a general understanding of the stories. [Answers and audio script below – but don’t look at the audio script until you’ve tried to understand it first, please.]
Listen again and answer the questions. This time you can stop the recording where you like, or play bits again.
- What was Francesca eating in a bar?
- What did she want for her toast?
- What did she ask for in Spanish?
- What does “I’m so high” also mean?
- What does it mean if you say you’re “embarazada” in Spanish?
- Which word has the same initial sound as “jail”: “joke” or “yoke”?
Audio script: Funny language mistakes!
We asked a few people about the language mistakes they made when speaking a foreign language. Here are a few of their funny stories.
“I was in a bar in Spain having breakfast with some toast and jam. I wanted some butter to put on my toast. In Italian ‘butter’ is ‘burro’. As Spanish and Italian are very similar languages, I asked the waiter for some ‘burro’. Unfortunately he didn’t understand me, which was probably because ‘burro’ means ‘donkey’ in Spanish!” [Francesca, Italy]
“I was in New York City and it was my first time in an English-speaking country. I had never studied English before and I was there to learn it. One night I was out with a few international students and native English speakers and we went to a pub. The chair I was sitting on was very high, so I said out loud, ‘I’m so high!’ My friends gave me a strange look. At the time, I didn’t understand why, but the following day one of my friends explained that the expression ‘I’m high’ means that you feel strange in your head because you’ve taken drugs.” [Hwan, South Korea]
“Last summer I went on holiday to Spain with my family. I was at a restaurant and I bumped into a waiter carrying some glasses of water that fell to the ground and smashed. I wanted to say that I was sorry and that I was embarrassed. So, I said, ‘Perdón, perdón! Yo soy muy embarazada!’ The waiter immediately looked at my belly and asked me if I was hurt. He made me sit on a chair and told me not to worry. Later, I found out that I’d told him that I was ‘pregnant’ because ‘embarazada’ means ‘pregnant’ in Spanish and not ‘embarrassed’. [Sally, England]
“I was in the United States and I had an interview for a medical program at Yale University. I wanted to share the good news with a friend and I said, ‘I can’t wait to go to Yale’, but I pronounced ‘Yale’ as ‘jail’. My friend seemed very concerned and asked why I wanted to go to jail. I replied, ‘Because it’s one of the best universities in the world!’ I said. Then, she began to laugh and told me that where I actually wanted to go was ‘Yale’, and that ‘jail’ is another word for ‘prison’. I will definitely never make that mistake again.” [Pablo, Spain]
- Francesca was having some toast and jam in a bar.
- She wanted some butter for her toast.
- She asked for a donkey in Spanish.
- “I’m so high” means you feel strange in your head because you’ve taken drugs.
- In Spanish, “embarazada” means that you’re pregnant.
- The word “joke” has the same initial sound as “jail”.
Well done! Now try the quiz to see how many words you’ve learnt!