My Mom, however, seemed to especially have problems with this. She was notorious for calling Bogdan, our translator, Dogban, by mistake. So, it's not really coincidental that the funniest language mistakes I remember from our time there were all made by Mom!
Time: Freezing cold, icy, snowy November, 1994
Location: The building where the church met for worship
As my Mom, Lisa, and I came in out of the icy cold wind and freezing temperatures to the building where the church met for a mid-week Bible study, we were approached by a younger man. He introduced himself (in Russian) as Anatole. We very quickly discovered that Anatole spoke practically zero English. Since we (at that time more than any) spoke practically zero Russian, the situation quickly became awkward as we all just stood there, squirming a bit, and stared at one another.
Finally, after a minute or so, Anatole pointed to Mom and said, "Yallow vlue baus -- I lavfh hyoo". He kept saying it over and over again, along with hand motions, until we finally understood that he was trying to teach us to say "I love you" in Russian by saying the English words, "yellow blue bus" (and this does work, somewhat).
The next week, we once again saw Anatole at Bible study. From across the room, I smile and wave. All of the sudden, Mom begins to wave and shout, Yellowbluebus, yellowbluebus, it's the yellowbluebus man! at Anatole.
Lisa and I were so embarrassed! We said, "Mom! Don't you realize you're screaming I love you at Anatole?!?" (which of course, she didn't). We all got so tickled that we laughed and laughed AND LAUGHED. Crazy Americans.
Time: March 1996
Location: The Bizarre
Mom, Lisa, and I were braving the snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures to pick up a few things in the local bizarre for dinner that night. I don't remember what exactly we were buying, but Mom needed two of them. We'll say potatoes for the purpose of the story.
The Russian word for one is один (adeen) and the word for two is два (dva). As we approach the potato table, potato lady asks Mom how many potatoes she needs. Mom holds up two fingers and says, adeen.
How many? potato lady asks in Russian.
Adeen, Mom insists holding up TWO fingers.
How many? potato lady asks again (getting a bit frustrated).
Adeen! Adeen, adeen, adeen Mom rambles, all the while waving two fingers!
Although Lisa jumped in and saved the day, it's a wonder we walked away with any potatoes at all!
Time: March 1998
Location: Our flat in Kiev
This night, we had invited about 6 or so babushkas (grandmas) to our flat for a Bible study and snacks. Mom had served them a lovely tray of crackers, cheese, and kolbasa (summer sausage). Mom and I were working in the kitchen, when a couple of the non-English speaking babushkas came in. In Russian, they thanked us for the snacks, then asked what the meat was (the meat was quite a treat for them).
Without missing a beat, Mom answers, "Sabaka!" (the word for DOG)
The babushkas were horrified as I quickly tried to correct the mistake. No, NO, I insisted as I waved my arms. Kolbasa, it's Kolbasa!
We ALL got quite a laugh out of that one!
Here we are hosting a ladies Bible study at our flat. I'm in the center in a blue Adidas shirt.