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

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 2, 2008

Language educators--

I'm curious about the errors your students make. Which are the most amusing ones they've made?

I also tutor ESL students in English language basic skills. Even my advanced students have said some amusing things while trying out their English. Some examples:

--I was sharing a story with a boy who was struggling to read the word "bought." He read it as "boogers."

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


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Amusing omitted accent marks Oct 3, 2008

I used to teach Spanish at a college and the best mistakes involved omitted accent marks and other diacriticals.

For example:

"Tengo 18 anos" ("I have 18 anuses" instead of "I'm 18 years old")
"Estudio ingles" ("I study groins" instead of "I'm studying English")

There's a reason why points are taken off the grade for missing accents!


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:53
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Phonetic spelling Oct 3, 2008

I remember one pupil who wrote: "Il est wheat heures" for "It's eight o'clock" - well, she'd got it right phonetically ...

Then there's that old favourite "Estoy embarazada" (I'm pregnant) for "I'm embarrassed" - an embarrassing mistake, indeed.

Jenny


[Edited at 2008-10-03 06:36]


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
English to Spanish
Another all-time favourite Oct 3, 2008

Jenny Forbes wrote:

Then there's that old favourite "Estoy embarazada" (I'm pregnant) for "I'm embarrassed" - an embarrassing mistake, indeed.

Jenny


[Edited at 2008-10-03 06:36]


"I´m constipated" for "Estoy constipada/Tengo un constipado".


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:53
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Mistakes when learning the language Oct 3, 2008

I mostly remember the monumental errors I made when learning.
Of course, like everyone I did Jenny's "Estoy embarazada" which only made me more embarazada! hee hee

One bad one that I actually repeated several times because I couldn't remember the correct word was when I was trying to explain to people how the bread in France is so much better than in the USA. What I wanted to say was that the French bread had no preservatives....of course preservatives in French means condoms.
'Ah really? US bread has condoms in it? Yum!'


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:53
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Tired of marriage? Oct 3, 2008

When I was a student of Spanish myself, when asked my marital state, I said "Estoy cansado" (I am tired) instead of "Estoy casado".
When my wife had just started studying German, she wanted to tell our landlord she had an eye problem, and said "Ich habe ein schlechtes Ei" (I have as bad egg).
When I was a student of Russian, one of my fellow students translated "Медный всадник" (The Copper Horseman, a famous statue in St. Petersburg) as "The Brass Gardener" (thinking of сад meaning a garden).


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
close, but no...umm...cigar? Oct 3, 2008

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]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
Italian to English
+ ...
Not mine, but... Oct 3, 2008

A friend of a friend, teaching English to businessmen in Japan, found one day that two students who'd been at the back of the class had moved right up to the front for the second lesson. So she asked them if everything was OK, if she was speaking too quietly or they couldn't see, or something.
"Oh no," they replied, "Everything's fine, but we just like looking at your nipples."
"I'm sorry?" she replied, not a little startled.
"We like your nipples," they repeated. "Japanese women don't have nipples, so we like looking at yours".
Considering it somewhat unlikely that Japanese women really didn't have nipples, she was encouraged to enquire further.... turned out they were talking about her dimples.



[Edited at 2008-10-03 08:49]


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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:53
French to English
+ ...
Not a student, but my French husband learning English... Oct 3, 2008

... decided that he would say his wedding vows to me in my native language. Very sweet, until that tricky little 'th' got the best of him, and he promised to stay with me "in sickness and hell". At which point the pastor let out a big guffaw, slapped him on the back, and said, "Sometimes it is, son!"

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Francesca Battaglia
Italy
Local time: 20:53
English to Italian
+ ...
hair Oct 3, 2008

I have several to say but the most hilarious of all time concerns a homework that she had to do for school. She had to read a couple of pages of a publication and then summarize the content using some 200 words or similar.
The text was an extract and told of a man who left his country to study the sky and the stars and, for family-related reasons, he was cast aside and the whole town laughed at him.

So, the girl didn't read the previous parts and just focused on the text to be summarized (but in italian) and when she met the words HE HAD A DEEP ANAL PERSONALITY, she didn't look it up to make sure and litterally transformed her report in a porn-like text where, instead of exploring the sky to unveil the secrets of the night, he was exploring the unveiled secrets of his assistant (male) ANALLY.....

It made my day!!!


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Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 21:53
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
2 cents from my students Oct 3, 2008

Hi,

I am a teacher of Written and Conversational English.
Cent 1:
- Here is book for your baby to read. (instead of "child")
Cent 2:
- My father drinks brandy spick-and-span. (instead of "neat")

Have fun!

Mykhailo


[Edited at 2008-10-03 10:53]


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Elin Davies  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2008)
English to Welsh
+ ...
Wet trousers Oct 3, 2008

I once taught a class of students of mixed nationalities participating in a two week residential course which included lots of German boys and Spanish girls making the most of their limited English to flirt for many hours. As we were waiting for a class to begin, I overheard one of the girls explain to her favourite German on the course how she'd been caught in the rain on the way to class and had "wet her pants".

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Maria Castro  Identity Verified
Portugal
Member (2008)
English to Portuguese
+ ...

MODERATOR
s instead of th Oct 3, 2008

It's not always easy for portuguese students to spell 'th'.
So, when expressing their own opinions I often hear 'I sink...' instead of 'I think...'
There's a very famous portuguese coach who often... sinks!


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Melzie
Local time: 20:53
French to English
+ ...
4 of my favourites Oct 3, 2008

"Can you tell me the way to bonk?" for "Would you be so kind as to direct me to the nearest banking establishment?"

translation of 2 idioms

"I can't hear you, there are little fishes on the line." For "It's a bad line." - explanation - friture is the noise made when frying, so can be translated as crackling but it is also the term for whitebait...

"He is next to his cooking element." - "Il est à coté de la plaque." = "He's got it all wrong."

Picture this:

Junior teacher -me- doing pronunciation practice with the 4 weaker members of a group of young, quite well-to-do, OAPs while my mentor looked after the rest of the class.

The first line of the story was: "Last week I had my eyes tested."
It came back from one dear old thing as, wait for it: "Last week I had my ass tasted." hehehehehe

A true learning experience for me, how not to make the venerable student uncomfortable while making sure that she wouldn't make a fool of herself if in conversation with English speakers. Not that it's the sort of thing you say to everyone you meet!


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Even teachers have problems Oct 3, 2008

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."


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