Published on July 22nd, 2014


Spanish: Ah, the Difference a Single Letter Makes…

Ahhh, a nice hot cup of...bugs?

Slowly but surely, poco a poco, I’m learning the ropes of my new Ecuadorian culture, and with it – how to decipher the names of strange herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables in Spanish.

So there I am, in a new (for me) neighborhood supermercado (think: a step up from the open air mercados of hanging-pig-hoof fame, all spiffy with chrome and glass, and neat shelves of canned frijoles and even a stray package of Edam cheese – woa!)

Errr, excuse me but that Edam rather made me lose my train of thought for a moment.

O.k. so there I am, an aisle or two beyond that luscious crimson round of Edam, pondering the many packages of teas. With names like “té verde” (green tea) and fruities like “té de limón”, “naranja” and “fresa” (lemon, orange and strawberry), as well as somewhat more exotics like “té de anís” and…

“infusión salvaje cereza” – the latter with a handy image of what can only be cherries on the box, so clearly “cereza” is the Spanish word for “cherry”, yes?

So I bought a box of the “Salvaje Cereza”* and when I got home, I put the kettle on to boil to make a nice cup of hot fruity goodness. And while it was steeping – just to be certain of what I was going to be sipping, I Googled “cereza” – only…

By mistake I pecked the word with an “s” instead of the “z” (i.e. “ceresa”) and…

OMG, Google pops up all these pics and articles about some ughy little BUG called a “treehopper”!!!

Cherries and BUGS?

Needless to say, for a few terrifying moments there, I thought I was about to sip a tea of infused BUGS!

Spanish: Ah the difference a single letter makes... Spanish: Ah the difference a single letter makes.

*Note: “salvaje cereza” actually means “wild cherry” – and that concludes our Spanish lesson for today. 😉

What about you – have you ever messed up a foreign word big time (either spelling or pronouncing), and it turned out to have a majorly different meaning?


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

12 Responses to Spanish: Ah, the Difference a Single Letter Makes…

  1. Kendra B.H. says:

    Hi Dyanne,

    I recently accepted a teaching position at CEDEI. I am arriving in September and will be living in Cuenca for about 9 months. I just wanted to tell you that I have loved reading your blog this summer! Your posts have definitely helped me get a feel for Cuenca and have made me feel more at ease about my move. Thank you!


    • Dyanne says:

      Well hey there Kendra – thanks for stopping by, and glad you’ve found my posts on Ecuador helpful. It’s always nice to “hear” from my TL lurkers – do feel free to chime in anytime with any questions or comments you have in prepping for your move.

      And for choosing to teach EFL abroad your first year out of school! Though Latin America doesn’t pay nearly as handsomely as Vietnam (which is mainly why I’ve declined to teach here myself), yes – g-knows the language is lots easier to learn. 😉

      And good too, that you’ve opted to blog about your experience here, I know TravelnLass has become a great personal “diary” for me, and I’m sure yours will prove most precious to you, as well as help others who may be contemplating a similar “Leap of Faith” in living abroad.

      Do be sure to give me a shout if you have any questions about Cuenca, and we’ll definitely meet for “almuezo” when you arrive.

  2. We’ve had many funny experiences shopping in little tiendas as well as American style markets while travelling through Latin America. One of the first ‘whoa” experiences was buying PRUNE yogurt because, our reasoning was, “who the heck would eat prune yogurt”? Evidently, lots of people do but it certainly tickled our gag reflexes! I can’t wait to get to Asia next year and bumble around in the many languages there as well!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go kindly contributed to world literature by posting…In The Zone: The Panama CanalMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Oh my yes Anita – you will surely “bumble” with the languages of Asia. Indeed, unlike Latin America (where Spanish at least is written in the Western alphabet and pronunciation is phonetic), suffice I lived in Vietnam (with those insufferable 6 tones) for 2 years and only managed to learn about 25 words total. And in Thailand – don’t even get me started on the squiggles – no way to even sound out the pronunciation, much less learn anything beyond “sa wa dee ka” (thank you, spoken by a woman).

      Now… “prune yogurt”? Ghaa! Indeed, who WOULD eat that? I’ve not (yet?) seen that here in Ecuador. Nor are you likely to find in Asia – so no danger of gagging there.

  3. Probably brings back some memories of gà (chicken) and cá (fish), no? Indeed a single tone, accent or letter can be a world apart! Glad you didn’t end up with a buggy drink (or boggy come to think of it). 😉
    Ruth Elisabeth kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Absolute Beginner: How & Where to start learning VietnameseMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Gosh Ruth, reminding me of pho gà and cá nearly brings a tear to my eye. I surely miss Vietnam in many ways (though trying – and failing – to learn those 6 insufferable Vietnamese tones isn’t one of them) 😉

  4. Sue Pearson says:

    LOL, oh that is so funny! Boy, glad you noticed it was only the wrong letter, cause that didn’t sound “yummy” at all! I had quite a time trying to get the correct pronunciation of Chile Rellenos across… I was pronouncing it Chill-lee Re-on-nos and they could not understand me! It was like close but they just didn’t get me… finally after pointing it out on the outdoor sign…it was OH! Chee-lay Re-ah-nos! Wasn’t I close enough to understand? They didn’t have THAT many things on the menu!
    Sue Pearson kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Paper Mache Koi fish hanging Mirror by mosaicmacheMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Sue, often I think I’m pronouncing a spanish word perfectly yet folks still can’t understand me. Likely due to regional accent – heck, I have trouble understanding some of my U.S. of A. compatriots from the south!

  5. Laura says:

    haha that’s excellent! I admit to laughing out loud 🙂

    We are going to Spain for six weeks so I’m learning a bit of spanish off the internet.

    As for making mistakes in foreign languages I think I’ve made the most – the worst of them being where I didn’t know the name for ‘peanut’ in German, I knew ‘nut’ is ‘nuss’ but didn’t know ‘pea’, so I made a guess and without thinking it through told my fiance’s mum I like to eat ‘peanuss’ .. so embarrassing

    • Dyanne says:

      Woa! Now THAT’s a serious language faux pas. Truly hysterical Laura!

      And yes, internet spanish – do try Duolingo, it’s great fun and kind of addictive (so it keeps you coming back to learn/practice more).

  6. So long as there isn’t some “interesting” symbiosis between the “cereza” and the “ceresa”! Me, I’m kinda stuck on the word “cerveza” if an extra letter is added! 😉
    Henry | @fotoeins kindly contributed to world literature by posting…New Zealand anthems in Māori: Pokarekare Ana, E Ihowa AtuaMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Ah yes “cerveza” – NOW you’re talkin’ Henry! Just add a “v” to the cherries and you’ve got yourself an even better drink! 😉

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