Lost in Translation

Over the past few months I’ve been collecting some phrases or words that my friends and I keep misunderstanding.

Being a native English speaker I take the language for granted. My two good friends here in Germany are from Brazil/Basque (place in Spain that wants independence) and Japan. They both learned English early on in life, along with other languages I might add. Although they understand English, there are certain words or phrases that don’t translate well for them. Plus, I speak pretty fast normally and that can be difficult for them to fully grasp what I’m saying. I completely understand where they’re coming from because when I hear Italians speaks I’m always halfway lost with their idioms and the speed at which they speak.

For example, the phrase “everything under the sun” made no sense to my friends. Having to explain that to them was also difficult because it makes sense but it really doesn’t. Nahia, the Basque Brazilian, explained to me that English has a lot of “Phrasal Verbs” that make it difficult for non-native speakers to fully understand. Like “cheer up” or “catch up with” or “cut back on” etc. If you define each word and try putting it together to have the same meaning of the intended phrase, it isn’t that easy to do.

Talking fast also has its consequences. For example, when I said, “Captain America is overrated” my friend heard “Captain America is a burrito.” Or “Cinque Terre (the place in Italy)” turned into “Chip and Dales.” My all time favorite was explaining “ground beef.” I mentioned that the meat I was eating is like ground beef but not beef. My friend responded with, “well Turkeys and Cows are ground animals.” I looked at her for a second confused but then realized that maybe the term “ground beef” was not actually a thing. And it wasn’t to them. We laughed for a good five minutes when I tried, and failed, to explain “ground beef.”

Anyway, the moral of the story is that when you encounter non-native English speakers in your life be mindful of your English. You don’t have to dumb-it-down but consider your speed of talking and the metaphors you normally use. Peace! (ironically, the way I used “peace” most likely wouldn’t make sense at first)

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