Shawn Bateman, Misionary to Argentina

June 18, 2017

“Cussing In Spanish”

Yeah, I knew that would get your attention. No, this is not an article about how to cuss in a foreign language; this is about learning a new language and the inevitability of cussing, insulting others and embarrassing yourself in that language. So let me explain.


Learning a new language is a ton of fun. It really is, but sometimes it can be stressful. For example, trying to order pizza over the phone (or pretty much doing anything over the phone). The learning process definitely is what you make it, and I have tried to make it fun. However, while learning the new language you try to say words that you have heard other people say, or words that you have read, and somewhere in the pronunciation process you insert maybe an “a” instead “ue” and wind up offering to your guests poop instead of cake.

Unfortunately that is a true story. You don’t mean to say bad words, but with mispronunciations you can turn out some pretty awful things sometimes, and end up embarrassing yourself or others. Speaking of the word embarrassed, you would think that the Spanish word “embarazada” would be translated “embarrassed”. It’s not. Avergonzado is how you say “embarrassed” in Spanish and the word “embarazada” means “pregnant”. You can see how that might mess you up. Don’t forget the n and ñ as well. The difference in the pronunciation between these two letters is subtle but if you don’t get them right, instead of wishing someone a happy birthday…well let’s just say you’re saying something very different. Yep, it sure is fun to learn a new language. There is no telling how many bad things I have said to people without even having a clue what I had just said.

So what do you do in these situations? You have to learn to laugh at yourself. You can’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh, apologize if necessary, pray that you don’t offend anyone, and for goodness sake, next time try and say it right.


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