English is an absolutely ridiculous language. I speak it quite well, yet I still find it impossible to explain to non-native speakers. 9 times out of 10, when Rodolfo asks why we say things the way we do, my answer is an oh-so-enlightening “because.”
So I understand why your average Spanish speaker makes mistakes when learning how to speak English. It’s more than remembering that in English we are hungry, we don’t have hungry. It’s straight memorizing all sorts of phrases because we seem to have more exceptions than we do rules.
Of course, the words people learn first tend to be those that they hear in pop culture. This is why all of my friends can swear like sailors, exclaim “oh my god” with the best valley girls and profess “I love you.” Unfortunately, these phrases don’t necessarily come in handy in real life.
Some of my favorite English mistakes come from menus. I enjoyed one Peruvian restaurant’s translation of “queso de cabra” – what I would call goat cheese – as “ewe’s milk cheese.” Is there such a thing as ram’s milk cheese? That is, of course, the very tip of an iceberg that goes from the correct but awkward “beef meat” to the misleading “crazies” (locos are a kind of abalone).
Then we have advertising, which often throws in a little inglés to be cool. I have mentioned before that construction companies insist of referring to walking closets. And I am still irrationally irritated by calling “going for a jog” running, as in “oh yeah, I play running.” It sounds ridiculous, stop saying it.
But if I were going to attempt to actually impart some useful information about learning English, it would be the following. When you are a sharing a romantic moment with your foreign partner and want to express that you wish you could take him or her away, so that it could be just the two of you with no one else around, stop. Think. Translate. And remember that in English, raptar, which means to kidnap, does not translate as “rape.”
Now that would be one hell of a cultural difference.
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