“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Some of the Worst Language slips you can make in professional interpreting
The only thing worse than false cognates for people learning a language are words that look and sound dangerously similar, but carry entirely different meanings from each other. These slips or “language flubs” are often made with the best intentions, but can lead to some unintended propositions and seriously embarrassing situations. We’ve provided a list of some of the funniest, worst, and downright crude mistakes to be aware of next time you’re showing off your language skills!
"Einbrechen" vs. "Erbrechen" (German)
("Break in" vs. "Vomit")
Say the first and the police will show up quickly, say the second and they may suggest you attend that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off.
"Nacht" vs. "Nackt" (German)
("Night" vs. "Nude")
It’s common practice to discuss that awesome dinner party you went to last night, just be careful not to accidentally suggest you went in a rather scant dress code…
Papá vs. Papa (Spanish)
(Father vs. Pope (el Papa) or Potato (la papa))
Introduce your friends to your father or claim you are the child of the Pope himself (or a potato depending on which article you’re using).
Guerre vs. Gare (French)
(War vs. Train station)
“Where are you going?” is a common question. Just make sure if you’re about to hop on the next train to Paris that you answer with “to the train station” not “to the war.”
Qǐng wèn vs. Qīn wěn (Chinese)
(To ask a vs. To kiss)
We all have questions, especially when we’re learning another language! Just be careful not to accidently ask someone for a kiss instead of clarification on something…
Penne vs. Pene (Italian)
(Penne pasta vs. the male genitalia)
The difference between ordering a nice pasta dinner and a strange look from your male waiter.
Casinò vs. Casino (Italian)
(Casino vs. Brothel)
A slight change in enunciation and you go from a night out of games and frivolous spending to…well maybe they’re more similar than we thought.
Have you mastered these common language mistakes? Why not think about an interpreting career, where you can put your language mastery to use in a meaningful profession in Medical Interpreter, Legal Interpreter, or Business & Community Interpreter?
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