A. E. I. O. Oops

Just a heads-up on this one, learning a language is really, really hard, and as a result, you make a lot of mistakes, some of them inappropriate. So, against our better judgment, we're going to post some anecdotes of our (Kaleb's) learning mistakes. Some of them will be good for the grandparents and kiddies, others not so much. Hopefully as a result, there will be a little more joy in the world. We'll go in chronological order.

1. When it all began.
We were still in the States when the travesty began. I was out standing by our Forester, severely damaged by hail attempting to talk to one of the Honduran pastors about what happened to it. My Spanish, limited, but hopeful, was working hard to explain what had passed with this vehicle. Wracking my brain to explain such a concept. I spat out the name of the culprit...

"Smell from the sky."

Poor Fredy. We worked together to correct the statement to "Ice from the sky." In my efforts to quantify hail to him, I told him "Huele del cielo (Smell/Stink from the sky)" instead of "Hielo del cielo (Ice from the sky)." Unfortunately, this was only the beginning.

2. Worth it?
So, when we went back to Copan for the conference, we were having a good time one night after dinner and were walking from a restaurant in town to a coffee shop. At this point, my abysmal Spanish ears were only catching bits and pieces of the conversation, but at some point, I felt emboldened enough to interject...

"Yes, but it's worth the penis."

Which was met (appropriately) with interesting looks, laughs, and unceasing corrections. I was trying to say "Vale la pena (worth the pain)," but instead, I said "Vale la pene." Needless to say. That last vowel is very important.

3. It had it all.
This mistake was more recent. My Spanish has truly improved and I catch the majority of conversations now and work really hard to respond in some sort of intelligible manner, which makes my mistakes all the more obvious.

We were riding with our mechanic, Sergio, last week, out in the middle of nowhere in the everpresent rain. We'd just made a left (for the fun of it, none of the roads actually go anywhere) in our new vehicle purchase. I was telling him about previous vehicles, and how pleased I had been with my old Jeep Cherokee. In Spanish, it went a little like this.

"Yeah, I was really pleased with it. It was really reliable. The only thing it ever really needed was a firefighter of water in it."

Ah yes, exactly what I wanted to say. The desired phrase was "water pump (bomba del agua)" but instead, out came "firefighter of water (bombero del agua)." Yet again, close, but off the mark.

4. Not my fault for once.
Fortunately, I'm not the only one that makes mistakes. For their first lesson, we had the mechanic, Sergio, and another coworker, Sebastion (goes by Chango, slang for monkey) sitting down to take a basic English test to see where they were at. In the spirit of hearing the target language, we told them in English "Don't cheat."  Them, in the spirit of speaking the target language, responded in kind.

Sergio: "Don sh*t."
Chango: "Don sh*t."

Us: "NO. Don't cheat."

Sergio: "Don't sh*t."
Chango: "Don't sh*t."
Together: "Don't SH*T!"

As a result of this little exchange, they were officially banned from ever using "Don't cheat" again.

5. I said it earlier...
but learning a language is really hard. The last couple days, I had been feeling really good about hearing things people were saying and actually catching some of the intricacies of the language. Then, along came Buddy. We're not sure what Buddy's name is, but I'm fairly certain he does not speak Spanish, or if he does... woof.  Here's a sample interchange (this was in Spanish.)

Me: "How's it going?"

Buddy: "Thooft, thooft, thoot."

Me: "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

Buddy: "Thooft, thoot, thooty-thoot."

Me: "I'm sorry, you're going to have to slow down. I still don't understand."

Buddy (faster, and with more conviction): "Thoofity thoofity, thoot-thoot, Kaleb. Thooty-thoot."

Me (now in English and agitated). "I don't understand you. You need to slow down. Are you just messing with me."

Buddy (eyes full of questions): "Thooty-thoot Kaleb, thooty-thoot."

Me (thinking to myself): "Will he ever go away, or will the thooting never end."

Five silent minutes later...

Buddy (Still looking at me): "Kaleb, Thooty-thoot. Thoofity, thoofity, thoofity?"

Me (Back in Spanish): "I still don't understand, please slow down."

Buddy (Impossibly faster still): "Thoofity-THOOT! Thoofity thoofity, thoot-thoot! Kaleb!"

Anyways, you get the idea. Learning a language is hard. Hope it goes easier for you than it has for me. 


  1. Not surprisingly, #2 is my favorite ;)

    I love foreign language stories like this!

    Here is another missionary's experience:


  2. Reading these accounts over my lunch was even funnier than hearing you tell them on Skype! Literally laughing out loud...