Russian phrase frequently messed up by English speakers
Thread poster: Tara Chace

Tara Chace  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:58
Swedish to English
+ ...
Dec 27, 2005

A friend of mine is writing a book. For his plot to work, he needs a relatively common phrase in Russian that could easily be misunderstood when pronounced by a British person who's Russian isn't very good. So, the foreigner would be trying to say something like, "Excuse me, where is the bathroom?" and they would actually be saying something like, "Excuse me, where is the meadow?"

Does anyone have any suggestions? What are some common phrases that foreigners always get wrong?

Thanks!


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Nikolai Muraviev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:58
English to Russian
+ ...
Exact translation... Dec 27, 2005

Tara Chace, PhD wrote:

A friend of mine is writing a book. For his plot to work, he needs a relatively common phrase in Russian that could easily be misunderstood when pronounced by a British person who's Russian isn't very good. So, the foreigner would be trying to say something like, "Excuse me, where is the bathroom?" and they would actually be saying something like, "Excuse me, where is the meadow?"

Does anyone have any suggestions? What are some common phrases that foreigners always get wrong?

Thanks!

... will be the following: "Простите, где здесь ванная?"
But, if he's not speaking Russian fluently, he could say: "Простите, где здесь помойка?" (where is garbage?)

The logic is as following: bath - wash - мыть - мойка - помойка.
To be honest, I have seen similar "misused translation" in one En-Ru dictionary (printed in UK). The (wash) sink has been translated as "помойка" (garbage)

One more life story!!!
My director, UK, asked me: "U tebya est' babushka?" (I have decided that he means babushka = Grandma. But!!! He tried to speak Russian, and asked for "papochka" = thin binder or file)))


[Edited at 2005-12-27 15:16]

BTW, Tara, you may find here http://www.proz.com/topic/801?start=0&float= lots of things you search for.

[Edited at 2005-12-28 11:35]


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Avrora
Local time: 12:58
English to Russian
+ ...
Скучно and Вкусно Dec 27, 2005

Tara Chace, PhD wrote:

A friend of mine is writing a book. For his plot to work, he needs a relatively common phrase in Russian that could easily be misunderstood when pronounced by a British person who's Russian isn't very good. So, the foreigner would be trying to say something like, "Excuse me, where is the bathroom?" and they would actually be saying something like, "Excuse me, where is the meadow?"

Does anyone have any suggestions? What are some common phrases that foreigners always get wrong?

Thanks!


A friend of mine who is a native English speaker with basic Russian always struggles with СКУЧНО (skushno, boring) and ВКУСНО (vkusno, delicious or nice). For him they sound the same so when he is trying to say "it's nice" (about food) it sounds like "it's boring". This didn't go well with my mother when he said the meal was very boring:)

Good luck!


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Victor Potapov
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:58
English to Russian
+ ...
Maybe this one will work? Dec 27, 2005

This is a true story - I saw it used once (before I thought it to be an urban legend)!

Specifically, a department of the US embassy in Moscow informed US residents staying (and driving) in Moscow that when stopped and approached by a traffic policeman it is best to say (but only after the policeman first addresses you)

"ya ne ponedelnik" - meaning "I am not a Monday".

the regular phrase to be used in this context will be

"ya ne ponyal" - meaning, of course, "I do not understand".

For some strange reason, this makes traffic police people cringe/smile/laugh and usually they let the driver go (the fact that the car has diplomatic license plates also plays a role, no doubt about that).

Probably the idea is that this phrase makes the person sound extremely stupid letting the traffic police feel their "superiority". Whatever.

I have actually seen this at work - and it worked! The US guy said "ya ne ponedelnik" (even though otherwise his command of Russian was very good) and was actually let go after being stopped for a (minor) traffic violation. Not a usual thing here - he would have been fined otherwise.

Hope this helps!

PS your exact "washroom-meadow" example stretches it a bit too thin, I believe - but it gives readers an idea of what type of phrase you need.

Tara Chace, PhD wrote:

A friend of mine is writing a book. For his plot to work, he needs a relatively common phrase in Russian that could easily be misunderstood when pronounced by a British person who's Russian isn't very good. So, the foreigner would be trying to say something like, "Excuse me, where is the bathroom?" and they would actually be saying something like, "Excuse me, where is the meadow?"

Does anyone have any suggestions? What are some common phrases that foreigners always get wrong?

Thanks!


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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:58
Member (2005)
Russian to English
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Here's one... Dec 27, 2005

This is not necessarily a common error, but it can be quite funny.

In a Russian conversation class I was teaching a few years ago, a young female student apparently intended to say Я обычно сплю на надувном матраце (I usually sleep on an inflatable mattress). What she actually said was: Я обычно сплю на надувном матросе (I usually sleep on an inflatable/blowup sailor).

It took a great effort of will for me to hide my reaction...


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Larissa Dinsley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:58
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
a couple more Dec 27, 2005

"кролик" - krolik (rabbit) - "карлик" - karlik (dwarf)

A friend of mine once ordered "roasted dwarf" in a restaurant...

Another good one is "дедушка" - dedushka (grandfather) и "девушка" - devuska (girl) - possibilities are infinite!

And the most common one is "пить" - "pit'" (drink) against "петь" - "pet'" (sing).


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Verb conjugation Dec 28, 2005

As a student of Russian, we loved to do this: Ya pisu does not mean the same as ya pishu!
I piss as compared to I write. Believe me, we pissed on many compositions.

Stephen Rifkind


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Vitali Stanisheuski  Identity Verified
Belarus
Local time: 14:58
Member (2005)
English to Belarusian
+ ...
Уточнение Dec 28, 2005

Stephen Rifkind wrote:

As a student of Russian, we loved to do this: Ya pisu does not mean the same as ya pishu!
I piss as compared to I write. Believe me, we pissed on many compositions.

Stephen Rifkind


Уточнение: не пису, а писаю (pisayu)


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:58
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Brass gardener Dec 28, 2005

A student on a Russian course I attended was asked to translate "Медный Всадник" (Copper Horseman, name of a statue in St. Petersburg) into English, and came up with "The Brass Gardener".
(mixing the root "сад" - garden - into the word for horseman.
He was always known as "The Brass Gardener" for the rest of the course.


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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:58
Member (2005)
Russian to English
+ ...
Body of the Crayfish Apr 6, 2006

I just remembered this one:

When I was living in Texas I visited the local public library and discovered a few Russian novels in the original language.

The card catalog translated Solzhenytsin's "Cancer Ward" [Раковый корпус] as "Body of the Crayfish." (!!)

Apparently some erstwhile librarian with a very rudimentary knowledge of Russian and a Russian-English dictionary decided that the Russian word 'рак(овый)' in this context must refer to the crustacean, and 'корпус' to its body.

An illustration of the danger of taking the first variant from the dictionary.


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