The universal language is English. Here in Singapore, the schools are serious about teaching kids English but that does not mean that the national language or local dialects are being ignored here. It is important to learn, say and understand English in your everyday dealings because you do not know when you need it most.


When you travel, that is when you need English more. Some Singaporeans would agree that English language can be very confusing sometimes. A slight mispronunciation can mean the other thing or a wrong spelling can lead to misunderstanding. There are times that your little slips land you in an embarrassing situation.

However, if you are travelling in a place where English is not that abundant, you are forced to speak their language. This is when you need a language dictionary. It pays to know “lost in translation” words so you will not be misunderstood and laughed at. Here are some words that you need to watch out when visiting other countries:


  • Embarazada: When you visit Spain, your accent will give you away. Remember that a slight change in the accent can convey different meanings. For example, if you say “embarrassed” in Spanish, it should be embarazada. If you mispronounce this, you are telling others that you are pregnant. If you are talking about year and you pronounced años as anos, you are just talking about the anus.
  • Scheinwerfer: If you visit Germany, you should know the difference between Scheinwerfer and Schweinwerfer. Scheinwerfer refers to car headlights but if you mispronounce it to schweinwerfer, you are referring to a pig thrower.
  • Maa: If you visit China, you should know the difference of maa in Cantonese. Maa in Cantonese can mean mother. One slight enunciation can mean a horse or abuse.
  • Penne: If you visit Italy, you do not want to miss their world-famous penne pasta. You need to be cautious when you order penne pasta in a restaurant because it may mean the other thing. The right pronunciation is pen-ne not pene. Pene means the male organ. You do not want that.
  • Rhew: If you visit Wales, you have to be certain about how you pronounce ice. Ice in Welsh is rhew. If you speak rhyw, it means sex. Be careful to distinguish the two. If you are in doubt, just rely on your language.
  • Poutine: If you visit France, you have to try their poutine. Poutine is a dish made of fries with cheese and gravy. The right way to pronounce it is poo-tin. If you pronounce it as poo-tan, you are referring to a prostitute.

These are just few words that are “lost in translation”. There are myriad of words out there that you can mispronounce but the important thing is you are open for correction.