Listen carefully. I’m only going to say this one million times.

In a bid to expand my Latvian language skills beyond murder, weapons and ‘Order! Order in the court!’, I’ve been watching ‘Two and a Half Men’ with subtitles. I was pretty pleased with myself for picking up a couple of phrases that could, potentially, come in handy in the real world.

The first was ‘alkstu pēc jums’ – I ache for you. I proudly told my Latvian friend about my new sentence and she practically fell over laughing. NO Latvian would ever use such flowery language! If, and this is a big if, I ever want to seduce a Latvian, all I need to know is ‘Es tevi gribu’ – I want you. No need for small talk or poetry; just get straight to the point.

The other expression was ‘laimīgi līdz mūža beigām’ – happily ever after – but on second thoughts, I guess I probably won’t need this one, as the concept doesn’t exist in Latvia.

But at least I’m not the only one who’s struggling with a new language. Here are some corkers my students have come out with over the last few weeks: 

“Women wear make-up because they want to be nicey and honey.” Indeed. Indeed we do. 

“Tonight I’m going to make an apple pay.” What on earth did the poor apple do to you?

“They really like each other. They get on like a horse on fire.” The visual part of my brain is a bit scarred from this one.

“I can’t remember the words but I can roar the tune.” I think you got ‘roar’ and ‘hum’ confused.

“…but it’s OK because I got back on him.” No. No, dear. You got back at him. You could only get back on him if you’d just got off him, but that wouldn’t really be an appropriate topic for the lesson… 

“I feel myself good.” It works in Russian, but… again, not really appropriate for an English lesson. 

Even if it isn’t strictly professional, it’s mistakes like these that make my day as an English teacher. However, other mistakes, the same ones I correct day after day after day, have brought me close to bashing my head off my whiteboard. 

2013-10-22 19.34.14

If you look closely, you can see the future blood and hair.

So, because I value my sanity and because I’m a kind soul really, here it is – a free English lesson.

  • It depends ON – not for or from or anything else, ON – just ON
  • ‘Normal’ is not the answer to ‘How are you?’ 
  • It’s ‘Thank God’, not ‘Thanks God’.
  • While we’re on the subject of random ‘s’s, advices, knowledges and trainings are not words. 
  • You don’t ‘must to do’ or ‘should to do’ anything.
  • Starting every sentence with ‘No, yes’ is just confusing to an English speaker. 
  • It’s hoTEL, not HOtel
  • The economic crisis was caused because we were not economical
  • ‘In general’ or ‘generally’, not ‘in generally’. The same goes for ‘as usual’ and ‘usually’.
  • If my boyfriend gives me money, I will buy leopard-print stilettos; if my boyfriend gave me money, I would buy leopard-print stilettos; if my boyfriend had given me money, I would have bought leopard-print stilettos. 
  • ‘Jewish’ is not a nationality. ‘Jewdish’ is not even a word. ‘Jewland’ is not a country. 
  • The ‘g’ in ‘Nigeria’ is pronounced // – and no, it’s not funny when you pronounce it the other way. 
  • And finally, yes, articles are important.

Phew, I feel myself so much more better for getting that on my chest.

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About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, Language, Latvia, TEFL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

106 Responses to Listen carefully. I’m only going to say this one million times.

  1. This made me laugh like autocorrect text posts on Buzzfeed make me laugh. A lot.

  2. Rachel says:

    “Starting every sentence with ‘No, yes’ is just confusing to an English speaker.”
    Australians start every sentence with “Yeah, no.” I don’t think it’s so different – just tell your Latvian students to move to Australia!
    And I had a Kiwi cousin visit the other week who, no joke, began every other sentence with the somewhat more expanded version: “Yeah no but well um…”.

  3. Mihails Stilliņš says:

    Sveika, Linda!

    I am glad I stumbled upon your blog several days ago and must admit it has been difficult to tear myself off 🙂
    I think you might like this Estonian video clip as it has to do with English skills 🙂 The clip starts and ends in Estonian, but there is a piece in English in between 🙂

    Have a good weekend!

  4. Wonderful, the comments made as good a reading as the post. Here’s one for you; Bolivian Spanish, b and v are often mixed, so that when you are spelling a word, you need to confirm b grande (b) or b chica (v)? The molesting problem is there too, No me molesta! (Don’t annoy me!)

    I could go on and on with Brazilian Portuguese, that’s where I teach English…

    AV

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hey, thanks for the comment! Just stopped by your blog – very funny! I had a similar problem with Japanese students this summer – I rike Rondon 😉 Linda.

  5. Kaufman's Kavalkade says:

    ■It depends ON – not for or from or anything else, ON – just ON

    I like Upon. She can get upon any ol’ time. 😉

    ■‘Normal’ is not the answer to ‘How are you?’

    Would you rather hear abbynormal?

    ■It’s ‘Thank God’, not ‘Thanks God’.

    Not when I’m feeling sarcastic.
    ■While we’re on the subject of random ‘s’s, advices, knowledges and trainings are not words.

    It’s training again…

    ■You don’t ‘must to do’ or ‘should to do’ anything.

    It’s a giant to do!

    ■Starting every sentence with ‘No, yes’ is just confusing to an English speaker.

    LoL. Maybe…

    ■It’s hoTEL, not HOtel

    Depends on which part of town you are in.

    ■The economic crisis was caused because we were not economical.

    Or frugal or mythical. So sayeth the Greek/Polish God of money, Magneto Janiskowski

    ■‘In general’ or ‘generally’, not ‘in generally’. The same goes for ‘as usual’ and ‘usually’.

    If it can be generationally it should be able to be generally. Depending on which General needs to be shown the door.

    ■If my boyfriend gives me money, I will buy leopard-print stilettos; if my boyfriend gave me money, I would buy leopard-print stilettos; if my boyfriend had given me money, I would have bought leopard-print stilettos.

    Well, ok. Long as she has a college degree and earns some of her own money. Entry level #Krew reKuirement. 😉

    ■‘Jewish’ is not a nationality. ‘Jewdish’ is not even a word. ‘Jewland’ is not a country.

    Clearly you have never eaten Yiddishes

    ■The ‘g’ in ‘Nigeria’ is pronounced /dʒ/ – and no, it’s not funny when you pronounce it the other way.

    Says the Lady ripping on latvians. 😉

    ■And finally, yes, articles are important.

    Especially if they are removed and the fun can begin!

  6. Pingback: What’s in a name? | Confuzzledom

  7. Kate says:

    Hahah, this is incredible.
    One of the worst I have heard in Germany;
    “I like not.”

    Just. Why.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Is it a direct translation or something? They say ‘I not like’ here a lot 😉 Man patik is I like and man nepatik is I don’t like so it makes sense in a horrible sort of way 😉

      • bevchen says:

        Yes, in German you can say “ich mag nicht” for “I don’t like” or for “I don’t want to”. usually when you say you dislike something, the nicht moves to the end, so “ich mag sie nicht” means “I don’t like her”… but literally the words say “I like her not”.

      • Expat Eye says:

        That explains it! And wow, look at you with your impressive German 😉

    • rigaenglish says:

      Swedish has all the negative forms at the end. I don’t like = Jag giller inte (literally I like not.) He doesn’t like = Han gillar inte. To be honest, aside from the pitch accent, I think Swedish is a much easier language to learn than English. Less verb forms, verb forms don’t change (even in third person) no noun cases. Even the irregular verbs follow the same patterns as English, drink/drank/drunk versus drick/drack/druck.

  8. The bad father of a poor Spaniard made me laugh to tears!!!!!!!!!

  9. ‘Normal’ is not the answer to ‘How are you?’ also a very good one hahahahaha

  10. I can’t remember the words but I can roar the tune, that was the best one!!!! 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 All the expressions you are wondering about are direct translations from Latvian I guess, they just translate words not thinking if it has any meaning as a phrase 🙂 and I think you know this by now 😀

  11. Ace says:

    Fantastic. I suppose you can’t blame the Latvians too much for being direct and too the point but it does remove some of the mystery… lol

  12. pollyheath says:

    “I feel myself good.” NOOOOOO.

  13. Lila says:

    that post really made me want to learn Latvian and visit the country again (hardly remember my first visit). btw I found these bizarre but incredible cartoons online. they have english subtitles. maybe singing folk songs will help u to learn latvian:


    as for the mistakes, the nicey and honey women made my day. im sure it was a male who wrote this… am i right?

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yes, you are! It was a first lesson and I had some conversation cards with all sorts of questions on them. He picked ‘Why do women wear make-up and men don’t?’ Poor bugger 😉 That was all he could come up with and even that took around 90 seconds.

      Hmm, as for the folk songs, I’m not sure how useful learning to say ‘Dancing crosswise, springing crosswise’ will be in my everyday life but it’s a nice idea!

      • darn, this could be a real ice-breaker or a catch phrase whenever you duck some Latvian either vice versa or something 🙂
        Imagine. Girl in a bar (or anywhere else for a setting with people gathering). Some random dude comes by, and she wants to avoid him, but instead of ‘meh-ah, maybe some other time’ bid of fare well (read ‘get lost’), she goes ‘Dancing crosswise’, and literary does that.
        Though on the second thought if many were to witness this, one might find way too much of empty space for crazy left around 😀

      • Expat Eye says:

        Great ice-breaker and a great way to create space in a busy nightclub! Perfect! 🙂 You try it out in Vilnius first and let me know how it goes. Then I’ll bring it to Riga 😉

      • Lila says:

        u guys dont make fun of it. both the cartoon and the story/music behind it are incredible. do they have anything like that in lithuania/ireland? btw linda u should join a local singing ensemble that would be so cool. jeez even i want to do it!! somehow the music reminds me of our folk music, not much but a little bit. just as soulfull

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, of course we have folk music in Ireland! Why on earth would I join a Latvian ensemble!?

      • Lila says:

        no i mean cartoons that have the same motive, can u give me a link to a similiar irish cartoon? im just a cartoon freak especially when they are based on national epos

    • Made by the best LV animators. Not a surprise you like them. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Lila kind of likes everything 😉

      • Lila says:

        not everything! only the real deal. chip and dale, and other crap i dont like. here s an example of excellent animation, part of our national heritage:


        they were made in 1950s. cool huh?
        anything british or irish of that kind? if not it must be made!!! and cartoons are a great way to popularize and learn languages btw.
        unfortunately since there s hardly anything like british animation with folk songs and stuff i had to learn english by watching big bang theory….

  14. Lol! I think this is my favorite post of yours ever…..or maybe I keep saying that. But there are just no words as to how funny I thought this was! The horse on fire was especially funny for some reason.

  15. bevchen says:

    Hey, you made a Latvian laugh! So your new phrase isn’t entirely useless 😉

    While you’re on the subject of ranom s’s… breads and informations are not words either! (Take note Germans).

  16. Anna says:

    I feel myself normal this morning 🙂
    To be fair, I have heard MANY an American say ‘Thanks God’, use ‘economical’ instead of ‘economic’ and think Jewish is a nationality.
    Also, it’s funny that your last point, re: articles, HAS NO ARTICLES! 🙂
    (I am easily amused)

  17. freebutfun says:

    Hahaha. I’ll give you a few more from my experience when I get the time to write them down. And then I’ll make it my mission to find the the time to list the best parts of native English speaker trying to use another language – afterall, that rare phenomenon is what most Europeans have fun at 😀

  18. English is such a hard language to learn, isn’t it? There are so many nuances.
    One thing that makes other languages (like Italian which I speak) more straight-forward than English is that the pronunciations are always the same. In English there’s ought and bough and cough. Yikes where do you even start?

    • Expat Eye says:

      Through, rough, although… 🙂 It’s difficult alright! And little words can have such a big effect!

    • rigaenglish says:

      Yes and no. The pronunciation is a bit of a pain in English, but two of the things that Latvian students complain about most in English are articles and verb tenses. Italian has more articles and more verb tenses and worse, they all have different endings. (I/you/we/they play , he/she/it plays versus gioco/giochi/giocha/giochiamo/giochate/giochano) For article forms English only has three (a/an/the,) Italian has ten! (il / l’ / i / gli / lo / la / le / un / uno / una) 🙂

  19. rigaenglish says:

    There are loads of cross language ones, where you have innocent everyday words in one language which sound bad in others. The Latvian word for foam/suds is “puta” which of course is bitch in Spanish. The English word suds itself means shit in Latvian. Vista in Latvian means hen (welcome to the Windows Hen operating system.) Kind of understandable that Latvian wasn’t the first language in the mind of Microsoft developers, but you’d have thought that when they came up with calling a car Vauxhall Nova (in Spanish No va = it doesn’t go/work) someone somewhere would have chipped in.

    A bus station in Turkish is durak, which means crazy in Russian. The Catalan/Valencia word for today is Hui, which sounds awfully like the Russian word for dick/cock.

    Right, I’m definitely off to sleep…

  20. Oh you are one funny lady. Ohhh wait, actually… no, you have very funny students. 😛
    I love how my Croatian teacher says ‘w’ instead of ‘v’. Willage, Wacumn & Wery. Although I think she laughs at me more. In fact she probably has a blog post like your somewhere, except I will never find it as I can’t spell yet.

    • rigaenglish says:

      Latvians do that all the time as well. I never get it, since the v in Latvian and the v in English are pronounced exactly the same. Croatian I’d be almost positive has a v as well, right?

      • Lāsma says:

        No, they’re not, which is precisely why Latvians are tempted to say ”w” instead of ”v”. The pronunciation of Latvian ”v” is closer to ”w”. Look at the way the sounds are formed instead of trusting that ”v” is the same ”v” in every language. You expect to hear the same English ”v” in words like Ventspils, but it’s not the same sound. You think it is because your brain is already expecting it. It’s a pretty common phenomenon.
        Yes, I also have this problem and have to really think about it not to make this mistake because the English ”v” is not natural to me. Sorry for not being British!

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m not British either and they think I ‘talk funny’ too 😉

      • rigaenglish says:

        Laasma, I’ve never once heard a Latvian say Wentspils for Ventspils. I asked Elina whether the sound in Ventspils is v or w and she says v. According to this link http://www.latvianstuff.com/Alphabet.html the V in Latvian at the beginning of words is pronounced as [v] and at the end of words as [w]. That chimes with what my ear hears, not with what my brain thinks. So I still don’t get why Latvians pronounce V at the beginning of words as W?

      • There is no W in the Croatian alphabet, so it’s puzzling to me. They say ‘v’ just like the English alphabet. I want to ask my teacher, but I do not want to arouse her suspicions as to why I want to know… I need to keep laughing at her for now 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        That sounds like the way forward 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! I’m sure you’ll get there! Yeah, I can’t really take much credit for this one – the students do all the work sometimes! 🙂

    • bevchen says:

      Germans do the w, v thing as well. My boyfriend thinks it’s because they have the w sound drilled into them so much that they start overusing it. Also, the w in German is pronounced like an English v (German v can be either a v sound or an f sound, depending on the word), so you get things like “wery vell” instead of “very well”.

    • freebutfun says:

      We have a v and, well, no we don’t have a w but it is easy enough to pronounce, and to hear the difference. Still it took me a while to understand what was wrong when a bartender in a pub in Sydney told me they don’t have ‘vegies’ even though I saw him serve wedges to others. Hahaa (and of course my dear colleagues made sure I got vegies with my beer the next time :D).

  21. I’d like to go to a HOtel…

  22. LOL! I so want to write my own list!!!!!
    “Thanks God” seems to be universal.
    The most confusing thing that Spanish speakers do is mixing up his/her(s). In Spanish, one pronoun (su) serves both.

  23. rigaenglish says:

    I’ll chime in with my words of wisdom….

    1. It’s tourist sights not touristic objects.
    2. A Swedish table to an English speaker is something you buy in IKEA, not a (breakfast) buffet.
    3. American Hills are probably somewhere in Virginia. They are not rollercoasters, which in any case originated in Russia and are therefore known as Russian mountains in most languages.
    4. Articles unimportant? “I was in gym last night”, especially when said by a man, sounds like you were doing a *different* kind of exercise with your boyfriend Jim.
    5. Advertising your restaurant as “Traditional Latvian(/Russian/Italian) kitchen” makes me think of a big stinky room with lots of chefs shouting at each other. Your boss at work is also unlikely to be a chef.
    6. Doctors don’t consult you. You consult them. They usually don’t give you recipes.
    7. The v in English is pronounced exactly the same as the v in Latvian. You don’t say Wentspils in Latvian, so why say willage in English?
    8. No, you can’t call a lollipop “a sugar cock.”

    • Expat Eye says:

      Sugar cock! Classic 😉 I want that student! I ache for him haha! Ah, students. Aren’t they great fun?!

      • rigaenglish says:

        The worst of it is, she still looked unconvinced when I told her that asking for a sugar cock in London was not the best way to get her cukurgailitis!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I’ve had stories of students asking for ‘cock’ when they meant ‘coke’ 😉 Good ice-breaker though!

      • Lila says:

        sugar cock is a traditional russian rooster shaped lollipop its awesome. although even if she says cock lollipop it still sounds dirty. and yeah in russia the doctors actually give u recipes, not just the normal prescriptions. very time i go to a dermatologist or general practician in russia they give me actual recipes on how to get rid of lice or stomach ache using traditional herbal brews. and they work!

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