In Spanish, the word for…: Conversation starters

Odds are, you know at least part of a foreign language. Whether you’re bi- or tri-lingual, a regular polyglot, or only remember the basics from a high school French class, you most likely remember something, and more often than not that word means “poop.”

The  words people remember from languages they don’t use much are the fun words. Swear words, strange idioms, words that are plain fun to say: these are the words that we remember best.

Beyond some greetings and counting to ten, all I remember from my middle school Spanish class is how to say pencil sharpeners: Las sacapuntas. Why? Because it’s so much fun to say! Sacapuntas, sacapuntas. The fun rhythm made me smile then, and still makes me smile today.

When I moved on to American Sign Language, you can bet your bottom dollar that when showing friends what I’ve learned, I went straight to “horny,” “whore,” “bullshit.” It’s fun to know how to swear in secret—and in this case, in silence.

The first sentence I learned in German was Ich bin Blau: I am drunk. My friend taught me at a high school lunch one day.

My friend’s sister who studied abroad in Italy once told us of an Italian idiom that is equivalent “rose tinted glasses:” “Avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto.” It’s funny because it is literally translated as “to have your eyes wrapped in ham.”

Language is not just important and brain-expanding; it can be a load of fun, too. Bringing up tongue twisters, swear words, and fun phrases in foreign languages can be a light-hearted conversation starter that leads into a linguistic parade. Bring your dictionaries!