Before mastering a language, we must work with the words we know. When I was taking a Spanish class, for example, I wrote the following sentence for an assignment: “La langosta roja es muy caliente.” (The red lobster is very hot.) Not useful in everyday discourse, but it did demonstrate that I could correctly pair an adjective and noun in another language and label a particular food item as hot.
Later when I lived in Switzerland, I needed to communicate in German. Sadly, I was not able to work my favorite phrase into conversation, though, because there is very little need to discuss the finer points of a “Feuer spucken Hai” (fire-spitting shark).
Indeed, learning to work with foreign words often yields some hilarious results (for the native speakers to laugh about while you stare at them blankly — after all, you only asked for the bill to be brought to your table).
As a mother, I find myself frequently stifling a giggle when my daughter tries out new expressions. She really does come up with some strange language constructs.
Here are a few of her more recent:
“Can we issue about the candy, now?” (She had been told that we would negotiate two pieces of candy after she cleaned her plate at dinner.)
“What the molars?” (This one was uttered as she saw her sister walking away with one of her drawings. When I gave her a questioning look, she told me that she had been studying molars at school.)
And finally, “Well slap my head and call me barnacle!” (She was expressing her bewilderment at realizing that it was not the day for her after-school violin lesson. We had read a pirate story the previous night.)
Well, I’ll be barnacled. What the molars, indeed!