Language Learning Bloopers

If you ever have tried to learn a foreign language, you know there are times when you make a mistake and when you discover what you said, it just makes for some great memories. Here are some of those stories I’ve experienced:

Thailand (Language: Thai* It is a tonal language!)

I was trying to have the women turn to 1 John for devotions and after saying it, they begin to giggle. To clarify I say it again, and the giggling increases. Finally they let me in on it and share that when you say ‘john’ in a different tone it means ‘saggy boobs’. I nearly lost it and took a long while before I regained composer to finish translating what the speaker was teaching about.


My boss while she was learning Thai, she went to a coffee stand and tried ordering ‘coffee with milk’. For three months she got what she ordered, but the sales person would giggle every time. Finally she discovered she was ordering “Coffee with breast milk.” That would certainly make me giggle too!

The Philippines (Language: Tagalog)

After a great week of paining this widow’s house, she gave us a grand feast. I wanted to say “from the bottom of my heart, thank you.” The problem was, heart was very similar to 2 other words. Pusa, Busa and bpusa . They mean: cat, heart and bitch. Guess which one I said….yeah…..she was sweet and kindly corrected me, but I felt so sorry (she knew I did not mean it).

Australian Outback (Language-so many, the kids were learning English)

A kid walked up to my teammate on the world race and asked her “You have big breast?”. We stopped, looked at each other and decided to ask the child again. The reply was still the same “You have big breast?”. After numerous times of trying to sort it out, we discovered the child was trying to say “You have big rest?”-meaning did you have a good nap/did you sleep well?

Want more? As an English Teacher, I hear many bloopers. Read some of them here.

What about you?

Have you found yourself in some funny language learning predicaments? If so, please share your stories in the comment section! Happy language learning!

About lizolson

I love people, culture and languages! I have served in Thailand for 5.5 years helping to empower women and children who are at risk of being trafficked or who are working in the sex industry. Everyone deserves a second chance....
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5 Responses to Language Learning Bloopers

  1. Nickerson says:

    Wow , the coffee with milk part made me crack up. Would be awkward for the waiter and eventually you when you find out the meaning.Haha , epic work😀

    • lizolson says:

      It made me crack up too!

      This morning as I was gearing up to translate, I was secretly hoping it was anything but John.

    • lizolson says:

      It cracked me up too!

      Now during devotions, I secretly hope we do not read out of anything that has to do with John! Another Thai friend of mine said it can also mean a male organ. I’m not sure which one is worse, but John is no longer a favorite of mine!

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