funny translations

Google Translate (is) for Dummies.

Bad Spanish to English translations are so fun!.  I enjoy feeling smug, knowing that I seldom make such embarrassing mistakes any more.  Seldom, but not never.

We English speakers are not immune to Google Translate abuse.  There are some hilarious translations from English to Spanish.  I always wonder, before printing large expensive public signs, why don’t the authors just ask a native speaker?

Exhibit A: 


The author of this sign thought they were politely asking people to turn off the showers, instead they instructed people to “turn around in a circle far away from the heavy rain”.

Exhibit B: 

wash tag

Following these instructions, you would “wash your hands, not fall down, and notice that the iron (as in the heavy metal) was arrogant”.

How many thousands of these tags do you think they printed?

Exhibit C: 


This smoke free facility is promoting the “ease of setting tobacco free.”

Google Translate is not your friend.

Chi Chi

There are so many good signs in Spain.  I mean so bad that they are good.  Here’s my favorite of the day.  It deserves a little translation and explanation.

Oferta Semanal:  Depilación Púbica (ChiChi) 7 Euros, varios modelos.


Hmm, a few worlds you can probably guess.  DepilaciónPúbica. 

Let’s start with the word “ChiChi“.  Sounds jaunty doesn’t it. A bit like “ChaCha”, like there should be some dancing involved.  Well,”Chichi” is a take off on the much loved Spanish word “ChoCho” which refers to the female nether regions.

I still have not gotten used to hearing Moms calling their daughters “ChoCho”.  In English it doesn’t sound so cute.  “Hey Vagina, dinner’s ready”.  Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Far more overused than “CHoCho” is its male counterpart “Picha”, which apparently they do not wax in the establishment above.  My husband refuses to admit it, but he refers to his brother as “Picha” (penis).  More common still, guys here refer to each other as “Cojones” (testicles.)  Insert “Conjones” or “ChiChi” anywhere that you would have used “Dude” in 1988.

I hear this in the street all day,

“Got a light, Cojones?”

“Love your Hello Kitty nail extensions, Chocho”

“What’s up, Cojones”

So the sign says, “Special of the week.  Pubic hair removal.  (vagina variety).  Various styles.” 

Although they have various styles, apparently none of them are suitable for your picha or cojones.

And that, ChiChi, concludes my short lesson of street Spanish.

Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.

This post is part of the Bilingual Blogging Carnival hosted by Multilingual Mama.  Check it out.

One of the most interesting things about learning a second language is what it teaches you about your first.

Spanish has some words which require a whole phrase in English and vice versa.  Some words don’t translate well. And some leave me saying, “Why doesn’t English have a word for that?

One that comes to mind is “Campo”.  Literally it means country or countryside, but when I try to translate campo into an English sentence I’m always left searching for a better word.

Country.  So simple, but it leaves a confused look on my face.  Kind of like this.

I must check this out with my British friends because perhaps the problem is my Canadian upbringing.  Britain has countryside. You know, pastoral green hills dotted with quaint villages.  That is countryside.  Canada, on the other hand,  has wilderness.  Canada has bush.  Canada has moose pasture dotted with mosquitos.  And I’m not sure that qualifies as countryside or campo.

The classic spring Sunday activity in Algeciras is to go and eat in “the campo”.  That means back your car up to the nearest green space beside the highway, unpack 20 family members and a picnic, and enjoy the day.  We don’t do that in Canada.  We go to the lake to fish.  Or we go to the bush to cut firewood.  Or we buy expensive equipment and throw ourselves up and down mountains and rivers.  But we don’t just go to the country.

Nor does the Spanish idea of campo substitute well in classic English phrases containing the word country.  For example, “I like both kinds of music, campo and western.  Doesn’t work.   When someone asks me, “Rea, would you like a glass of wine,” I would never respond, “Does a bear shit in the country?” There are no bears in the campo.  Just people drinking wine and eating unpasteurized cheese on checkered tableclothes.

So, I although I understand that campo means country, I still can’t pin down what that means in Canada.

Regardless, it’s a good place to spend the afternoon.

Big. Green. Boobie.

Yago is learning new words in both English and Spanish everyday.  There are several things that amaze and amuse us now that perhaps worry parents of older kids.  But at just 20 months these things seem cute, like peeing on the floor is cute.  The novelty will wear off.

For example;

  • Regardless of how he mixes languages, when speaking to his Dad Yago puts adjectives behind verbs, as per Spanish grammar, but he puts them in front when speaking to me.

For example, if his Dad asks him what he would like for breakfast the answer is  “Pancake grande,”  but if I ask him it is “Big pancake.”

  • Sometimes he adopts the vocabulary from one language and uses it with everyone, but other times he choses the correct language and uses it only with people who speak that language.

For example, if you say “Camion” (truck) he will shake his head violently and insist on “Pick-up, pick-up, pick-up.”  However,  he is not offended by the word “coche” (car) and uses both options.  Colors are in English, numbers are in Spanish, no exceptions.  Colores get added in randomly.  That may have more to do with the fact that his Dad is color blind and consults Yago to know if his cell phone is charged or not.

  • Occasionally he makes up words that are a combination of both English and Spanish.

For example, he combines “Fish” in English, with “Pez” in Spanish to make “Piss,” which seems very funny now.  However screaming “Piss, Piss, Piss” on school field trips to the Aquarium might make the staff a bit nervous about their carpets.  By school time, floor peeing will definately have gotten old.

Although his vocabulary is primarily based in nouns and adjectives, Yago is starting to tell stories.  He relies on a lot of mime and repetition, but he gets his point across.

Here are a  few favorite stories I have heard dozens of times this week:  (Spanish words translated in brackets)

  • Chico (little)  Nana.  Push.  No Nana.

Translation:  When I talk to Nana on Skype she looks really small, and if I push the screen-off button, even though Mom tells me not to, Nana goes away.

  • Yago.  Dirt.  Coche (car).   Plus clapping.

Translation:  It is really fun to take big handfuls of dirt from the park, fill the back of my Winney the Pooh car, and then unload it at home in the living room.

  • Mas (more).  Green.  Boobie.  BIG.  Boobie.  Plus eye rubbing.

Translation:  It’s bedtime.

PS:  This post is part of the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted by “Where Going Havo.”  You can check out lots of great information on multilingual families by clicking here.

Pet therapy and plant repellent on sale now!

Agrogardin is a plant warehouse in our area.  Given the huge concentration of wealthy British expats, they identified their target market and wisely had all their signs printed in both English and Spanish.

Unfortunately, their business strategy bombed.  They have replaced 4000 square meters of plant nursery with a sea of giant bouncy castles and ball rooms.  The birthday party business is booming.

I guess even the expats were not willing to spend a lot of money on plant prevention and entertaining the cares and whims of animals.