Today, you’re going to learn about 3 common mistakes in English that you may make.
But before you read more of this article, I have to warn you: This episode contains some sexual language that is not adapted for young audiences.
So before you use this video with your class, or watch it with little Pauline or Maxence, be sure to watch it alone to be sure you want them to see it!
Today, it’s an honest, no shame video. Because we’re adults here.
That means we’re going to talk about some common mistakes in English that can be very embarrassing…
“I LIKE TO PLAY GAMES WITH MY HUSBAND”
Did you see this advertisement by Eram? Looks like nobody told them that “Play with yourself” is slang for “se masturber”.
Why don’t big brands consult native speakers when they use English in their ad campaigns? Maybe I should send them my business card!
Another example? I have a French friend who loves playing tabletop games with her husband. When she talked to her English-speaking friends, she often made this common mistake in English. She would say:
“With my husband, we like to play together.”
It could be innocent, but it could be interpreted as “With my wife (or husband), we like to…mmm…you know”
If you’re talking to American friends, they’ll be shocked!
Well, they’ll probably imagine that you made a mistake with your English. And they’ll probably understand that you mean you like to play games or sports. That means they might not correct you, because for us Americans, it’s not polite to correct someone’s English.
This is why it’s a good idea to be precise about what you play with your spouse:
- we like to play tabletop games
- we like to play video games
- we like to play sports
But if you just say “We like to play,” it’s ambiguous and sounds like you’re telling your friends about your sex life! Not really appropriate for a conversation around the coffee machine.
If you’re playing a game alone, like Candy Crush or Solitaire, don’t say “I’m playing with myself.”
Ludivine, a lovely Speak English Ambassador once told me she was having fun, and trying to impress her friends by hitting tennis balls against a wall. So she was playing tennis by herself.
She yelled “Hey guys, look, I’m playing with myself!” You can be sure her friends looked!!
Remember, the correct expression is “I’m playing BY myself.”
“SCOOPS OF CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM”
Imagine that you’re at an ice cream shop in the United States. The server asks “Hi, can I help you?”
You know what you want, and you’re confident that you have the right words in English. You say “I’d like two chocolate balls, please.”
The server makes a face. He’s confused. He says “Um, sorry?”
I speak French as a 2nd language. So I know that in French, you say “une boule de glace.” If you translate that literally, it is “a ball of ice cream.”
Don’t translate literally from your native language. Please.
In English, it’s NOT “two balls of chocolate.” The correct expression is “2 scoops of chocolate.”
“Balls” is slang for testicles. If you didn’t know that, know you do!
If you ask for “2 chocolate balls,” well, it’s like you’re talking about the testicles of a black man.
That is totally not politically correct, but slang rarely is politically correct.
So, please no offense, I’m just explaining what it means so that you don’t make this embarrassing, common mistake in English!
“GIVE ME A HUG!”
In French, you might tell your friends and family “Fais-moi un bisous.” In many other cultures, like Italian or Spanish, it is also common to “kiss” your friends and family when you see them.
And even if you don’t kiss, you put your cheek next to your friend’s cheek.
This action does NOT translate to “Give me a kiss!” in English. In the US, we don’t do this cheek-kiss action.
In French, it’s called “un bisous” or “faire la bise.” And it scares the crap out of Americans who don’t expect it!
Be sure to watch the lesson to see how my sister reacted when Romain tried to “faire la bise” the 1st time he met her. She totally panicked!
In the US, “Give me a kiss” is usually reserved for your romantic partner, or for close family.
In the US, we hug like the the French “font la bise.”
So you can say to your friends “Give me a hug” to invite them to physically express their friendship.
Another interesting fact: We tap each other on the back when we hug. You’ll see a demonstration in the lesson.
This tap on the back indicates that the hug is friendly, not romantic. It’s a very subtle difference in American body language that no one probably explained to you.
Now you know!
WHAT IF YOU MAKE THESE COMMON MISTAKES IN ENGLISH?
I don’t want you to make these embarrassing mistakes in English with your friends or colleagues, but if you do, they’ll probably laugh with you.
And you should laugh at yourself too, because part of learning a language is making mistakes, laughing and learning.
Now, watch the lesson to learn all about how to avoid these common mistakes in English, and what to say instead!
What about you?
Have you ever made any of these mistakes?
Do you have a funny story to share with us?
If you want to improve your English, you need to practice!
Share your story in the comments below.
Talk to you later,
P.S. Good news! My book “What the Faute?: Un livre in English pour éviter 32 erreurs fréquentes en anglais” will be available later this week!
Click here to get my ebook “What the Faute” to avoid 32 common mistakes in English
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