My hovercraft is full of eels

I have been attempting to learn some Spanish before my trip in June, it has been going ok – it is a lot like French and Italian but different enough to be a little confusing.  In my perusing I found this phrase; My hovercraft is full of eels or, Mi aerodeslizador esta lleno de anguilas, on a website listing useful Spanish phrases. How useful could it really be?  My brother (who has considerably more experience with Spain, Spaniards and the Spanish language) tells me that it could have a significant traditional meaning as the Spanish are fond of using colourful metaphoric phrases in everyday interactions.  The truth is somewhat more amusing (if possible) and brings us back to Monty Python.  The phrase ‘my hovercraft is full of eels’ was first used in a Monty Python sketch titled “dirty Hungarian dictionary’ satirising the appropriateness of phrases that can be found in foreign language translation books.  Here you go –

Another common phrase used in the same context is ‘my postillion has been struck by lightning’ (a postillion was the person who rode the front horse of a team drawing a coach) which was found in Hungarian translation books possibly as early as the 19th century and just about as useful in everyday conversation as a hovercraft full of eels.  Another example could be ‘the joys of Engrish‘, a book given to me by a friend several years ago containing photographs of ‘English gone wrong’ in everyday translation in Asia.

Learning a new language is difficult no matter what the language is.  What I find most frustrating about European languages is the constant use of the masculine and feminine forms – where in English we only have the definitives; those, they, some, an, a, the – they have two forms of all those words (the masculine and feminine) depending on whether the item or person you are referring to is masculine or feminine.  But then again, English doesn’t really make it easy on people trying to learn – think about read and read, both spelled the same but pronounced differently depending on the tense and there are plenty more where that came from.

I have been learning Spanish by podcast – a new concept for me and a little odd at first (particularly the teacher’s bubbly enthusiasm) but so far I’m up to lesson 4 and it seems to be going well!  I also have a basic Spanish phrase app on my phone that seems to be about as good as the little ‘lonely planet’ phrase book I have borrowed from my brother and as it is an app on my phone it weighs nothing so is perfect for taking on the Camino!  Hopefully I wont make a complete ass of myself in a foreign country but it would make for an amusing story or two – hopefully I wont be ripped off by a gypsy woman for an avocado within 5 minutes of arriving at my first Spanish destination (unlike my brother)!.

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