Rates tu – some funny translation failures

While I was travelling, and during conversations with foreigners, I stumbled upon translation and comprehension mistakes that made me smile. In most cases, I was puzzled and it took me time to understand what the person meant. I wanted to share these examples with you, and feel free to tell us about your own experience (I’m sure a lot of people who learn a foreign language have been in such situations 🙂 ) !

Rates tu
This happened very recently; an English friend who wants to improve her French sent me an email (in French). She almost made no mistakes, but ended the email with « Rates-tu » (Did you fail?)… I needed a moment to understand that she meant « Tu me manques » (I miss you)! Indeed, she tried to translate « Miss you » with a dictionary, and simply forgot about the context in which the word is used: « to miss » can also correspond to « rater, louper », which mean “to fail”…

Until the till
This one happened a few years ago. I was helping English-speaking students with their French homework. One of the students had to write a paragraph about her plans for the future. She showed me her paper, and I was surprised to read « je reste ici caisse l’année prochaine » (I am staying here checkout next year)… Why caisse (checkout) ??? And then I understood that she was trying to translate « till » (until) and should have said « jusqu’à ». And indeed, « till » (the noun) is « caisse » in French!

It’s a shame
When I was in high-school, we went on a school trip to Germany. We stayed with host families, and then the Germans were meant to come and see us in France a few weeks later. When we were saying goodbye, one of the Germans told a girl from my school that she would not be able to go to France – to which the French girl, upset, said « Scheide »… The whole German group stood open-mouthed… She actually meant « Schade » (it’s a shame), but mispronounced the word and referred to a private part of the female body!

How much for asparagus?
The following anecdote happened to a French friend when she went to visit her sister-in-law in Germany. The latter explained to my friend that she always kept a bit of money in a drawer, in caqse she didn’t have time to go to the bank. She used the word « Spargeld » (savings). But unfortunately, my friend misunderstood her and thought she had said « Spargel », and therefore thought her sister-in-law kept asparagus in her bedroom drawers!!


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1 thought on “Rates tu – some funny translation failures”

  1. I made the mistake in Spanish of saying “Tu eres muy mamable” instead of “Tu eres muy amable”. The latter means “You are very nice”, but the first one with the extra “m” on “amable” means “You are very suckable”. Sometimes I say it on purpose just to get a response out of Spanish speakers. Another one that is funny and simple is when someone says to you “Gracias” the normal response is “De nada” which is literally “From nothing” or “It was nothing” and the acceptable translation is “You are Welcome”. The funny response in it’s place is to say “De nalgas” which means “From my butt cheeks”. It’s harmless and a great way to make others laugh and also pick up fine Hispanic women. “Ay Dios Mio. Santa Cachucha!!!”

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