Hot! Some amusing linguistic confusion…


So, all this week I have been calling Marc’s family in Bordeaux, trying to get ahold of them, with no luck. Finally, last night, I was able to get through to Remi, his cousin. As soon as he answered with “Allo?” I immediately froze.

As an ESL teacher, I tell my students that telephone conversations are the absolute most difficult thing to do in a foreign language. Until now, I had never had to deal with one myself.

I said hello and tried to explain who I was. I said, in French, that I was “the girlfriend of [his] cousin Marc” and that “we met at the family reunion in Grazac”. He was confused and said that he thought I had the wrong number.

Uh oh.

I confirmed that his name was Remi, that he had a wife named Estelle, and that he lived in Bordeaux. But, when I tried to say “you have a cousin in the United States, named Marc”. He said “I do not have a cousin named Marc.”

Er, what?

After quite a bit more fumbling, he told me he still had no idea who I was, and told me to call back. I immediately got on the computer and found Marc, and told him to Skype-call his cousin in France. Thank god at least one of us is fluent.

While Marc was downloading Skype, I called back, and was able to get through to Estelle, who speaks English quite well. All suddenly became clear, on both sides.

Estelle immediately figured out who I was, and also figured out what the problem was:

I was mispronouncing the word “cousin” (male cousin) as “cousine” (female cousin)! No wonder he said he didn’t have a female cousin named Marc!

Clearly, the next time Marc meets them, he should wear a long, flowing wig and a flowery dress.

In the end everything worked out, and I will be staying with them from Sunday to Friday next week, in Bordeaux. But, I now have much more sympathy for my students who had to deal with this sort of thing on a daily basis in the USA!

Dear readers: have you ever had any amusing misunderstandings in a foreign language? Share them!


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  1. And that’s one of the reasons I always hated French in High School…

  2. Oh linguistic confusions… I used to freeze up every time relatives phoned from Germany and started jabbering away. Waaaas?!