Teachers mess up as well. Many of us have spent time teaching in a foreign country and grappling with the problems of the local language. Here are a few problems which arise:
A class were playing a word game where they had to explain a word to the rest of the class. The teacher gave an Italian student the word tramp. As the student did not know what the word meant, the teacher whispered the Italian translation barbone.
Imagine then the teacher’s confusion when the student proceeded to give this explanation: “They are usually shaved all over with a little curly hair on the top of their heads and around their feet and wrists”.
Then she realised that the student had misunderstood her translation of the word tramp and was explaining the word barboncino meaning poodle.
In Greece I was looking to rent a flat. I toured the small apartment with the landlord and at one point asked him in considered tones in my best Greek, “Is the house recently painted?”
He looked puzzled but when I insisted he said that it hadn’t but if I wanted it done he could arrange it.
I said that would be good and he said that he would go and speak to the local priest about it later, giving me a pitying look as he spoke.
It turns out I was confusing βάφτισε (baptised) with βαμμένα (painted).
When I first went to Italy I was going to work one morning when I saw a van with an official looking paintjob and the words, POLIZIA IDRAULICO on the side. I was amazed: Hydraulic Police! In my bad Italian I figured that would translate as Plumbing Police which was stupid. So then I reasoned it would be to do with water so they were the water police.
In class I told my upper-intermediate students. To begin with they were intrigued and then I could see a few smirks until finally they were giggling away.
What I’d actually seen was PULIZIA IDRAULICO – essentially drain unblockers!