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"Hilarious" Mistakes? (Esp. Across Polish and other Slavic Languages)


QueenSide 2 | 5
6 Dec 2011 #1
So, in Russian class we were doing a review of verbs of positioning (to sit, lay, stand, hang, etc). Which, to an English speaker, is something you just have to memorize as far as what sits versus what stands. So I asked my husband (Polish) how you position something in a fridge. He says, położyć. I look down my list, check off положить and move on. Apparently, this was hilarious to my Russian professor, the idea of laying down milk or something in a fridge. Obviously it wasnt funny to me because I didnt have idea idea what position an object takes in the fridge in the first place.

Do you guys have any stories of unavoidable (because of innocent ignorance) foreign language mistakes?
Lyzko
6 Dec 2011 #2
Going from to Russian from Polish was for me a similar adventure, full of such awkward linguistics missteps!

Most of the errors I made too were aspectual in the very beginning-:)
gumishu 11 | 5,335
6 Dec 2011 #3
I remember a time when milk in Poland was ubiquitously sold in quite soft hermetic plastic bags - you couldn't postawić/wstawić it do lodówki as the thing could not stand unless put into some container before (like a 1-litre broad jar the type that's use for Polish style dill pickles) - so you could only połozyć it or włożyć do lodówki

so in general you can położyć/włożyć do lodówki things that can't stand - objects which stand stoją in Polish are those that are quite high - bottles, jars - they can however also lay leżeć when they are overturned but I guess it is pretty much the same in English
pam
7 Dec 2011 #4
not quite sure if anyone will find this hilarious or not. what you have to understand first is that sometimes not being a native speaker means that words sometimes sound the same.brzmi tak samo. the girl i spoke to at the information desk at krakow airport certainly thought it was hilarious...gumishu, you can correct my appalling grammar later. i got off the plane in krakow and i needed to get a train into central krakow ( taxi too expensive ). the 2 words which sound similar to me, especially if spoken too quickly, are pociag and pajak. what i wanted to say was ...dzien dobry, moze ty mozesz pomoc? ja chce isc na pociag do krakow. substitute pociag for pajak....at least i made her day,she couldnt stop laughing.
catsoldier 62 | 596
7 Dec 2011 #5
...dzien dobry, moze ty mozesz pomoc? ja chce isc na pociag do krakow. substitute pociag for pajak....at least i made her day,she couldnt stop laughing.

Dzień dobry Pani, mogłabyś mi pomóc? Chcę jechać pociągiem do Krakowa.

You should try to use Pan and Pani sometimes as it is more polite. This is my effort at what you wanted to say but a Polish speaker may want to rephrase it, change around all the words etc. so that it sounds better or delete it completely :-)
Wroclaw 44 | 5,387
7 Dec 2011 #6
at least i made her day,she couldnt stop laughing.

it is funny. i'm sure most of us have made similar mistakes.
strzyga 2 | 993
7 Dec 2011 #7
Dzień dobry Pani, mogłabyś mi pomóc?

Pani is the proper way to go in this situation, but if you start with "pani", then go along with it and don't switch to "ty" - the pan/pani constructions take the 3rd person Sing. -czy mogłaby mi pani pomóc?

Just this one note, as I wouldn't like to derail the thread.
OP QueenSide 2 | 5
7 Dec 2011 #8
Interesting about the milk bags. That makes sense. I know that one can also "położyć" money in a bank, so it can function similarly to "to store" or "deposit". But in Russian I guess it's always to lay something flat, like a rug.

Slavic prepositions used by English speakers can also be quite funny... na pociągu, anyone?

Also @ Pam: If Im understanding correctly, the confusion here is between trains and ...spiders? :D
catsoldier 62 | 596
7 Dec 2011 #9
Just this one note

No you are right, thanks for the correction, I used the wrong ending on mogłab...........

Thanks

My own errors are shocking, I have embarrassed myself so much that I don't want to see some of the people that I spoke to again, I won't even repeat them here.

A mild mistake of mine is saying nóżki instead of nożyczki
Wroclaw 44 | 5,387
7 Dec 2011 #10
Pani is the proper way to go in this situation, but if you start with "pani", then go along with it and don't switch to "ty" - the pan/pani constructions take the 3rd person Sing. -czy mogłaby mi pani pomóc?

geez, i thought it was funny because of spider and train.
OP QueenSide 2 | 5
7 Dec 2011 #11
but if you start with "pani", then go along with it and don't switch to "ty"

Can you ask to switch to ty form? Or is that rude?

I *always* think of Pan Tadeusz when I hear Pan or Panni. Slavic studies, siiigh....
catsoldier 62 | 596
7 Dec 2011 #12
Can you ask to switch to ty form? Or is that rude?

No you should stick to the 3rd person. You can ask your friends to use ty with you or they can ask you but not with people that you don't know generally. There are rules for this somewhere, you can address a person younger than you as ty etc. I don't fully understand it yet.
strzyga 2 | 993
7 Dec 2011 #13
geez, i thought it was funny because of spider and train.

It was, here's more or less what I imagined:

Can you ask to switch to ty form? Or is that rude?

I'm too scared to answer it now ;)
pam
7 Dec 2011 #14
You should try to use Pan and Pani sometimes as it is more polite.

i know my use of the polish language is terrible. now i feel really disheartened. think i will give up now. everyone else on this site has at least basic command of it. my polish is crap and now i feel i am embarrassing myself.
catsoldier 62 | 596
7 Dec 2011 #15
No, don't give up, don't be disheartened. Is this your first language that you really want to be able to speak properly? It is my first language that I am trying to learn properly, learning a language is a huge task, how huge I have yet to find out, I just don't know how much time it will take but I don't mind because I like it for now so I will continue. You should continue also if you like it too.

I think that if you are going to speak any foreign language embarrassing yourself is a given. I suppose it is a good way to develop a thick skin and learn to laugh at yourself.

It is only now as I learn more that I realise how bad I was at the start, at the time I didn't feel embarrassed saying the things I did, I was quiet proud of myself, now I cringe with embarrassement thinking back on it.
Vincent 9 | 815 Moderator
7 Dec 2011 #16
i know my use of the polish language is terrible. now i feel really disheartened. think i will give up now. everyone else on this site has at least basic command of it. my polish is crap and now i feel i am embarrassing myself.

This is the sort trouble you will find when you learn without a good grammar book. Most books will point out that there is a formal and informal way of speaking to strangers, elders and good friends. Just my two "grosze" worth ;)
pam
7 Dec 2011 #17
it is funny. i'm sure most of us have made similar mistakes.

probably only funny because of my terrible polish. she probably thought i was a complete debil
Wroclaw 44 | 5,387
7 Dec 2011 #18
my polish is crap and now i feel i am embarrassing myself

don't be daft. i make mistakes every day. and if you check the posts you will see that even the better speakers get corrected on this site. it's all part of the learning.
catsoldier 62 | 596
7 Dec 2011 #19
probably only funny because of my terrible polish

This is part of learning any language I think, that you will be bad at the start and gradually get better, if you don't speak you won't get better. Did you not see this guy taking his Polish test? He is funny and he isn't even swearing. I don't think he is a fool though, he seems like a nice guy who can take a joke and he is trying to learn Polish, if he doesn't give up he will succeed.


pam
7 Dec 2011 #20
Is this your first language that you really want to be able to speak properly

it is my first language. i am never going to be able to speak it correctly. what i really dont understand is that my lokator has been phoning me from poland . he spent 3 months living in my house and he does not speak english. at all. i have spoken to his mother and sister in poland. they also dont speak english. they understand everything i am saying to them. this means either they have great insight into the english language or polatsy have a great ability to understand even terrible polish grammar
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
7 Dec 2011 #21
During my first trip to Poland I once innocently referred to a female hitchhiker as autostopiczka, and that brought down the house. My Polish relatives were all but rolling in the aisles.
Lyzko
7 Dec 2011 #22
Pam, I can only concure with my forum colleagues and heartily encourage you NOT to throw in the towel, or in any way apologize for your Polish skills!

The fact that you're learning this language rather than merrily insisting (as many might) that your interlocutor simply learn English, is a tribute to your steadfastness.

Persevere-:)
pam
7 Dec 2011 #23
This is part of learning any language I think, that you will be bad at the start and gradually get better, if you don't speak you won't get better. Did you not see this guy taking his Polish test?

just watched it...now i have a bit of hope. my polish is just a bit better....but still feeling sad.was going to treat myself to gold membership as xmas present to me, but dont think there is too much point now
tabrett 2 | 26
7 Dec 2011 #24
Why are you feeling so disheartened because one person politely corrected you about pan/pani? You can't think too much or definitely be that sensitive about it. I have seen a lot of posts from you lately and it's very obvious that you want to learn and this is the most important. With some enthusiasm that I have seen from your other posts you will learn quickly, especially if you are in Poland now or am I incorrect? Even in this thread people are talking about mistakes that they have made when speaking to Polish people and as far as I can see nobody has had a rude or angry response...or maybe someone has?
Steveramsfan 2 | 306
7 Dec 2011 #25
i know my use of the polish language is terrible. now i feel really disheartened. think i will give up now. everyone else on this site has at least basic command of it. my polish is crap and now i feel i am embarrassing myself.

Don't feel like that at all, I have been trying to learn Polish for 4 years now and I am still not able to hold a conversation unless its a certain environment. Shop, hotel or restaurant.

In my experience the Poles are amazed that you even try to learn Polish, they laugh at the mistakes not at you.
I found what you said was funny because it was funny, i didn't think you were rubbish because you made the mistake. I just pictured a spider carrying people to Krakow.

At least you tried to speak their language, I know lots of English who just speak English in Poland, they don't even try.
gumishu 11 | 5,335
7 Dec 2011 #26
Slavic prepositions used by English speakers can also be quite funny... na pociągu, anyone?

na pociągu as when travelling is incorrect it should be w pociągu

but pam correctly has put iść na pociąg - to go to catch a train - 'na' in this situation is used like in 'iść na koncert' - to go for a concert

ah - another remark - pam - don't worry about pan/pani - unless you are talking to an older person (like 60) or happen upon a haughty exemplar people will not be generally offended if you don't address them pan/pani - the thing is if you start with pan/pani you have be consistent with it - so don't start with it
hythorn 3 | 580
7 Dec 2011 #27
having been in country only a few weeks I went out to buy a set of headphones for my walkman

'Suka poprosze' I said to the attractive, female shop assistant pointing at the items displayed in the shop

she smiled and handed me a set of head phones

true story
Sasha 2 | 1,083
7 Dec 2011 #28
He says, położyć. I look down my list, check off положить and move on.

"Polozhit" (moloko) is absolutely fine to say in Russian. I mean it doesn't grate on one's ears. You can as well say "postavit" though.

But in Russian I guess it's always to lay something flat, like a rug.

Not necessarily.
It's usually used when you don't know the form of objects you're going to place to the fridge. When you for instance have a bag of groceries you want to put to the fridge.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
7 Dec 2011 #29
Any other examples, Sasha? It would be good to see some. I know 'suka' is 'suka' as Fedor Emelianenko said it. No mistake there :)
gumishu 11 | 5,335
7 Dec 2011 #30
'Suka poprosze'

was 'suka' supposed to mean 'słuchawki'? :P


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