Saturday, October 23, 2010

Problemas con mis Palabras (Problems with my Words)

The frustrating thing about learning a new language is that one quickly learn that there are not only multiple ways of saying the same thing, but also multiple meanings for different words. The funny thing about learning a new language is that one will, without fail, use a word or phrase incorrectly, often with embarrassing consequences.

At the Foreign Service Institute it is common for instructors to ask their students to bring a short news article to discuss with the class. The article can be in whatever language you like, but you are required to discuss the article in the language being studied. In Spanish, we call these "Pequeñas Noticias."

Because this can get a bit repetitive, I like to select my articles from a number of sources, ranging from the credible (The Washington Post) to the incredulous (The Onion). Yesterday I chose an article from The Orlando Sentinel that talked about the recent glee "scandal." Three of the show's young actors posed for racy photos in this month's issue of GQ. Because the magazine is written with an adult male audience in mind, and because the actors portray high school students on television, some of the more conservative circles have chosen to view the images as something akin to pedophilia.

I tried to make the point that, because the actors are in their twenties and only portray teenagers on television, the photos are not really all that inappropriate.

I have consulted a friend on this matter (Thanks, Shalinn!) and now understand that what I wanted to say was:
"Los actores en 'glee' interpretan a estudiantes de la escuela secundaria."

What I actually said was:
"Los actores en 'glee' tocan estudiantes de la escuela secundaria. "

Tocan is the 3rd person plural form of the verb Tocar, meaning "to play."

Or...when used in this way, "to touch."

Yes, while discussing an article about the pedophilic implication of these photographs, I actually stated, rather confidently I might add, that the cast of glee likes to touch children.

Needless to say, I turned fire engine red and much laughter was had at my expense.

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