Sorry I’m late today. My excuses are:
1.) That I cooked dinner yesterday – a Cornish pasty for an Italian guest who had no idea what it was (we had trouble deciding on suitable anti-pasti…)
2.) The meal generated a moutain of dishes, which I had to wash this morning. There wasn’t time last night as I was processing ‘January Sale’ orders until one a.m., sustained by lashings of whisky and too much of some sort of Christmassy Italian fruitcake.
3.) Which was probably unwise, as I made several mistakes with the orders. Poor Geoff, for example, didn’t get his .Mobi (Kindle compatible) ebooks, only the .pdf versions. He was very pleasant about it though, when he emailed to point this out.
4.) And then, by 11 a.m. this morning, having had nothing but the kitchen sink and the computer since getting out of bed, I thought to myself, what the hell, it’s a sunny day, even though it’s a little chilly – I’ll wrap up warm and take the motorbike out for a spin! Which I did.
Hence, ‘riding a fast motorbike slowly’.
Mine’s an elderly BMW, though still a sexy-looking machine and one, with an engine the size of a small car’s, which is capable of reaching high speeds in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Actually, I don’t use it so much these days. I’m in the habit of taking the bus to work, because that way I can listen to the news in Swedish as I commute.
But also, just between you and I, I’ve noticed myself making mistakes when I ride it, some of which could have had unpleasant consequences. Motorbikes are dangerous enough, riding one in Italy is just foolhardy.
So I go at a sedate pace, reasoning that in this way, when I misjudge something, or another driver engages in some random homicidal act, the fact that I’m not over-doing it on the throttle might mean that I live to ride another day.
“Speed kills” as the road safety slogan has it (“Keed Spills” according to the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers), and indeed it does! In Bologna, where I live, it’s common to see overturned motorcycles or scooters, the flashing blue lights of a parked ambulance, the rider on the wet tarmac being tended to by medics.
Back to excuse #1, for a moment, our guest brought a bottle of red “that someone had given her”. It wasn’t that great, even just for washing down Cornish pasties with. Fortunately, I’d planned ahead and, on being told that the guest was bringing wine, nipped down to Lidl for a couple of reserve bottles, just in case.
And excuses #2 and #3 – hangovers are survivable, last night’s dishes can be washed this morning, and people who didn’t get the right ebook are usually happy to receive the correct version and a ‘very sorry!’
I was going to call this article ‘How to avoid making mistakes’, knowing that many, many learners HATE making mistakes.
There are language students who seem willing to go to any lengths to avoid embarassing themselves by mis-conjugating a verb, even if it means endless hesitation, or even refusing to speak at all, ‘until they are ready’.
But of course, screwing up a verb construction, or pronouncing something badly, or not understanding something that someone has said to you, are not ‘fast motorcycle’ type mistakes.
They’re more like ‘mess up the orders at one a.m. after too much whisky’ mistakes – your interlocutors will recognise you’re doing you best and be happy to forgive you.
Languages are complex things and no one, however advanced, however capable, knows them perfectly, not even native-speakers. I’d reckon on being an experienced writer (I’ve been writing these articles for years, at least) and yet still make multiple errors in each article.
The only way to avoid making mistakes with your foreign language is not to try at all, which would be a shame, don’t you think?
Spread the word then – mistakes are OK!
Anzi, mistakes are desirable! Ride faster, fall off more, for only that way will you learn (that’s a metaphor, obviously, please don’t sue.)
Preparation has its place (get a couple of bottles in, just in case she can’t tell Sangiovese from drain-cleaner). But while a degree of paranoia is acceptable, too much will be a hindrance to you.
Say it! If it’s wrong, you’ll get a quizzical look, but perhaps be admired for having at least tried.
And, here’s a tip for people taking Skype Italian lessons: if the teacher gives you feedback, shoot right back with something positive (“Grazie mille!”) so as to encourage further correction.
Feedback is valuable: it’s personalised to you, laser-targeted at exactly the things you need to fix, if you want to improve.
Ride fast motorbikes slowly.
But speak foreign languages as if it’s a sunny day and you’ve nothing better to do but open the throttle to the max.
Can you feel the wind distorting your cheeks, trying to pull the helmet right off your head?