We’ve just completed a year of living and serving in Paraguay. That’s pretty exciting! At times it feels like it’s so much more since we’ve experienced so much within the last 365+ days. But it’s crazy to think that just a year ago this time we were packing bags and preparing to leave. We’ve really only been involved in one thing specifically since our arrival—learning Paraguayan Spanish and culture. In September, we’ll have reached a year of language study, but regardless, we thought it would be fun to share some of our greatest blunders to date!
5. You want a good day…
When I (Jared) first arrived in Paraguay, I knew maybe 10-15 words. Random words at that (soap, garbage, table, chair, goodbye, hi, etc.), and I had absolutely no phrases to work with. During my very first language helper session, I got my very first phrase, “Que tengas un buen día” which essentially means—have a good day. I was so proud of this phrase that I used it on everyone I ran into. Whether I was exchanging money, paying for groceries, or meeting random people, I was going to use this phrase because it was literally like the only phrase I knew.
Well, I had also been learning some other random words. One of those words being “querés” or—you want. Somehow, I had picked up this verb and incorporated it into my phrase without knowing it.
It wasn’t until a month later that I got a weird look when I was checking out of the grocery store. I came home and said to my wife, “I got a really weird look from someone today, but I’m not sure why. All I said was, ‘Have a good day.’”
Leah: “Well what did you say?”
Me: “Querés un buen día.” I replied.
Leah: “Jared, you just asked if I wanted to have a good day…”
This one belongs to my dear wife Leah, who, thanks to God, has a gift in learning language. However, that’s not to say that she still doesn’t have her own mistakes. Sometimes, you just can’t help but mix up a word or two from both English and Spanish. One time, she meant to say “queso”—cheese, and said, “chesso” instead…
3. Wire nuts…
This one just recently happened. We had an electrical problem with our front gate. Two wires kept coming undone in the middle of the night, or at random times. I decided to remedy the problem by going to buy wire nuts to hold them together and give them a better connection. Now, I could have called any number of my missionary friends and asked them for the word for wire nut, but that’s not true learning, right? That’s cheating. So, not knowing what they’re called I simply said, “I need something that will connect two wires together.” He looked at me confused. Not knowing what else to do I began to use caveman talk and used hand motions (no grunting, thankfully…) to describe what I was getting at. He still looked at me as if I was from another planet. It was at this point in time that I decided to call a language consultant who laughed and said, “They don’t have them here! They only have them in one industrial hardware store and they are expensive. But you won’t find them in your average store; they probably won’t even know what they are!” I returned and said, “Sir, I still don’t know the name of what I’m looking for, but my friend says we don’t have them here in Paraguay.” He just kept looking at me and said the most culturally appropriate thing he could have to help me save face, “Tranquilo…”
2. Giraffes and Gas Bottles…
The word for giraffe is “jirafa” the word for a propane tank is “garrafa.” Very similar, am I right? I made a joke with one of my friends that I was going down to buy a giraffe instead of a propane tank. The time came when I took my tank to get filled and, because I was joking, I couldn’t remember which was which! So, I guessed at random, and, was wrong. I said, “I need to buy a new giraffe please.”
1. Accents are important!
There are a lot of accent marks in Spanish. And, these accents change the word entirely. In fact, some of the spelling is exactly the same, the only differnce is the accent mark. Here’s an example:
La papa-the potato
El papa-the pope
El papá-the dad
My wife doesn’t mess up often, but when she does, we both get a kick out of it. We thought this was one of the funnier things that has happened to us. When transcribing text, she wrote about her friend and said, “My potatoe’s name is Andrés.” Instead of saying, “My dad’s name is Andrés.” Yes, accents are important!
Most of you probably realize, or remember from that long forgotten high school Spanish class that Spanish nouns have a gender. There are times when our friends (who understand way more English than they ever let on!) like to try to learn a little English when they’re hanging out with us. Well, one of my friends decided it would be funny to mess with my gender agreement by giving me the wrong articles (el/la/los/las) to go with the noun I was learning. So when he asked to learn how to say aunt and uncle in English, he automatically assumed that English had gender agreement as well. He said, “How do you say ‘tío’?” I replied and said, “uncle.” Due to the fact that his ear isn’t tuned in to the English language, he heard something resembling, “unco.” He then said, “So ‘tía’ is unca?” I just smiled and said, “Sure is!”
I hope you enjoyed some of the funny blunders that we’ve made. We sure have enjoyed learning this language and seem to learn something new almost every week. Every single month we’re that much closer to finishing our language study. So we’re going to do our best to keep on laughing, enjoying the ride, and trusting God to help us learn this great language. Thanks for reading, and thanks for being a part of this journey with us. Here’s to year number 1!