I can speak American, but I am still learning how to speak English

Whenever I go somewhere to do anything official or business related, I always take a native Brit with me because it is impossible and embarrassing trying to communicate a lot of the time.

I have been here for five years or so, and I know how to use most of the words. Eggplant=aubergine, zucchini=courgette, I want=please may I have etc.

But sometimes I still get really baffled at not being understood.

When my mother visited England the last time she tried to order water in a restaurant. “Wader” she said. excuse me? “Wadter“. Pardon? “Water!” Me: oh, she just wants a wowta! Oh, you wanted a wowta! OK!  Le Sigh.

I was at a pub a while ago and without thinking, I went to the bar and ordered a diet soda. We worked on this for three minutes. “We only have regular sodah. I don’t think there is diet sodah. Do you mean slimline?”

Me: ???

Barmaid: ???

Then I realize my mistake. OH. Right! I want a Diet…(think of the word think of the word) soft drink? Pepsi? Coke? haha? Being a Brit in customer service the bitch just rolls her eyes, gives me three cubes and takes my money without another word. I die a little inside.

I was at a Slimming World meeting the other day. Obviously I have my best Brit friend with me to translate. We were discussing things to put on our food. I suggest Hot Sauce. Out of 30 people, not one had a single clue what I was saying. Hot Sauce. HotSauce. HotSauce.  Nope. My friend is already laughing at my foolishness.

“She means   Hoot      susse!” (laughter) “oh, she was saying HAWTSAASS!” (laughter) Fine, that was funny.

Sometimes, phrases get in the way. I was watching TV with some Brits when I saw a haggard looking lady and said “Wow! She looks like she was ridden hard and put away wet!”

These people knew me and could not believe what their little British ears had just heard, coming out of my mouth. Then they started to giggle, then guffaw and then were rolling as I continued to say “What? What? What’s so funny?”

“ALL I MEANT WAS that she looked like a lot of hard road! WHAT? Why are you laughing at meeee?”

I finally got them to understand that she looked old before her time, or had had a rough day. I have never lived this down.

These same people watched me walk into the room with a drink in each hand, one to serve, one for me, and I innocently said ” Look! I am double fisting!” I thought I was making a joke. In Englaland, I was making a FAR DIFFERENT joke than the one I had intended.  Hilarity ensued.

I never use fisting in any way anymore. Even if it only means that you have a drink in each hand. Dirty minded bastards.

I am tempted to suspect that I am being deliberately misunderstood, now that I know the local sense of humour, but I am sure the majority of the time I am just baffling people. I know this because my best friend sometimes says words to me that I just do not get.  After three repeats I sometimes say…..can you spell that? Then we laugh at how a simple word can confuse us both.

The interesting part is that my closest friends and family have evolved to speak American rather than correct me or ask questions. They know how I use the word Pants. They sometimes text me to see if they can come round for a soda. I find it flattering. I have asked them to stop me when I say Pants because I really should not be allowed to go on this way.

Can you imagine when my teen-age daughter brings a boy over and I casually say  “I like your Pants!” GAH!

Don’t get me started on voice recognition systems at call centers. (see this video) or my experience talking to the Scots.

Have you ever had any problems in translation with different countries or parts of the same country? I’d love to hear about it!


I was reminded of this happening to me. Where the toilet became an issue. It still is.


One thought on “I can speak American, but I am still learning how to speak English

  1. If it’s any consolation I imagine there are plenty of Brits in America who embarrass the crap out of themselves when they ask for a rubber instead of an eraser 😉

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