It’s a feeling most foreign language learners have suffered through at some point — the crippling embarrassment that follows the unfortunate event of making a laughable language error to a native speaker. Nothing will give you foreign-language anxiety faster than committing an accidental linguistic faux pas and hearing the snickers or witnessing the cringe reaction of your conversational partner.
Learning a new language is more than just understanding syntactic rules and vocabulary. If you don’t use these elements in the right cultural or grammatical contexts, you can find yourself in hot water, breaking eggshells you didn’t even know you weren’t supposed to be walking on in the first place. Luckily, you’re not alone. The internet is replete with stories of misused vocab words, botched grammar and cross-cultural nuances lost in translation.
These sorts of snafus happen to the best of us, no matter how much you’ve been practicing. We rounded up some of the most stand-out stories about awkward and embarrassing foreign language errors that users on Quora could muster up the courage to re-tell.
Laugh-Inducing Language Errors
When you’re among the first foreigners to ever visit a small Japanese village, you’re destined to stand out — especially if you inadvertently refer to yourself as a pregnant root vegetable:
Wishing a Chinese visitor in a Russian hotel a pleasant morning turns positively mortifying:
Embarrassment ensues when a community gathering for worship gets misinterpreted from Polish as something a little less, uh, holy:
Even when you’re speaking the same language, knowing culturally specific vocab about the digestive system makes a big difference:
It might just be one squiggly line, but the tilde over the Spanish ñ is a force to be reckoned with:
And then there are those rare times when a French language error turns out better than expected:
Be sure to check out and follow the Everything Language space on Quora for more linguistic tidbits and stories!