Do you remember playing that telephone game when you were kids? You know, the one where you whisper something into the ear of the person next to you. They pass it on around the circle until it comes back to the start. If you’ve ever played it, you know that the final message gets completely twisted into something else from the original by the end. So even speaking the same language people run into plenty of misunderstandings due to language problems.
Now imagine what happens when you throw different languages into the mix. That’s a recipe for some miscommunication on an epic level.
Comedian Eddie Izzard alleged that none other than the late President John F. Kennedy committed a huge communication gaffe while giving his famous speech in Berlin. According to Izzard, by putting the “ein” in his sentence “Ich bin ein Berliner,” he wasn’t proclaiming himself an honorary citizen of Berlin (“Ich bin Berliner”) but proclaiming himself a jelly pastry called the Berliner.
Fortunately for Kennedy, expert translators have since debunked this claim. But, it’s a lesson in making sure your language is precise. Because no one wants the leader of the free world to declare himself a jelly donut on the international stage. Likewise, you don’t want to find yourself in a foreign land where you think you are telling all the girls how pretty they are. But you’re actually cursing them like one poor bloke did while on holiday in Thailand.
Historical Misunderstandings Due to Language Barrier
Below are some of the greatest historical misunderstandings in the form of an infographic. Consider this a cautionary tale to all who travel outside their native language zone. Be well-versed before trying to speak another language. Whether it’s for a grand, moving speech of a historic nature, or just trying to meet a pretty girl for a drink and a date.