When learning a foreign language, you are bound to come across some awkward language barriers. While over this time I have drifted on the safer side, in terms of; if I don’t know a word, I’ll begin by just saying the initial part of it, and hope that someone catches on to correct me.
Here are my 5 most embarrassing language mistakes I, or a friend made when learning Italian. These are all extremely easy mistakes to make, because it’s a matter of attention to detail, making sure you put the right a or o on the end of the word, otherwise ensuring that your pronunciation is as close as possible… so that people can take you seriously!
1. Che figo ✓ La figa x
My Australian friend was talking about something really amazing in a group text message and intended to say ‘It’s so cool’ but actually say the word equivalent to a female genital. Oops!!
2. Un pisolino ✓ Un pisello/pisellino x
I was messaging in the same group message the day after and someone said they were going to have an afternoon nap, I responded with something like “You’re always sleeping!” when really with my spelling sent, it equated to “You’re always a little willy*!”. Hahahahah! Dammit. So this word mean male genitals* if incorrectly pronounced or spelt like the second option. A safer way to say afternoon nap is ‘un sonnellino’ … I know I’ll be sticking to that word from on now!
3. To explain ‘spooning’ as Il cucchiaio x
In Australia, we use the word ‘spooning’ to explain when two people are cuddling, and facing the same way, like two little spoons stacked together. However in Italy, well this word is only used as a position when doing a dirty deed… If you get where I’m going with this. So be careful what you say!
4. To wrecklessly use the verb ‘Scopare’
In an innocent way, this word means to sweep, which is fine. However just pay attention to how you use it, because otherwise it can be interpreted in a more vulgar way, it means to ‘shag/do/tap that’.
Often as a foreigner, Italians will always understand that you’re speaking about sweeping (that’s if you’re intending to speak about sweeping haha!), however depending on who’s company you’re in, a more younger crowd will be found using this word more heavily, and not to clean the house! So now at least you understand.
Other things that you do, that just don’t go:
To tell someone you don’t use the bidet: This is not okay in Italy. If you are a foreigner living in Italy and get asked if you use the bidet, even if you don’t, just say yes! Because if not, you will be eternally judged…
Women’s feet: I’m not sure about this one, however I have heard that Italian men are really weird about womens feet and believe that they should be well pedicured. So, make sure you come to Italy, with a fresh, squeaky clean pedicure.
Wearing flip flops anywhere but the beach: Not okay. Only sandals and shoes are accepted in the cities of Italy. I mean, you can wear them, you will just notice that it is quite uncommon between Italians.
Drinking a cappuccino after 11am: You can do it, you’ll just get some funny stares. Italians believe that drinking that much milk after lunch is just too much and bad for your digestion.
Drinking a cappuccino AND juice together for breakfast: For good heavens, imagine the nasty concoction in your stomach! Now that I have put that imagine in your head, you’d understand why they all squirm at the thought too.
So in my experience, these are some of the funny mistakes I have come across whilst living in Italy. All you can do is laugh it off, because people realise you’re not mother tongue, so they understand.
Have you had some extremely hilarious yet slightly embarrassing language barriers like these when learning another language? Tell me about them in the comments below! 🙂
Love Cherise Joelle xo