Learn a joke in another language



To celebrate National Humor Month, let’s tell some jokes!

A good punchline is one of the hardest things to understand when studying a foreign language. Whether watching a movie, a TV program or reading about current events, humor constitutes a real challenge.  This is because humor relies on puns, turns of phrases and surprises. It demands a quick understanding of the language and the small changes that can affect meaning. But like everything, practice makes perfect! So let’s get started by learning some jokes in different languages.

Brazilian Portuguese

In Brazil a very common variant of the American knock knock joke starts with: O que é? O que é? (literally What is it? What is it?)

O que é? O que é que cai de pé e corre deitado? (What is it? What is it that falls on its feet and runs lying down?)
Answer: Chuva (rain)

O que é? O que é que é surdo e mudo mas conta tudo? (What is deaf and mute but tells it all?)
Resposta: O livro (a book)

O que é? O que é que é que se quebra quando se fala? (What breaks once it is told?)
Resposta: Um segredo (a secret)

Heare are some more so-called “adivinhas” (guesses).

Chinese

The teacher asked Ming to use the word “sugar” to make a sentence.
(老师要小明用“糖”造个句子。)
Ming wrote, “I have a cup of tea.”
(小明写着,“我有一杯茶。”)
The teacher asked, “Where is the sugar?”
(老师问,“糖在哪?”)
Ming, “In the tea.”
(小明,“在茶里。”)
Teacher, “……..”
(老师,“……….”)

Japanese

足の早い奴
A: おーい、てぇへんだぁてぇへんだぁ。
B: おおい、どうしたんでぇ。
A: あ、兄ぃね、俺、今、泥棒を追っかけてるんだ。
B: 泥棒、へへ、お前に追っかけられた泥棒も災難だな、なにしろ、お前は町内で一番足が早いんだ、泥棒なんざすぐに捕まっちまうだろう、で、泥棒はどっちへ逃げた。
A: は、は、今、後から来る。

Fast Runner
A: Somebody! Somebody!
B: What’s the matter?
A: I’m chasing a thief!
B: Bad luck for the thief! You’re the fastest runner in town. You’ll catch him in no time. So which way did he go?
A: Uh… he’s coming right after me.

Spanish

The word for joke in Spanish is “chiste“.

Jaimito is a popular fictional character, used in a lot of Spanish jokes. Jaimito (lit. Little Jaime) is a trouble maker in school:

In English class….
Maestra, ¿qué quiere decir «why»? (Teacher, What does it mean «why»?)
¿Por qué?, responde la maestra. (The teacher replies “Por qué”, for instance “why” in English.)
Por saberlo. (Jaimito replies again. Justo to know it.)

Maestra, ¿qué quiere decir «nothing»? (Teacher, What does it mean «nothing»?)
Nada, responde la maestra. (The teacher replies “Nada”, for instance “nothing” in English.)
Algo querrá decir, ¿no? (Jaimito replies again. Well, it has to mean something, right?)

Lepe, is a small village in South of Spain that is famous in the country for being the subject of innumerable Spanish ‘Irishman’ jokes. There are many funny jokes about this unfortunate town in Andalusia…

¿Por qué no hay leche fría en Lepe? Porque no les cabe la vaca en la nevera.
(Why in Lepe there isn’t fresh cold milk? Because they cannot fit the cow inside the fridge.)

¿Por qué los de Lepe toman su cuarto café en vaso? Porque el doctor les ha dicho que tomar más de tres tazas es peligroso.
(Why in Lepe they take their fourth coffee in a glass? Because the doctor said that more than three cups are dangerous.)

French

Coluche was one of the most popular, talented (and irreverent) French comedians. Here are some of his blagues (jokes):

La moitié des hommes politiques sont des bons à rien. Les autres sont prêts à tout.” (Half of the politicians are good for nothing. Others are ready for anything.)

Technocrates, c’est les mecs que, quand tu leur poses une question, une fois qu’ils ont fini de répondre, tu comprends plus la question que t’as posée !” (Technocrats are guys, when you ask them a question, once they have finished answering, you can’t understand the question you have asked anymore!)

La politique, c’est pas compliqué, il suffit d’avoir une bonne conscience, et pour cela il faut juste avoir une mauvaise mémoire !” (Politics is not complicated, you just need to have a good conscience, and for that you just need to have a bad memory!)

Le plus dur pour les hommes politiques, c’est d’avoir la mémoire qu’il faut pour se souvenir de ce qu’il ne faut pas dire.” (The hardest thing for politicians is to have the memory needed to remember what not to say.)

La dictature, c’est “ferme ta gueule” et la démocratie c’est “cause toujours”. (The dictatorship is “shut your mouth” and democracy is “keep on talking”)

“Ca fait beaucoup marrer les gens de voir qu’on peut se moquer de la politique, alors que, dans l’ensemble, c’est surtout la politique qui se moque de nous.” (A lot of people laugh to see that you can mock politics, whereas in general, it’s mostly politics that mocks us.)

Here is a video of Coluche (French subtitles!)

Arabic

Juha, Goha, Mulla, and Nasruddin are different names for a humorous figure who features in anecdotes in many Middle Eastern societies. There are thousands of these jokes, with new ones appearing all the time. His stories often represent deep wisdom in the garb of irony. Just as the main character has many names, these jokes are told in many languages spoken among Middle Easterners, including Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. Here is a famous Juha joke:

في يوم  من الأيام أضاع جحا حماره، بدأ يركض حول البلدة للبحث عنه إنما لم يستطع العثور عليه في أي مكان. بينما هو يفتش عنه كان يصرخ طوال الوقت، الحمد الله، الحمد لله

فوجىء سكان البلدة بما يحصل مع جحا فسُئِل عن سبب قوله الحمد لله و هو في مصيبة كبيرة. رد عليهم جحا و هو غير مصدق البال و أخبرهم: انا أحمد الله و اشكره لأنني لو كنت على الحمار لكنت ضائع الآن لا محال

Juha once lost his donkey. He couldn’t find it anywhere. As he went around the town searching for it, he kept on saying, “Thanks be to Allah! Thanks be to Allah!”

People were surprised to find him giving thanks to Allah when he had lost his donkey. They asked him: “O Juha, why are you saying ‘Thanks be to Allah’ when you have lost your donkey? Surely that is not something to thank Allah for.”

“I am thanking Allah,” answered Juha, “because I was not riding it, or I too would be lost.”