"Take Off Your Shirt": When Need To Know Your Second Language

I took off my sweater, standing in a room with this stranger. I was still wearing my jeans and a tank top.

Then, I was pretty sure she asked me to take off my tank top.

Here’s the thing: When you’re having a conversation in your second language, you want to be more than pretty sure someone asked you take off your clothes before you start undressing!

“Stephanie?” I hollered for my sister-in-law. She popped into the small room and worked her translation magic before confirming I was to remove my shirt and cover up with a towel before beginning my facial.

Awesome sister-in-law that she is, she had arranged a spa day for the two of us during my last visit to Guatemala. She may have been surprised, however, by how much babysitting I required since… as it turns out… Spanish III didn’t prepare me for this day at all!

Billy and I have often joked that we have “gaps” in our vocabularies. For Billy, it occurred the day he tried to explain to me something about the car and bemoaned, “I don’t know the words for any car parts in English!”

This situation became even more problematic amusing when he worked briefly at AutoZone. His initial excitement over a bilingual database turned quickly to, “All the car parts are in Mexican Spanish! I don’t know their names!”

For me, it turns out my Spanish textbook never covered “Day at the Spa.” After I responded to a question from the two girls doing my pedicure, things unraveled.

They looked at me quietly and then both put their heads down and began shaking with laughter. I was caught in the tension of continuing to (pretend to) read my (Spanish-language) magazine or deal with what was happening.

I called out for Stephanie and began laughing. They burst out in uncontrolled giggles.

Stephanie again ironed out the details. The girls spared me the embarrassment of relaying to her what foolishness I had communicated.

So I guess I’ll never know, but hey, I’m glad I made their day. Maybe one of them has a blog out there where she is writing about an English-only customer and the amusement that transpired!

Image credit: Pan Pacific

I've now shared about this and when I accidentally ordered drugs on the streets of South Central LA. I would loooove to hear when has a second language led you to an awkward situations. Please share in the comments!

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