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Phil|Accent Trainer
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Did you cook your family?
Grammar is about communication! What did the student really want to say? How would you explain this grievous error? Can you guess the student’s native language? Have you encountered this issue in your language learning adventures? Was it embarrassing, it did you just shrug it off (i.e. ignore it) and carry on? 

For a more in-depth discussion feel free to check out my popular classic post:

And here’s an interesting recent post from Steven:

Debate - Learning a foreign language is good for cognitive skills. Is immersion best?

May 2, 2020 5:11 AM
Comments · 17
In grammatical terms, that isn't any stranger, less logical or less comprehensible than

'Did you write your family?'

If 'Did you write your family?' has the same meaning as 'Did you write to your family?', can we really blame a non-native for assuming that 'Did you cook your family?' would be an acceptable alternative to 'Did you cook for your family?' ?
May 2, 2020
I'd just like to say that in my culture, cooking and eating people is not okay and I am going to assume, for the sake of discussion, that the same applies to the student and the person they were talking to.

What did the student really want to say?
I think it's very likely they wanted to ask if the other person had cooked for their family.

How would you explain this grievous error? Can you guess the student’s native language?
The student could be a native speaker of any highly inflected language that differentiates between the direct object (what you cook, what you give to someone) and indirect object (who you cook for, who you give it to) by using a different case, rather than by adding a preposition or changing the word order. For all I know, they could be Czech.

In Czech:
Uvařil jsi svou rodinu? Did you cook your family?
Uvařil jsi své rodině? Did you cook for your family?

The only difference in these two sentences is the case. English doesn't do this through inflection. You have to add the preposition "for". If you ignore this and translate these sentences word by word, you get "Did you cook your family?"

Have you encountered this issue in your language learning adventures?
Not this issue in particular but I made a hilarious, cooking-related mistake earlier this week when I was talking to my Italian language partner. We were talking about the different uses of the verb "cucire" (to sew, to stitch). My partner says: "So you've come to see the doctor because you have a deep cut on your hand. What happens next?" And I say: "Il dottore sta cucinando la mano." (The doctor is cooking the hand.)
We both burst into laughter.
May 2, 2020
"Popravit' nevestku" in Russian means "To correct the daughter in law". In Czech it means something awful, right?
May 2, 2020
:-) reminds me of a mistake I made during my spanish lesson. I wanted to say that my friend and I had lunch together and we ate Salad. I said, My friend and I ate each other, with salad.
I had a good laugh that class!
May 2, 2020
@La Liseuse
I was thinking the same but with the verb "to show":

Did you show your family?
(I know, someone might ask "to whom?")

Anyway, I couldn't think of many verbs that would work this way. Show, tell, ask, write, pay... Are there many more?

Yes, it means "to execute a prostitute". So yes, it is a bit more awful than having your mother-in-law correct you all the time. Just a bit, though.
May 2, 2020
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Phil|Accent Trainer
Language Skills
Catalan, Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
Chinese (Cantonese), Hebrew