Why is it that we often learn best by mistakes?

14 01 2009

It’s called “learning something the hard way” — and that, my friends, is something I’m a master at doing.  You know the drill…you mess up, get slammed for it, and then you cry and work your way past it.  The experience is forever ingrained in your memory, whether you like it or not.

Well, I did it again today at work –learned something the hard way.   It’s unfortunate that it had to happen that way, but I will never ever forget it.  I have learned my lesson.  I now know exactly what to do next time it happens (and it will), and this time I won’t fuck it up (pardon my vulgarity).

That’s looking at it from the positive side, the rational side of my brain that tells me to move on.  But I must admit that I feel a little worse for wear after this experience.

So let me lighten up this post with two linguistic examples in which I also learned the hard way, but the result ended up being rather humorous.

Your shoes?  It taste good!

German 101, freshman year. I had an oral exam with my professer and the German language assistant.  She asked me the question (in German, naturally) “What do you think of my shoes?”  I replied, “Sie schmeckt mir gut.”  “Meine Schuhe???” she replied in surprise.  No no, that’s not what I meant.  I meant to say they looked good, but ended up saying “They tastes good!” (bad grammar AND the wrong verb!).  I will never forget that verb schmecken.

You heard him do what???

Paris, France – junior year abroad. When my host parents had their French friend who has lived in NYC for a number of years over to stay with us at their house, I made a very humorous mistake.  I went to eat breakfast one morning when Gérard first got there and my host mom, Christine, was in the kitchen beginning to drink her coffee.  She said good morning to me and asked how I slept.  I had slept very well, merci, et toi ?  She said she also had slept well, and then said, “I hope that Gérard slept well tonight too.”

On my way to the bathroom before coming to breakfast, I passed by the room where Gérard was sleeping and had heard him snoring soundly.  I wanted to communicate this to my host mother, in response to her comment, but I chose the wrong verb.

“Oh, I think he seems to be sleeping soundly.  Je l’ai entendu ronronner tout à l’heure.”

Christine burst out laughing.  “Ronronner ? !

“No, wait.  That’s not right…” I uttered in embarrassment as I pondered on what the righ verb could possibly be.  Aha!  “Je l’ai entendu gonfler !”

More giggles from Christine as she sat there just waiting for me to come up with the right word.

RONFLER !  je l’ai entendu ronfler !!!” lol.

“Voilààà, très bien Sarah !” Christine congratulated me and continued to laugh at my expense.

But that day, I learned three verbs that I will never forget.  My statement #1:  “I just heard him purring.”  #2: “I heard him SWELLING!”  and finally, #3: “I heard him snoring.”  Third time’s the charm, right?


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3 responses

14 01 2009
Otto Mann

Your learn best by your mistakes because they stick out the most in your mind. You will remember them better because it’s so prominent in your mind. You keep thinking about it.

15 01 2009
pluc

That’s the funny part about learning foreign languages !

15 01 2009
jess rose

I’ve had a few work experiences where I’ve had to bail and hide out in the bathroom to regain my composure. It’s pretty tough to get back into the flow once someone throws you off, but you just have to get back out there and rock it. I’m sure you’ll find your place there and they’ll never want to let you go.🙂

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