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Funny Linguistic Misunderstandings to Make You Laugh


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We've all had unfortunate or unexpected adventures during our vacations in other countries. Sometimes these can be very amusing. We've been collecting such funny stories on our website, from all over the world.

Here are some real-life examples of “faux pas" and misunderstandings which can result from cultural differences:

  • “Constipado" in Spanish means “to have a cold" - nothing like what it sounds like in English!

  • If you are female then don't say “estoy embarazada" thinking it means that you're embarrassed. Far from it, it actually means “I am pregnant"!

  • If you innocently ask a German “Bist du heiss?" (literally: are you hot?) to comment on the weather, he/she may get totally the wrong idea!

  • For any Americans visiting England, please remember that “pants" in British English are underwear, not trousers!

  • Do you like Chinese food? If so, be careful what you ask for in a restaurant because the word for sugar and soup apparently sound quite similar!

  • Some misunderstandings go beyond language. In Japan it's polite to slurp loudly while eating noodles to show your hosts that you appreciate them. Try that strategy in England or the USA and you might not get invited back!

  • In many parts of England “having your tea" can often mean “eating your evening meal", as well as simply drinking a cup of tea.

  • In Spain, asking for “salmon a la plancha" means “grilled salmon" not as one restaurant menu translated it, “ironed salmon" (since the word “plancha" in Spanish also means an “iron" for pressing clothes!).

    The above examples give you only a small taste of the many potential cultural and linguistic pitfalls which exist worldwide. Only by learning about other languages and cultures can we hope to bridge the divide and make the world a better place.

    If you have any amusing language-related anecdotes or incidents to share then please get in touch. You may even feature in a book we're publishing later this year.

    The author is writing a book on language learning and also runs a website on this topic. Please log on to for further tips, publications and features on accelerated language learning as well as other funny language learning anecdotes.

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