Attracting as many aspiring Spanish speakers as Amsterdam does pot smokers, Xela can certainly lay claim to being a Central American haven for those that want to pick up El Español. However, as with any language, getting to grips with the particulars of Spanish can be a tricky task, and one that can often go embarrassingly wrong. And because there’s not many things that are more entertaining that laughing at other people’s mistakes, for this month’s editorial we’ve compiled some of the most embarrassingly hilarious Spanglish errors that Spanish teachers & speakers alike in this city have reveled in being witness to. Let’s start with a few of the most basic, & widely committed, mistakes:
When you’re feeling embarrassed about something, try not to blurt out “estoy embarazado/a”, which means quite a different thing all together, and could result in you being congratulated by your Spanish speaking friends on your pregnancy & being asked when your baby is due.
Another common mistake is to use the phrase “estoy caliente” when you’re hot, instead of “tengo calor.” Estoy caliente actually means that you’re feeling horny. So the next time you’re getting hot & sweaty busting some serious salsa moves at La Parranda, it would probably not be wise to tell your dance partner that you’re feeling caliente, otherwise they may end up concluding that tonight’s their lucky night. Unless, of course, all that saucy hip grinding has actually made you caliente, in which case go for it, we say – the sixties weren’t for nothing after all.
Those that have picked up a bit of Spanish from Europe before arriving in Guatemala should be aware that some words mean very different things over here than they do in Spain. Perhaps, the most common mix-up is with the word “coger”, which in Spain means to take (as in take the bus), but over here is the expletive version of to have sex. It is particularly inadvisable to combine this word with “coche”, which in Spain means car but in Guatemala is slang for pig. So the next time your Spanish teacher asks you how you get to work in the mornings back home, don´t reply with “yo cojo mi coche”, which will most likely result in some serious raised eyebrows in response to why exactly you felt it was necessary to tell your teacher that you f*ck your pig.
One particularly famous story that Spanish teachers in Xela delight in recounting is that of a poor Spanish student who was suffering from a particularly bad hair day & went into a shop to ask for a comb. However, she unfortunately missed out the “i” from the word peine, and ended up telling the (male) shop-assistant: “necesito un pene” – I need a penis. The somewhat confused shop-assistant responded with ¿ahora?, to which she insisted that, yes, she was in need of a penis right now. Sadly she left the shop empty handed.
And whilst we´re on the topic of penises (who doesn´t enjoy a good penis joke?), I can also share another embarrassing mistake that a friend of mine made in one of her classes here (who is fortunately no longer in Xela and so cannot hit me for publishing it here). When asked by her teacher what she got up to over the weekend, she tried to explain that she almost stayed at home on Saturday night as she wasn´t feeling too well, but her friends convinced her to come out & she ended up having a really good time. However, instead of finishing her story by saying that her night had been “vale la pena” (worth it), she shocked her teacher by telling her that the night had been “vale la pene” (worth the penis).
Let us finish with a word of caution about always remembering your tildes (accents) when writing in Spanish. For a phrase as simple as “mi papá tiene 47 años” (my dad´s 47 years old) can take on a completely different meaning when written as “mi papa tiene 47 anos” (my potato has 47 anuses).
Isn´t Spanish fun?