I’ve had my fair share of amusing circumstances learning a new language. On numerous occasions, I’ve chuckled at my/or my friends, mix-ups, while translating our respective languages.
Six of my All-Time Favourite bloopers:
#6 ~ One sweltering summer day, I arranged two separate get togethers with 2 friends, Irenna, and Gia. First off, I met Irenna for lunch, in the centre of Florence, at Palazzo Strozzi. The Palazzo is an ideal location to have lunch, on a blistering August afternoon. The restaurant spills into the open-air courtyard, with protection from the intense rays of summer in Tuscany. We enjoyed garden-fresh salad, & chilled vino. To reach my 2nd engagement on time, I cycled to Gia’s, for a tour of her ancestral home, AND Gia’s legendary, iced cappuccino. After a scorching 15 min bike ride, in +39 degrees, I discovered, to my dread, the elevator was out-of-order. An unavoidable five-story climb, inside a roasting marble stairwell, had me sweltering, upon entering her Villa. The ever gracious Gia, handed me a refreshing glass of lemon water, and a monogrammed linen napkin, to dab my face & neck. She suggested, (in Italian), that I was more than welcome to have a dessert, before she showed me around the Villa. (In my broken Italian) I declined her kind offer, explaining that I’d shared a dessert with Irenna, at the restaurant, in Palazzo Strozzi. Gia stared at me in amazement, repeating my statement, turning it into a question. You and Irenna had a dessert, AT the restaurant? After a confused exchange, we realized, that I was using the word SHOWER, thinking it meant DESSERT. No, I did not have a shower, with my friend, in the restaurant at Palazzo Strozzi, after a glass of crisp white wine, & caprese salad. SHOWER =”DOCCIA” vs DESERT =”DOLCE”
#5 ~ My landlady, Federica, invited me for dinner, and as was our custom, she included me in the preparation of her flavourful recipes. That night, she described the main ingredient in the dish was in-season, and proudly announced she was preparing: “Pasta with Garbage” !!! Before I had an opportunity to react, she corrected herself saying, “No-No-No, not ”Pasta with Garbage”, “Pasta with Black-Garbage”. My eyes widened, and an astonished look came over my face. She clarified the main ingredient, a 2nd and then 3rd time: ”B-L-A-C-K G-A-R-B-A-G-E !! Clearly, I was not reacting how she had hoped…. Federica motioned me into the kitchen to “show” me the star ingredient of her feast. She pointed to the “BLACK KALE” in the sink, not the “BLACK GARBAGE” under the sink.
#4 ~ While out for dinner with friends, I removed my scarf, setting it on the floor, beside my chair. Realizing once we were at our next destination, that I’d forgotten my scarf, I asked, in my best Italian, if we could swing past the restaurant, on our way home, to retrieve the item. My Italian friend, and the driver of the car, was amazed that I’d removed it, and somehow left it beside my chair… he was obviously perplexed, and with an awkward laugh, asked me, “WHY did you remove it in the first place???” I shrugged my shoulders, replying, “it was warm in the room !” I thought to myself, good grief what a strange question, do Italians never remove their scarves, was it rude of me to do so in a restaurant? With obvious confusion, he consented, and we returned to the ‘scene of the crime’. As he emerged from the restaurant, with my scarf in hand, he was chucking, and now understood the mix-up. His bewildered reaction made sense now! My erroneous translation was as follows: “I removed my ”shoes” and left them beside my chair”. SHOES =”SCARPE” vs SCARF =”SCIARPA”
#3 ~ I was having a conversation, in English, at a dinner party, with the Italian host. He spoke of his family, his daughter, and the quiet life he now lives, in Florence. Our conversation progressed to his occupation, he explained that he was an antique dealer, however had not been working for the past 3 years. He sold his antique store in town, as he was retarded. When my eyes widened, and I stifled a grin, he stopped mid-sentence, with a disclaimer; “I said that wrong didn’t I? I often get those two words mixed-up.” RETIRED vs RETARDED
#2 ~ I was invited to dinner at the previous residence where I’d lived, when I first arrived in Florence. The owners had become friends, so it was always a joy to return. On this particular evening, my daughters were with me, and I was regaling how I decided to renamed the room I lived in, and loved for 2 months, from their adopted name of, “The Deco Room” (referencing Parisian Style Art-Deco decor) to my version of simply, “Shauna’s Room”. I’d been taking pictures of everyone at the party, and inadvertently left my camera behind. (there seems to be a pattern of forgetting things)Two days passed before I realized it was missing. I recored the following message on Federica’s answering machine, in my broken Italian: ”My camera is on the side-board in your dinning room… I’ll come pick it up tomorrow!” She returned my call, in total confusion, as to what I was coming to pick-up. In translating my message to her, I’d mistakenly recored: “I left my ‘room’ on your dinning table hutch, I’ll stop-by tomorrow, and collect my ‘room’! ROOM =”CAMERA” vs CAMERA =”MACCHINA-FOTOGRAFICA”
#1 ~ I’m a lover of Italy’s unique bread, I drizzle it with olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. It’s a addiction, and I indulge whenever I can. I often order a second piece, when out for meals. In bakeries, in Italy, (unlike the Canadian term, a loaf of bread), a clerk stands behind the counter, asks you the size of piece you would like, cuts if from an oversized loaf, and wraps it for you. When locals order from a bakery, they either give a measurement, or indicate visually with two hands, how many inches/cm, they require for that day. To keep things simple, I’d say, “bread please”, and give the appropriate hand gesture. I tried to imitate how locals ordered their bread, and it confused me as to why I seemed to get the ordering part wrong…every blinkin time. One afternoon, while studying my English/Italian dictionary, I discovered this latest translation disaster: For months, I’d confused the word bread for penis. I’d been ordering “this much penis please, OR may I have one more inch of penis” as I would invariably hold up two hands, indicating the size I wanted. Often, male waiters would asked me to repeat myself, nod, turn around, and laugh, as they walked away. It became clear why, at my local corner bakery, when I entered the store, the baker would call her father over, and he’d personally take my order. He was always grinning when asisting me. She must have decided to give the old man his thrill for the day, with the clueless Canadian…. BREAD = “PANE” vs PENIS = “PENE”What will become of this Canadian in Italy???