Today, one of our translators, Martina, shares a classic ‘lost in translation’ moment with us.

“I am of German descent and in 2004 I moved to the United States with my American husband. The following summer my daughter and her husband came to visit us. My daughter was taught English in school and she knows enough to get around in an English-speaking country.

They flew from Germany into Philadelphia where they had to change planes to Louisville, Kentucky. Because their flight from Germany was late they missed their connecting flight and the airline had to book them on an alternative flight to Kentucky. This entailed some minor inconveniences, one being not getting side-by-side seats on the new flight. After they boarded, my daughter sat in the seat next to her husband anyway and, sure enough, the lady who had booked this seat appeared a short time later.

My daughter was desperate to stay by her husband’s side so she started pleading with the lady to change seats with her. This is what she told the lady:

“Excuse me madam, but my husband and I passed our first plane and the airline divorced us, could you please change seats with me?”

The lady looked at her for a minute with a funny expression on her face and then slowly walked off to the seat that was originally my daughter’s.

My daughter was not aware of what she had just said and thought that the lady, even though she was nice enough to let her have her seat, was kind of weird for simply walking away.

They finally arrived at our home and told me about this. We all laughed until tears were coming down our faces after I told my daughter what she had actually said to this lady.

What she obviously wanted to say was: “Excuse me but we missed our other plane and the airline booked us into separate seats.””

Martina’s story is proof that even growing up in a bilingual household, things can definitely get lost in translation.

Have you had any similar experiences? Why not share them below?