If you attempt to say the word “tuna” or “magazine” to a Korean, they might stifle a giggle. Because somewhere in between those words is the word for a specifically male body part, and the difference isn’t easily heard to Western ears.
While we’re on the subject of men, it’s more common to refer to a boyfriend as “lover” than to use the word for “boyfriend.”
Tears are “eye water,” and snot is “nose water.”
Yet my students laugh when they ask, “Teacher! Animal, ants, eat! Word!” and I respond, “Anteater.”
There is a whole group of words to refer to close friends. Older sister, younger sister, older brother, younger brother–and these change depending on if you are a man or woman yourself. When my co-teacher asked me what word we used to describe someone who “is like a brother but you’re not related,” I stared blankly for a minute. “Um, ‘brotha from anotha motha’? (Oops, you don’t get that.) I don’t think we have word…”
Many Koreans also use “funny” in place of “fun”–That was a funny game! We had a funny time!–and “changed” always, always, always becomes “change-ed”–Your schedule has been change-ed.
And for the life of them, my co-teachers cannot pronounce the difference between “guess” and “gas.”
“Hitting” and “heating” is also a tricky one.
Of course, those won’t get them in nearly as much trouble as when I try to say, “I’d like a magazine, please.”