Linguistic Blunders: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

I have now arrived at the point where I can successfully put my foot in my mouth in TWO languages.

Oh, the joy.

When I first got here, I was the linguistically inept white person who laughed nervously and uncomprehendingly at everyone and everything. Now, I'm the increasingly confident, comfortable person who can chatter along in grammatically incorrect but still intelligible sentences.

My confidence can sometimes be a trifle...uncensored. Especially when I'm exhausted and I've spent most of the day stretching my brain between two languages. I just open my mouth and unexpected things fall out.

Like the time when a girl came up to me at church, and it wasn't until she was right in front of me that I realized that 'she' was not, in fact, a girl, but rather Media Team Danny with a capulana over his head to ward off the cold.

The first words out of my mouth?

"Oh, Danny! Você apareceu como mulher!" (You appeared like a woman).

Or the time when I got all big sisterly to Dino when he was mercilessly bugging Ladita to send him a song:

"Dino, esta é uma oportunidade para praticar a paciência." (This is an opportunity for you to practice patience).

I'm lecturing a Mozambican about patience? Seriously?


I'm not even going to talk about the time when I told Fifi, "your water pitcher's filthy! Where's the dish soap? I'm going outside to wash it."

Though to be fair, she would have said the same thing to me.

Graças a Deus, no-one has taken my words the wrong way.

Nevertheless, I foresee some apologies in my future.

Or some more sleep. 


  1. Hahaha! Your life makes me laugh...mostly because I could see myself (or some member of my family) doing the exact same thing. And bilingual adventures are the best.

  2. Hi, I was thinking about this more and The Sound of Music came to mind. Have you ever read the book? By Maria Von Trapp? (It's a great book, and I very much enjoy it.)
    In her book, Maria shares some of the troubles had by those trying to learn English after coming to America. One of the pitfalls was thinking that similar-sounding words between the two languages must mean the same thing. Which led one woman to say to a store-keeper "Behold your cauliflower! I can become cauliflower myself for forty cents around the corner!" (You see, in German, behalten means "keep" and bekommen means to "get" something.)
    I laugh every time I read that story. I can just picture the outraged woman trying to haggle in the marketplace, confident in her new grasp of the English language. And I could see myself doing the same thing in another country. ;)

    1. I actually haven't read that book, but I think it needs to go on my to-be read list. There are a lot of similarities between some Portuguese and English words...and so far, I haven't gotten into to trouble with winging it and trying out a word of uncertain meaning. But I could totally see it happening someday.

  3. This made me laugh too. :) I imagine it must be hard, although I've never tried to learn another language before... It's on my bucket list though.

    1. Language learning does wonders for a person's humility. What language would you like to learn?


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