Mistakes are an inevitable part of learning a new language. Not only are they normal, they are an integral part of the language acquisition process. The more mistakes you make, the faster you’ll learn the correct way to speak.
Still, that doesn’t mean some of these mishaps aren’t downright hilarious. In this article, we present a series of the funniest blunders readers encounter when conversing in Italian with native speakers. Get ready to laugh!
Disclaimer: These stories are from a Topics in our Facebook group and republished with the express consent of the author. Punctuation and grammar have been lightly edited for clarity, and translations have been provided.
Is it male or female?
Italian is full of the same words, except for the ending, which can be masculine (usually ending in -o) or negative (usually ending in -A). Countless readers have shared anecdotes of confusing these words, resulting in quite embarrassing situations. For example, the confusing “roof“(roof) and”Taita“(Chest), “bank“(bench) and”bank“(bank), or”Fico“(picture) and”Fika“” (a derogatory term for a female body part) has been the source of many humorous and embarrassing moments for Italian learners.
I was trying to explain something to a friend about the roof of a building and I used “Chest” replace”roof”! so awkward!
I keep calling Miss (Miss). Just slipped out…
I’d like to say we’re making shoe boxes for the homeless… but no homeless I said did. There is laughter all around!
I once asked if bench (table) open instead of bank (bank)! There is only one vowel in it!
– Marina M.
Similar sounds, completely different meanings
Even aside from the challenge of masculine and feminine endings, Italian can be tricky with its similar-sounding words. One of the most notorious examples reported by our readers is “Peche“(Peach) and”fishing“(fish). In fact, many brave souls have admitted to making the mistake of ordering fish ice cream instead of peach ice cream!
One time I walked into a bar and asked if I could use restroom (restroom), but I used the word ‘seagull‘(seagull). There were a lot of weird confused looks from the bar staff so obviously a lot of hand gestures were used to explain needing to use the toilet, flushing the chain etc. My Italian friend was laughing his head off.
– Joanne H.
I asked a young lady in Siena fish ice cream…I messed up the word peach (I said Peche replace fishing). The worst part is, they don’t even have peaches. That’s a melon.
– Leigh S.
I wanted a ring in a jewelry store and asked for it mutton (mutton) replace ring (ring).
– Linda H.
I once said: “we eat meat“Out…”Let’s eat dogs”! I had quite a few people look at me quizzically until I realized what I had said, I laughed and explained the Boston accent to them!
Notice those double consonants
In Italian, the meaning of a word can be changed by doubling the consonants.This can lead to some very awkward situations, especially when you’re dealing with close relatives like Anno (Year) and again (anus)!
order pasta In a restaurant I made the mistake of saying the word too quickly and the result was Penne (Male body parts). The waiter just lowered his head and smiled.
A very young American friend of mine (6 years old) who was learning Italian said to an Italian boy of about 10 years old from Florence: “How many anuses do you have?“The Italian boy replied”I have one, how many do you have?“(I have one, how many do you have?)
“False friends” are also deadly
False friend is a word in two languages that has a similar appearance but different meanings.English and Italian with many such deceptive words This may catch you off guard at some point. However, while some of these language similarities may cause mild confusion, some can lead to quite awkward and embarrassing mistakes!
It rained a lot the last time we visited Rome, I tried chatting with the waitress at the restaurant and asked how curled My hair gets dry when it rains. I told her about my hair”shiny” – and then immediately realized that I had just told her that my hair was foamy. We both laughed so hard.
I am an American married to a woman from Catania. Many years ago we lived in Catania with my parents-in-law. I try to explain to my in-laws that the food they eat in Sicily is much fresher than the food we eat in the United States. I would say Americans add too many additives to their food and say Americans add a lot”condom“In their food (thinking it means preservative).i didn’t realize condom meaning is condom.
– Jerry T.
Beware of romance language traps
If you’re fluent in multiple Romance languages, you’re likely to inadvertently mix them up, or even worse, fall victim to false friendships, leading to potentially embarrassing situations. (For example, confusing the Italian word ‘Awkward‘meaning’Awkward‘with Spanish words’Pregnant,’ meaning is ‘Pregnant,” is one of the most notorious examples! )
In 1949, while on our honeymoon in Mexico, my mother decided that Italian and Spanish were similar languages and requested “Bread and butter”. translate? Bread and donkey. The waiter was very amused. My mother was ashamed.
– Joanne C
I often mix up Spanish and Italian and when we were in Italy a few years ago we were in a restaurant and instead of saying “Thanks” I said”Gracias”!
– Lisa M.
One time I walked into a bakery and said Gatto, pointing to the window. The owner ran into the back of the bakery and came out with a brush.I mean cake! She thought there was a cat in the window. I was quickly escorted out of the store!
Dialects can also hinder work
In fact, people familiar with Italian dialects or the Italian language may mistakenly assume that certain words are the same in both languages. However, this assumption can lead to some very humorous situations, as this is often not the case!
In western Pennsylvania, old Italian-American slang for a bathroom or restroom “Backus” (an American term derived from the Great Depression)backyard“Outdoor restroom.”) I later learned that this term was used at E-Daily and asked where the restrooms were, and people had no clue. Beware of the old Italian dialect/slang you heard growing up. It will break you.
Existence and existence have vs. do
Verbs such as “become“(become),”have” (possess) and “fareAmong them, “(do/make)” does not always have a direct one-to-one correspondence with its English counterpart, and if used incorrectly, it can lead to some very interesting mistakes.
At this stage I had only studied Italian for a few months. I made a good friend who knew exactly the limitations of my Italian, so it could have been worse. Last summer we had a heatwave in the UK with temperatures reaching 40° (we’re just not used to it) and in English all I could say was “I’m too hot‘.I translated it directly into Italian I’m very hot and be proud of yourself for remembering to change hot arrive hot! My (male heterosexual) friend first checked me for a fever (apparently that meant something else) and then gently told me that I had just told him I was horny. The real Italian for “I’m hot/warm” is I’m very hot!
In my Italian class, the teacher asked me to read an article. Unfortunately, I was unprepared that day, but I agreed to read it anyway. Halfway through, I made a lot of mistakes, so I stopped and said, “I got it“(I am doomed) but I should have said “I finished“(I got it). Everyone laughed at my mistake!
– Kim M.
For many years I would say “Yes, that makes sense!“(By the way, that’s disgusting!) Eventually, someone explained that this was “Does this make sense!“(that makes sense)
– Stacey S.
Don’t trust your Italian friends
Sometimes the mistakes we make are not our fault at all but are the result of mischief. If you have an Italian friend who likes to play pranks, it’s best not to believe anything he or she teaches you!
Many years ago some Italian friends decided to play a trick on an English friend who was visiting with me without my knowledge. He wanted to clean the room and ask the maid. instead of telling him the usual verb’Clean‘They told him’damn it‘Although this means Clean/Scrub Also used locally as a euphemism for the f-word. Imagine the look on the maid’s face when he said he wanted her to “clean” his room!
– Peter R.
Watch out for those tricky conjugations
Conjugating Italian verbs correctly is crucial to avoid confusion. Incorrect inflections can lead to misunderstandings, someone may think you are talking about them rather than yourself, and vice versa!
At the airport I want to join the table of people already sitting there. Instead of asking “Is this free?“(Is it free?) I asked”you’re free?” (are you free?)
– Klaus K.
Sometimes things get lost in translation
Errors in language learning can occur without any obvious pattern. This could be due to not fully grasping the nuances of a phrase, mispronunciating certain words, or accidentally using the wrong word entirely. However, making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process. Accepting these mistakes helps us grow and improve our language skills over time. Remember, every mistake is an opportunity to learn and improve!
When I was 19 years old, it was my first time in Italy. A security guard outside Siena Cathedral asked us where in the United States we were from. I told him,”Florida”. He did not record any understanding of the state’s name. This was before Disney World became a famous tourist destination, so I thought to myself, well, most people have probably heard of Miami. So I tried again, with doubt in my voice: “Miami?” pronounced like it’s Italian. He looked at me with the weirdest look! Then I realized I asked him if he loved me.
I used to miss “I love you“For a family member… they gave me the weirdest looks. I didn’t realize there were different ways to say it”I love you“To the people!
notes: There are two ways to say “I love you” in Italian: I love you and I love you.
The first morning in Italy. I called and ordered breakfast from my hotel room’Spring for two people.'(spring flowers method”spring”. )
– Jim R.
Once, when my Italian aunt asked me what I wanted for dinner, I replied: “I do not care”. While I was just trying to say it doesn’t matter to me, my response was more like “I don’t care” than it does to me. My cousin explained that I should say “It’s the same for me“This is not meant to be rude.