Polish Language Blog

Do you remember your most embarrassing language learning situation?!:))) Posted by on Jul 12, 2013 in Culture

One of the things that often holds us back from practicing a new language is the fear of making a mistake. It’s an obvious wound in self-pride if someone laughs at you, or stares in bewilderment because while trying to ask for directions, and you get the word for “left” confused with the one for “shirt”. However, this pride can unfortunately cause you to stay at home and isolate yourself. If you can just dare to permit yourself to make the mistakes, and risk being laughed at, you’ll learn a lot more than you will at home. OK, watching TV in a foreign language is a great method to learn it, but it doesn’t correct your accent of grammar. In the spirit of trying to encourage you, I’m going to let you in on a couple of my own (and my husband’s) “traumatic” experiences with mistakes in a foreign language. Hopefully you’ll see that, at the very least, you will have tons of funny stories to tell for years to come.

I was driving with my husband to the beach. The night before I watched a movie and remembered how very upset woman called her husband a name. I did not know that word, so it really stuck in my mind…So I asked my husband, very calmly, what “douchebag” is….And he almost crashed the car! He asked where did I hear it. He started explaining all about feminine cleaning…I told him that it doesn’t sound like what I saw in the movie. Once I explained what it was, he said: “Ok, well that is a term that describes arrogant, snobby or obnoxious person.” We still laugh any time we think about that day….

Image by Gregory Johnson on flickr.com

Image by Gregory Johnson on flickr.com

Another funny situation was in Poland. While shopping with my parents at the grocery store, my husband stopped by the shelf with magazines/newspapers. He kept staring and laughing. He didn’t say anything, other than he really wants to buy a magazine. Once he did, he couldn’t stop laughing. The magazine he chose was a Polish magazine with adds (renting/buying homes and apartments). The name of it was “Fart”, which basically means “good luck” in Polish slang. We still have the copy of it and my husband shows it to everyone!

Here’s what these experiences taught me:

Laughter is universal. It can actually be a bonding experience to make someone laugh.

Mistakes help you learn. I often remember words because I can think back to one of my many funny stories and the person correcting my grammar or pronunciation. So, the bigger impact your mistake has, the more likely you are to speak better next time!

Friends will forgive you. If you make a really dramatic mistake, and end up saying something insulting, your friends will understand, and forgive you.

What was the most embarrassing language situation you remember?

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Kasia Waldegrave:

    My mother asked me to go to the shop and buy a sałata. I was seven years old. We lived then in village in New Zealand, and had been in NZ only 4 years.
    Those days everything was kept behind the counter, no supermarkets then. I asked for a ‘salad’ and the grocer passed me a fruit salad in a tin.
    “No not that kind of salad – Over there” I pointed to where the lettuce was. The frustrated grocer’s retort was
    “Bloody foreigners! Make up your mind.”
    I pointed to the lettuce and the man passed me one mumbling.
    I was mortified and ran home with the lettuce. I didn’t want to go shopping again for a long time.

  2. Kuba:

    Yes, when as a youngster I spoke Polish, I spoke like my ‘mother’ taught me. Thus using the female endings on words.

  3. Dan:

    Waking up one day at my girlfriends parents house, I walked into their newly decorated kitchen. Her father said good morning, then commented on how nice the floor was (podłoga). I thought it was an odd thing to say, but also commented on how nice the new floor was.

    He rolled his eyes, pointed out the window, and said “pagoda”(weather). Not podłoga.

  4. Marta:

    I was standing in the garden with a lovely duch older lady and we were talking about how nice the weather is. I was about to say that sun is shining- Zon schijnt. But i forgot one letter and it became : Zon schijt. ( Sun is shititig). Embarrassing. ..

  5. Daniela:

    Regulacja drzwi…
    Just wanted to say regulacja brwi…
    We ended up in tears with the girls in the salon

  6. Kris Lange:

    My grandmother came to America from Poland when she was 16 years old in 1905. I would spend summers with her. There was a small grocery store that she shopped at. While checking out one day, she asked the man if he had any “cheap potatoes”. He looked at her and said the potatoes were all together and the prices were on them. I started to laugh and told him that she actually wanted “potato chips”. It’s a “reverse” story, but I still laugh about it today and I’m 69! Oh how I miss her!!!