Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You said what?

It's always been a fear of mine that I would say something horrible in a another language just by mispronouncing something.

For me, it was speaking Navajo to Mr. Salt a few weeks ago.

As I said to Diva in the comments below, Navajo (Dine bizaad) is a tonal language, meaning that where you put the emphasis in a good portion of the words can totally change the meaning of the word. Say it one way, it means this. Say it another, it means that.

So, when we were at the softball game I referenced a few posts ago, there was a grill fired up to cook burgers. Mr. Salt referenced the smoke coming our way in Navajo. Repeating him, I attempted to say the word for smoke. Mr. Salt immediately corrects me.

What I said wasn't smoke.

I had said shit.

Ah, for the joys of learning a new language.

It does has it fun moments. For instance, you can talk about people that give us evil looks (Angry Black Cat referenced this in her blog), and they can be totally confused because they expect Spanish(due to Mr. Salt's coloring). It always throws them for a loop.

Saying "over there" in Navajo can be fun too. The distance to get to o'er there where something is can change from two feet to ten miles depending how long you draw out a certain constant.

And, of course, misspeaking the language isn't always limited to me. Mr. Salt says that when he was little and learning the language, SaltMama had sent him over to his grandma's house for onions. So when he gets there, he tries to ask for onions using Navajo.

He didn't say onion. He said the vulgar word for a woman's lower anatomy.

So grandma was offended and was mad at SaltMama for teaching Mr. Salt dirty words.

Oh, and Mr. Salt's first learned English word?



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