Anécdotas Culturales/Cultural Anecdotes

IMG_1305May I please have my clean shits? (sheets)

I was still at the College of Wooster trying to improve my English day by day. Along with my courses my scholarship also covered my bed linen. So every week I’d bring my dirty sheets and get clean ones from the college laundry.  Whenever I would arrive I would ask the worker: “May I get my clean shits, please?” He would hand them in to me very upset and I would ask him: “Did I say anything wrong?” I did not get an answer from him. I kept going once again for my clean sheets and I got the same angry look over and over again. Then I decided to ask one of my professors to hear my enunciation: “May I please have my clean shits?” He burst out laughing and told me “You’re asking for your shit” and this is the reason you’re getting those murderous looks. Try to repeat “Sheets.” For a Hispanic speaker it is very hard to hear the difference between sheets and shit since we don’t have these sounds in Spanish.   To play it safe at the laundry room I asked him for a synonym and he immediately gave one: linen. Wow, linen was the magic word.

Next day I arrived to the laundry pronouncing my magic word and asking to the worker with a big smile: “May I please have my linen?” “Certainly”, he replied with a smile. I left so happy from the laundry room that I solved the murderous looks. To all this I have to add that I don’t mix the words chair and share, or the forecast for four cats, or cold cuts for cold cats. The last time I turned red at the cashier it was when I asked her: “Miss, I need a penis, please.”  She laughed telling me ”I think you need a penny and not a penis. “ Yes, I told her very ashamed.


13 thoughts on “Anécdotas Culturales/Cultural Anecdotes

  1. This story is very funny. Learning a new language is very difficult and extremely exciting. I often wonder how badly I am butchering the language? I wonder how you must cringe when you hear students annihilate your beautiful language? I know everyone must overcome their own learning curve at their own pace, and no one goes from novice to expert in the matter of one day or even one semester, but people need to be taught the right way to pronounce words from the beginning or there is no such thing as practice makes perfect. Thank you for being a great teacher.

  2. He leído acerca de tus viajes, te felicito porque es uno de los mayores placeres que se pueden experimentar.
    Saludos, Beatriz. Espero la aparición de otro de tus cuentos. Hasta pronto

  3. Jesús:

    Gracias mil, por tu comentario.
    Así es, viajar es algo maravilloso porque nos permite apreciar lo que tenemos y lo que nos topamos durante nuestra travesía.
    Acabo de inicar otra categaría: “Pensamientos/Thoughts”. Podrías echarle un vistazo si tienes tiempo.

    Pd. No he olvidado tu cuento, pero he estado increíblemente ocupada.

  4. Ah, another “lost in translation” moment, well perhaps pronunciation would be more accurate. In the 1970’s, the American car producer Chevrolet attempted to become a global threat by stretching it’s production borders down into Mexico. They built a brand new plant in Mexico, but the public reception was far from what they expected. At that time, the flag-ship car of Chevrolet was of course, the Nova, which is what this Mexican car-plant specialized in. Baffled, the Chevrolet executives stammered “Why won’t the Mexican public purchase our Novas!?” Perhaps because, in Spanish, no-va means doesn’t go, and who would want a car that DOESN’T GO 🙂

  5. This was a wonderful story that definitely depicts what it is like to be learning a language and interacting with those who speak it natively. You have been a very patient teacher with our class, despite our short attention spans, and it is no wonder. I can relate to the difficulties with annunciations and pronunciations because I have a hard time with it at times. (Spanish, that is.)

  6. Yo creí que esta artículo es muy interesante y muy cómico, especialmente las últimas frases. Nunca pensé en cuántas palabras hay en el idioma Inglés, donde un ligero error en la enunciación puede causar la palabra para significar algo totalmente diferente. Cuando comencé a estudiar una lengua extranjera que se preocupan más acerca del uso de la palabra correcta en lugar de asegurarse de que está pronunciando la palabra correctamente. Por ejemplo, en una conversación me dijo una vez, “Fue un año pobre para mí”. En inglés este frase que significa “It was a poor butthole for me”. Lo que quise decir fue, “Fue un pobre año para me” que significa en inglés, “It was a poor year for me.” Esta pequeña diferencia en la gramática o la pronunciación tiene un efecto notable sobre el significado de las palabras y puede hacer que en algunas situaciones bastante extrañas.

    • Joshua:

      Sí, estudiar un idioma requiere un compromiso muy grande de parte del aprendiz, y durante el proceso vamos a cometer errores linguísticos y culturales. Lo mejor de todo, es que el aprender un idioma nos da una visión muy amplia no sólo de nuestro mundo que nos rodea sino de otra cultura diferente y que la diferencia, nos hace apreciar ambas culturas sin pensar que la nuestra es mejor sino diferente.

  7. Repuesta a Por un día: Los niños más felices del mundo de Anécdotas Culturales

    Yo creo que tu experiencia en Cozumel, México fue muy interesante. Especialmente en su interaccíon con los niños. Fui a Tijuana, México y tuve una experiencia similar. Mi familia y yo vimos tres niños pobres mendingando. Mi madre le dio los niños tres dólares. Ellos fueron al restaurante de McDonald. Mi experiencia en Tijuana fue inolvidable y me hizo más humilde.

    Repuesta a Por un día: Los felinos de Bettúbela/Bettubela’s felines

    El cuento del gato Bobby fue mi favorito de todos. Bobby es un gato agradable y me gusto él es joven. También, él gato es parecido comparado conmigo. Me gusta pasar el rato solo y como comida deliciosa. Bobby y yo somos de Manhattan, Nueva York y tenemos tres hermanos. Estoy muy contenta que Bobby encontró un familia que lo cuide y dé de comer. .

  8. Senora, I laughed out loud when I read this – partly because it’s hilarious but also because I have been in those positions. It’s hard to learn a new language and get the courage to speak up. And then when finally gathering the strength to say something out loud- it comes out embarrassingly wrong. It’s best to laugh about it and just keep practicing the language. Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. Hahaha, Señora esto es muy cómico. Aprender un nuevo idioma es divertido. Sé que pronunciar tantas palabras equivocadas en clase y siempre que hablo. Sin saber si está pronunciando palabras correctas es muy desalentador para mí. La diferencia entre las “shits” y “sheets” me parece claro, pero es curioso cómo la pronunciación es diferente para un hablante nativo no. Muy cómico!

  10. This is so hilarious! Something like this happened to me too when I first got to America. I did not understand the word “weird” and the girl who told me was like “you don’t know what weird is? That’s weird.” That made me even more confused. Stories like this makes me laugh now that I think about it. But at that moment, I was so frustrated that I didn’t understand what others were saying. I have learned that I just have to laugh at myself sometimes instead of taking things seriously.

  11. This blog was the funniest one yet! I was laughing through the whole thing. Language discrepancies are always so funny. They could make movie out of this!

  12. This a very funny story, I am glad that you are able to laugh at your innocent mistakes. I believe they were embarrassed at the time however you now can laugh about it. I beat that if I was to be living in Mexico that the same mistakes would happen to me.

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