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I was still fresh into my lessons at language school. I always had to take a deep breath before approaching someone to ask for help or start a small conversation. With each step I took towards a person, and with each moment of silence I let pass between us, I would recite the sentence/question I wanted to say in my head. Over and over. The rest of my conversation would probably be a mess but at least I could put my best foot forward.
On one particular day, I was out with my husband and baby. I remembered that I needed to try and find some band-aids. I informed my husband of this as we walked by a pharmacy, secretly hoping that his much-more-fluent-self would waltz right in and effortlessly accomplish the mission. Instead, he responded, “Alright, while you go check on that I’m going to go look inside this store real quick.”
There I stood, with my little baby boy perched on my hip. I turned slowly towards the pharmacy entrance. The female employees were all standing there, staring at me and smiling big, anxious to pinch the fat cheeks of my son’s face. I smiled back with an awry smile. Maybe, just maybe, I would be able to find the band-aids without having to ask. Honestly, I didn’t even know the word for “band-aid”.
I started walking around, searching. Nothing. Next aisle. Nothing. Pulse is starting to race a little bit at this point.
Pull yourself together. You can do this. Just tell them what you’re searching for. Get it over with.
Now, I should note that it’s common in our country for employees to be your little shadow as you walk around the store. They have nothing else to do but follow you around and read out product labels to you, regardless of whether or not you’re interested in the product.
So, between me trying to find band-aids on my own, an employee following me around simply to touch my baby’s face, and another employee reading out every product label I happened to glance at, I knew I needed to do a curtain call on this circus show. Thus began my very limited-language attempt to seek assistance:
Me: “Ya, I’m searching for band-aids. Do you have band-aids here?”
(cue bewildered looks on employees’ faces)
Great. They don’t know what I’m talking about. OK. I’ll try explaining it.
Me: “Band aids. It’s like fabric you wear on your skin if you have a wound.”
(more bewildered looks)
Me: “No. Not cream. I’m searching for band aids.”
At this point, I gave up trying to explain and decided to continue the search for the band-aids on my own. However, I now had about 3 employees following closely behind me. They seemed to be genuinely concerned about me finding these so-called “band aids”. Despite their enthusiasm, I decided to call the search off and thanked them all for their help. “No luck,” I told my husband as I met him back outside the pharmacy, “but they were really intent on helping me.”
It wasn’t until I was recounting the story to my language teacher a couple days later that I found out why all those sweet employees were following me so closely around the store and constantly giving me bewildered looks. As it turns out, each time I thought I was saying the word for “searching for”, I was actually saying the word for “stealing”.
What a polite band-aid thief I am.
Your turn to share! What was one of your funniest language mistakes? Share in the comments section. No one wants to feel alone in their language bloopers 😉