The other teacher working with me is from England, so over the course of the last week I’ve been hearing your typical British lingo: cheeky, rubbish, cheers, fancy that. Daniel has taught me two new ones though. The first is “madam” as in “a girl with a ‘tude…” She’s such a madam.
The other one, I just learned is “good shout” as in “good idea!” However, having Daniel here mostly reminded me of my time in Bolivia when I met a girl who was also from England, specifically the city of Uni. It wasn’t until a week later when I realized Uni is actually just short for “university”.
I was wondering why there were so many people from there!
It’s funny how context, pronunciation, and syntax are so paramount in language development, even just between different variations of the same language.
For example, the country of Niger was listed on a worksheet I was helping a student in my adult class understand. As soon as I saw it, I thought “Please pronounce this correctly. Please, please.”
Well, of course, she didn’t, and I quickly corrected her.
I’m certainly not one to judge, however, as I accidentally asked for a “bitch juice” instead of a pear juice this week. I rolled the “R” in peRa, completely changing the whole meaning of the word.
One of my teens embarrassed himself the other day too, and to be honest, it was well deserved, as he was trying to show off. He was bragging about his physical appearance, said: “I’m so warm.”
At first, I was a little confused, but two seconds later, I realized he was trying to say, “I’m so hot/sexy,” and in no way did I try to stifle my laughter.
The “th” sound is also hard for my students to pronounce, and “this” is faithfully pronounced as “tits.”
I play a game with my kid’s class called Ship and Shore, but their version sounds way more fun -“Shit and Shore.”
It’s an accident of course, just like the millions of mistakes I have made with pronunciation and grammar in Spanish, and even more with those damn false cognates.
One time, I told my Spanish class I was “embarazada” which I could have sworn meant “embarrassed,” but unfortunately, for the rest of the semester, my whole class thought I was pregnant. ¡Que embara- I mean- vergüenza!
While most of these are accidents, there is one that I can’t quite understand why it keeps happening. In every single one of my classes- kids, teens, and adults- there has been at least one student that has exclaimed: “What the fuck?!” And honestly, I have no explanation for this. I’ve told my kids that a better, more appropriate way to say this is “Oh my gosh!” And to my older students “What the hell.”
The first time I heard this, it came from a ten-year-old after the power went out, and after the initial shock, it took everything in me not to bust up laughing. I have no idea what kind of television the Colombians are watching, but whatever it is, drops the F-bomb quite frequently.
My favorite language discrepancy that has come to pass during my time in Colombia is specific to the way we talk in California.
Anyone that’s from California knows that “Yeah, no” means “no.” “No, yeah” means yes. And “Yeah, no, for sure” means “Definitely.”
Unfortunately, this method doesn’t quite work the same here, and I’ve confused poor Leidy every time I answer her questions with a “Sí, no” or a “No, sí.” Even more complicated, is when I do the “Sí, no, sí!” And Leidy is just like “SÍ O NO!?!?”
I think I’ve gotten better at this, but it’ll only take a few days in California before this habit returns.
Language is so interesting and fun!

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