I talked about this not so long ago. Regardless of how long you’ve lived in a foreign country or your command of a second language, there are times when it’s painfully obvious that you’re not a native speaker. I notice it more when I have a long day at work or after spending some weeks with my family overseas. Other times I’m simply distracted and don’t pay attention to what’s being said.
I rarely come across new expressions (new to me, that is) anymore, but it did happen a few days ago. I bumped into a friend at the Fred Meyer (second place to the Basque Center for socializing, it seems like), and he started telling me about an argument between him and his girlfriend, how he had to take her out to the woodshed. I’ve been to his house many times but I didn’t remember ever seeing one, was it new?
I’m not the only foreigner with language issues, though. I was chatting with my German friend the other day about her job at one of Boise’s rec centers. She told me that a couple showed up to exercise after being gone for several weeks. “We fell off the wagon”, was their excuse. “Oh, were you hurt?”, my friend replied.
But the worse mistake I ever made occurred shortly after moving to Boise from the Basque Country. At the time, both Mike and I worked at the Old Chicago downtown, where one of the managers was a lesbian. One night we went out for a drink and run into her at the Bittercreek. She was with a group of girls and they invited us to sit with them. Those days you could still smoke in bars and we all had our packs on top of the table. I noticed a cool design on one of them, so I turned around and told the girl that I liked her box. “Do you want to touch it?” she asked.
It was the last time I ever asked a lesbian that question. And for the record no, I did not.
So, what about you guys? Have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you have a funny story you’d like to share? An embarrassing one?
- An Evening with the Trey McIntyre Project on the Basque Block
- Martin Luther King Day