Learning a new language can be confusing. For example, I think there’s a conversation to be had about the fact that, in Spanish, estoy cansada means “I am tired” and estoy casada means “I am married”. I don’t know what the divorce rate is in Latin America, but I feel like at least a third of failed marriages might be caused by this miscommunication.
For the last several months, I’ve been brushing up on my high school Spanish using the free Duolingo app. As I go through my lessons, some of the Spanish sentences I’m given for translation are pretty odd. I don’t know if this is a function of the limited Spanish vocabulary I’m working with (I’m considered 50% fluent by the Duolingo software) or if the programmers just have a weird sense of humor. In any case, I present these Spanish phrases (and my commentary) for your amusement. Use them wisely.
- Mi padre no es el mismo hombre.
Translation: My father is not the same man.
What happened to your father? Did he fight in Vietnam? Did he lose a lot of weight? Is he Caitlyn Jenner? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
- ¿Qué tienes en la maleta?
Translation: What do you have in the suitcase?
Five kilos of high-grade cocaine? Marcellus Wallace’s soul? I don’t think I’m ever going to be in a situation where I’m comfortable asking this question.
- Por favor, escribe tu libro
Translation: Please write your book.
How does Duolingo know I’m a writer? Listen, I’m nowhere close to writing a book yet. Let me get some shorter pieces under my belt first and then I’ll see what I can do, okay?
- El soldado no tiene familia.
Translation: The soldier doesn’t have any family.
Way to bring me down, Duolingo. When he returns from active duty, he will probably have to wait forever for his VA benefits to kick in and that, coupled with the PTSD he is undoubtedly suffering, forecast a hard road ahead. Way to bum me out.
- Si, son reales.
Translation: Yes, they’re real.
Y son espectaculares.
- La cocina no es segura
Translation: The kitchen is not safe.
Why isn’t the kitchen safe? And how unsafe is it? Is there a knife-wielding maniac in there? Is my husband cooking?
- Mi hermana pequeña piensa que es normal, pero yo no.
Translation: My little sister thinks that she is normal, but I do not.
Okay Duolingo, between your empty shell of a father and your abnormal sister, I’m getting a little uncomfortable with your oversharing about your family.
- El ____ su madre. (A fill in the blank question)
Translation: He ___ his (or your) mother
I was terrified to click the drop-down menu for the verb. Thankfully, they were just different tenses of the verb ayudar or (to help). That could have gotten nasty really quickly.
- Acepto el sofá.
Translation: I accept the sofa.
I had to listen to this on super slow speed several times to understand what the speaker was saying. “I accept the sofa?” Really? In what context is this statement ever going to be used? Is this what conservatives think same-sex marriage is going to lead to? People are just marrying furniture now? Or maybe the sofa is flawed, but I accept it anyway, just the way it is. Do Cubans use sofas as bargaining tools? “I’ll give you ten dollars and a sofa for that Chihuahua.”
- ¿Cuándo baja ella?
Translation: When does she come down?
I guess the abnormal sister is stuck in a tree again. Or high on meth. So…two hours maybe?
- Porque soy un hombre malo.
Translation: Because I am a bad man.
This sentence brought to you courtesy of Leroy Brown.
- El oso no cabe por la puerta.
Translation: The bear does not fit through the door.
I’m thinking this is a good thing? Unless the bear is inside and you’re trying to get him out. This is why you don’t bring a cute, little bear cub into your house. The next thing you know, that bear is full-grown and hungry and when you try to send him back out into the woods, El oso no cabe por la puerta.
- Yo no hablo de eso.
Translation: I do not talk about this.
Is this la primera regla de Fight Club?
- ¿No es un poco pequeño?
Translation: Isn’t it a bit small?
I’m guessing no Latino man wants to hear this, ever.
- ¿Somos una pareja?
Translation: Are we a couple?
After “¿No es un poco pequeño?” I’m guessing this is a Latino man’s second least favorite question.
- Ella tiene doce gatos.
Translation: She has 12 cats.
Y no esposo, I’m guessing.
- Usted nunca me quiso.
Translation: You never loved me.
Really? We’re doing this now? I do appreciate the formal usted though. I imagine this scenario as a student talking to the professor she’s been sleeping with after finding out that he’s not leaving his wife, AND he failed her in biology.
- Usted corta el queso.
Translation: You cut the cheese.
I see what you did there. Again with the formal usted. It’s like you’re saying, “You cut the cheese, sir.”
- Ahora no puedo estar en tu casa.
Translation: Now I cannot be in your house.
Yes, that’s the whole point of a restraining order, Hector.
- Tienen que dejar de beber.
Translation: They have to stop drinking.
For when that intervention can’t wait until you’re back from your vacation in Cabo.
- Tengo que evitar hablar con ella
Translation: I have to avoid speaking with her.
When you want to avoid that Spanish exchange student you had a one night stand with.
- Tú puedes llevar la cadena al hotel.
Translation: You can take the chain to the hotel.
For when Christian Grey and his mistress go on vacation to Ibiza.
- Lo vamos a obtener y no non importa cómo.
Translation: We are going to obtain it and we don’t care how.
If you hear this in Mexico, you are being mugged or raped. Maybe just shout, “Policia!”
- No me gusta la máquina inglesa.
Translation: I do not like the English machine.
What is “the English machine”? Stephen Hawking? The British parliament?
- ¿Son ellos legales?
Translation: Are they legal?
I don’t know if we’re talking about girls or immigrants, but either way, this seems inappropriate.
There you have it. After you master ordering a beer (“Quiero una cerveza,”) and asking where the bathroom is (“¿Dónde está el baño?”), add these 25 phrases to your Spanish repertoire. They just might come in handy on your next Latin American adventure.