When you are learning a new language, you will make very funny mistakes without realizing it. If you’re lucky, the mistakes are just *cute*; they will earn you a patronizing pat on the head and nothing more. Sometimes, the mistakes are really embarrassing (like many of my peers in high school Spanish who thought ‘Estoy embarazada’ meant ‘I’m embarrassed,’ when actually it means ‘I’m pregnant’) – particularly when they are accidentally sexual.
And you will probably know it when the person you’re talking to starts giggling uncontrollably and will not tell you what you said.
1) “Impregnate what?”
I only know about this very unfortunate Czech–>English translation because I have heard others mistake it; thankfully I never had a reason to talk about this topic. But just imagine: A person is innocently trying to talk about waterproofing (impregnovat) something, but they are actually telling you that you should impregnate (oplodnit) your phone, jacket, or shoes.
2) “I’m so excited!”
It took a little while before I realized that there’s actually no one-to-one translation for this in Czech (probably because Czechs don’t get excited about anything 😉 ). I couldn’t believe it – the closest translation is a mild, “I’m looking forward to it.” But learn from my misfortunes, dear readers who want to learn Czech. No matter how good your intentions may be, saying, “Jsem tak vzrušená!” is still going to mean, “I’m so aroused! (sexually excited)” every time. And unless you want to say that your plans will be very arousing, vzrušující is no better (I have also said, “I am so arousing!”).
3) “Put it in grandma.”
This one has to do with double-meaninged Czech verbs and those ever-pesky Czech cases. One of the ways we don’t appreciate that English is so easy, is that we can simply say, “Give this to (someone).” Czech has a *case* for that (3rd case specifically), which basically means that when I want to say “to (someone),” I decline – or change the ending of, for those who have never studied Latin – the person’s name instead.
So here’s poor me two years ago, at the mercy of the brutal Czech language. There were two things I didn’t know. First, the verb dát means both “give” and “put.” Second, that you cannot translate the sentence “Give it to grandma” (Dej to babičce) directly from English:
Dej to do babička.
Dej (Give/put) to (it) do (into) babička (grandma).
The person’s face looked literally like that minion’s. 🙂
Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.
Just kidding, I did. A million times. Because I didn’t learn 3rd case until last year. Rather, I tried to avoid asking anyone to give anyone anything… ever, just like Michael Scott.
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