Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The trilingual's dilemma, part 1.5: One little letter

I'm currently in the course of moving out of my apartment (a process which for me is usually accompanied by a period in which my room appears to be the epicenter of a disastrous earthquake), and therefore I don't have a lot of time for blogging. I can, however, offer this tasty morsel, a cautionary tale about the quirks of living in a second language.

The scene:  I am hurrying down Calle Mayor to take a train to a nearby town. The train station is at the far end of the street, so I always enjoy the scenery, even though I am usually near-running to get the train on time. This particular recent day is no different, and as I power-walk past the entrance to Plaza Mayor I am accosted by a GreenPeace volunteer. I try my best to smile politely. "Lo siento, tengo prisa." I say-- Sorry, I'm in a hurry.

The volunteer clearly doesn't buy it. He starts to launch into a patented "I'm sure you're really not in too much of a hurry to save the earth, right?" guilt trip schpiel, but I cut in, looking at my watch distractedly.

In my distraction, my tongue gets twisted up. What I want to say is, "Tengo que coger un tren"-- I have to catch a train.
Instead what I say is, "Tengo que comer un tren." I have to eat a train.

I don't blame him for giving me a little bit of a strange look as I hurry away.


Ruby said...

Hahaha! That is a gem of a moment. :)

Toni said...

Well, at least comer in Spanish doesn't have the meaning it has in Portuguese! hahhaha