You probably know that for all the years I’ve been going to Latin America, I’ve learned, thankfully, an increasing amount of Spanish: like many, I understand much more than I would risk speaking, but nonetheless, love speaking it (it’s a lovely language) I give it a go, sometimes when I’m preaching, but pretty much always when I’m praying for people. It results in some very funny moments…. Add to it that the Spanish between the Latin American countries is very different – Mexico to Colombia is a big transition, but not as big as Mexico to Argentina!
I’ve just received a video clip from a great friend in Mexico, Patty, co Pastor of a church with her husband Danny: I had them and quite a few others in hysterics telling them some of my Span-blunders (the clip’s here, but you’ll need to understand Spanish to make it worth watching! http://www.fuett.mx/estos-genios-nos-ensenan-que-es-tan-dificil-hablar-espanol/
Not so long ago, in a church I go to regularly in Cali, a lady – I guess in her 60s – came for prayer, and looked so ill, and scared. I sat down on the edge of the platform with her, and mostly with….er….demonstration as to where, told me she had cancer in her liver, and right breast. A large tumour in the latter, and a number of secondaries and ‘hot-spots’ in the liver and elsewhere. By the time she’d ‘demonstrated’ to me the geography of the tumours, I prayed for her. Absurdly, I know the word for liver in Spanish (I know pretty much most body parts now, just don’t know too many verbs to string them together!): higado. So, praying my best Spanish, I firmly commanded the cancer to leave her higado. Then it came to doing the same for the tumour in her breast. Thinking a few words ahead of what I was saying, I realised I’d forgotten the word for breast – it doesn’t generally feature in my day to day conversation!…. in my head, I was wracking my brains: all I could think of was ‘tetas’ (I’m sure you don’t need me to translate that: and I certyainly wouldn’t use it in a prayer, with a church full of people watching and listening!). Then – EUREKA! – I thought: breast of chicken = pechuga de pollo. Breast = pechuga…. Panic over! For a few seconds, anyway… I commanded… ‘yo ordene en el nombre de Jesus, la tumor en la pechuga se va’…. at which point, she laughed, and all the people around began to laugh. It was only then I remembered the right word, ‘seno’ – and discovered that pechuga only relates to chickens…..
A few years back, there was a lovely couple pastoring a church in Cali, Jhon & Adriana Bermudez. They were a stunning looking couple, as well as being lovely people: he, probably 6 ft 3/4 inches, she blonde (not bleached, and rare in Colombia) and blue eyed. One Sunday, I’d done the usual ‘three services’ stint, finishing late, and then getting taken to eat fried chicken (yup, pechugas too!). Adriana hadn’t been around all day, and I wanted to ask Jhon if she was ok. Fernando, a dear, dear friend and translator, sat and listened as I chatted to Jhon in Spanish, BUT – I was tired, and of course one of the dangers of speaking another language is NOT to think the sentence in English, and translate it. It can be disastrous. ‘Your wife is ok?’ was what I wanted to ask… trouble is, there are two verbs for ‘to be’ Spanish: I picked the wrong one, of course! Your – tu: wife – esposa: is – es: ok – buena. ‘Tu esposa es buena?’ I confidently asked Jhon. ‘Que???’ he said, rather loudly…. Fernando said behind his hand, ‘You can’t say that!’. I had. ‘What can I say?’ I asked him. ‘Tu esposa esta bien?’ Not too much difference, huh? Well, yes. I’d said to him, ‘Your wife, she’s hot?’ Hmm…. Then Jhon laughed and put me out of my embarrassing misery.
Next time I preached there, he had us both at the front: ‘This is our good friend Paul. We all know and love Paul. And this is Adriana. We all know and love Adriana, and Paul thinks she’s hot…. floor and open up came to mind….
There have been more, one significantly worse than the rest: maybe for another day!