I'm studying Hungarian, but I still have a long way to go. Therefore, it's pretty common for me to say (or attempt to say) something in this language and be answered with laughs. Not only am I used to it, but I kind of enjoy it.
Sometimes, though, not knowing the language can get me in trouble.
Today, I was talking to two of the teachers at my school. They're Hungarians, but they teach English and other subjects in English. For the sake of this story, I will call them Teacher 1 and Teacher 2.
The school director wrote a letter that will appear on the school's website, and these teachers have been asked to translate parts of it. Teacher 1 asked me to proofread her part, and we have been working on that.
While we were talking about it, Teacher 2 overheard it and said she needs to do her translation. She went on to say that she doesn't like translating, but Teacher 1 is very good at it. Teacher 1 then started to stare at me.
With a smile on her face, she continued to stare.
As she started to laugh, Teacher 2 asked her why she had this funny look on her face. She answered, "You said I'm very good at translating, but Alex just sat there and didn't say anything. His silence in the situation seems to mean something."
I laughed and pointed out that I couldn't know whether she was a good translator or not - the letter is in Hungarian and I have no idea what it says! It was all slightly awkward. I'll list it as one of those cultural/language barrier difficulties, but I may never know if she really was insulted or not.
In conclusion, always tell people that they are good translators. If you don't know what they are translating, compliment them anyway.
If you're a translator, feel free to change the meanings of the documents you're working on. Even if it says something mean, my readers will tell you what a great job you've done!
I'm making the world a better place, one translated word at a time.
On that note, here's the word of the day:
It means "snowman". Northern Hungary has snow right now, and Southern Hungary doesn't. I'm jealous.