Jan 28th, 2017, 10:52 PM

Oups! Missteps "en Français"

By Emily Frigon
Image credit: Wikimedia/Public Domain
Language mishaps are inevitable when attending a university in a foreign country.

Living abroad for college, students at AUP come from all over the world and speak a variety of different languages. As friends and new experiences are made in a foreign country, language mishaps are inevitable. Mistakes in language learning are a big part in becoming fluent—however, they are usually also hilarious. It is impossible to connect immediately with French without ever making a mistake. Unfortunately, there are way too many idioms and dirty slang words to prevent these embarrassing interactions from happening.

Unfortunately, the French language's dirtier words are often found in the most innocuous of places, and even small mishaps can have the strongest impressions. When Freshman Fernanda Sapiña was in high school, her French teacher had asked the class how to say "silence" in French. A variety of responses were given by her fellow students, when Sapiña decided to raise her hand and offer, "ta gueule," since she'd heard it before from a friend. However, she had no idea what it had truly meant and was completely horrified when she learned how rude the expression was. Post-embarrassment, she was left apologizing to a very, very angry French professor. Obviously, Sapiña learned an important lesson: never tell your professor to shut the f*** up in class. 

Image credit: Wikimedia/Tomas Castelazo

In French, sometimes even the most simplest of phrases can come off as vulgar. Unfortunately, Freshman Emma Kress learned this later rather than sooner. While at dinner with her new French boyfriend and his immediate family, Kress engaged in conversation at ease in the foreign language, and was surprisingly proud of her increasing skills. By the time it was dessert, his grandmother passed around a tarte. When it was offered to Kress, she smiled gratefully and replied lightheartedly, "non, merci. Je suis un cochon ce soir." Of course, this was referring to how much food she had eaten, but its never easy to tell your boyfriend's grandmother that you were a prostitute that evening.

Image credit: Wikimedia/Meg Zimbeck

French idioms are unique in their own way, and confusing them seems almost inevitable. At least, it was for Freshman Kat Hume. See, Hume was speaking French while out with a group of friends when a homeless man nearby began to yell and express his frustration. Kat's friends looked over at the commotion, and Hume, wanting to include herself, whispered, "il fait un caca." Unfortunately, this translates literally to "he is pooping". Embarrassed by the responses from her friends, Hume came to find out that the phrase she was searching for was "faire un caca nerveuse," meaning "to make a scene." Unfortunately, these sort of mistakes get more and more common as one becomes more familiar with the language.

Obviously, mistakes are going to happen when learning a language. There's really no way we can prevent them, except for learning from our (or other's) experiences. On the bright side, perhaps your experiences haven't been as embarrassing as these ones—at least, hopefully they weren't more embarrassing.