Language-learning Laughs, take 1

Here is the debut post of a newly-invented feature on this blog.  Just think of it as the ongoing “blooper reel” of my Neno ACL* adventure.  Based on previous experience with Portuguese, you can expect numerous editions of “Language Learning Laughs” in months to come.  

*Aquisition of Culture and Language

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Capybaras at the side of the road, near the village.  They really wanted to be photographed for  this blog.

One morning in July, as I kneaded a batch of pizza crust, a friend who was outdoors sweeping the cleared dirt area in front of her house called to me,

“Does your mother have any sisters?”  (Well, that’s what I thought the question was).

So I replied, “No, only brothers,” in a slightly sad tone, knowing that in the Neno culture, the relationship between a woman and her mom’s sister is a very special type bond, which I will never have.

My friend stopped sweeping and looked at me in a way that made it obvious that “No, only brothers,” was not the correct answer.

She repeated the question and I realized she was asking if I had another propane tank!  We use those for our gas stoves and someone else in the village had run out of propane.  Nothing to do with my mom’s siblings at all.

In my defense, the literal way she asked the question was, “Does your propane tank have a sibling of the same gender?”

And the words for propane and mom are very similar.  So it was an understandable mistake, yet I laughed off and on the rest of the day, just thinking about it.

If it doesn’t make you laugh, try to imagine yourself in the place of my friend.

You ask someone, “Do you have another propane tank?”

“No, only brothers.”

Uhh…say what?  Not sure how this would be interpreted…

  1. ”I don’t have another propane tank, but I have brothers.”
  2. “I don’t have another propane tank, but my brothers do.”

Neither of those facts would be especially helpful or relevant.  But at least they’re good for laughs.

3 thoughts on “Language-learning Laughs, take 1

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