In my work, I had to move to Brazil a number of years ago. Of course, to move to another nation, you have to learn its language and culture in order to better serve the people, and learning these things are almost never a smooth process.
My mistakes in learning Portuguese came in a number of contexts. Most of the time it came from mispronouncing words in a way that accidentally formed other words to make crazy expressions. Sometimes it got me into trouble.
One of my many mistakes came when I tried to order a certain fruit juice at a restaurant. A popular tropical fruit in Brazil that makes good juice is acerola. However, the way I said it to the waiter was “cirola” (SEE-ro-la). I had just order long underwear juice.
The first words that any adult learns in a new language are the words of survival. When I visited Brazil before moving there, one of the first words I learned was that for toilet. One day I had to use the restroom pretty badly. So, with the normal facial expression and body language of someone who had “to go”, I asked someone in Portuguese where the nearest toilet was. But I didn’t say “sanitario” (toilet); I said “sanitorio”. Imagine my face and body as I had just asked for the nearest insane asylum.
Joseph – DC