It’s one thing to mess up in a foreign language. And it’s quite another to do it in your own.
The Georgian language is its own language group. Trust me, I’ve dabbled in enough to know: it’s unique. Well, and I read what linguists tell me. Ain’t no way knowing any other language can help one learn Georgian.
So when I made mistakes out yonder and felled nigh near everyone with my errors, I took it quite in stride. Yes, maybe these were not my prouder moments, but they were, as they say, “teachable moments.”
Experience is the name men give their mistakes.
~ Oscar Wilde
Like the time I was in a hurtling minibus, full to the brim and beyond with villagers, and I meant to tell the driver I needed to get out. In Georgia, you see, you travel precisely as far as you want to on a route, and then you yell, “Stop for me!”
Unless, of course, you’re me. In which case you yell something more like:
“Stop me! Stop me now! Stop me here! Stop me!”
As I said, these were not my brighter moments.
But in English, to err feels slightly dumber. I mean, one has theoretically had years to cull words and expressions and to gain basic reading comprehension. One ought not sound like one is speaking Georgian, then, you know?
When I was fifteen, I was selected to participate in a rather prestigious English competition of some sort. (And yes, it’s worse when your mistake happens after you’ve been selected in hopes that you won’t embarrass your school in exactly such a way.)
We were asked to read a book and be ready to answer essay questions on the short stories within. I was a voracious reader and wasn’t concerned at all. Until I read the book. Which was, I declare, full of the least interesting essays I’d ever read. Mind you, these were travel essays, so it truly is almost unfathomable that I could have been bored so painfully, but I was.
My brain hurt with the effort of not revealing I’d found the stories almost uniformly insipid, uninspiring and turgid. I was fifteen, and unaware that I was allowed to not like literature. (I was also perhaps a mite judgmental.)
At any rate, all the shrouding of my true feelings must have exhausted every last gray cell, because I found myself suddenly, agonizingly unable to remember a rather basic word that I needed. Believe it or not, considering how much I hated the book, I was looking for the word “awe-inspiring.”
So I squinted. I screwed my eyes shut. I breathed heavily and hit my forehead against my eraser. And then I sadly wrote down:
Yeah. Not just the wrong word, but pathetically spelled.
Needless to say, I wasn’t called back for any further rounds. And thusly ended my short flirtation with literary prestige. 🙂