I hope you’re not tired of hearing about the Italian language, because I’m going to give you still another example of my ineptness. I have a major problem with “o” and “a” at the end of words. For some reason, I can see the word in my mind and what the correct last letter is, but when it comes out of my mouth, it turns into the incorrect letter.
With nouns, it’s annoying, but not really a catastrophic problem. In general, singular masculine nouns end in “o”, and feminine in “a”. But if I say “il giardina” for “the garden”, when it’s “il giardino”, most Italians will give me a break.
However, with verbs, “o” and “a” represent the difference between “I” doing something (ending in “o”) and “he, she, it” doing something (ending in “a”). To make matters worse, unlike in English, Italians don’t usually use the “I”, “he”, “she” or “it” pronoun, so those last letters become even more critical to the meaning of the sentence. For instance, if I was trying to report to a policeman that a man was robbing a bank, there’s at least a 95% chance that I would end up inadvertently confessing to robbing it myself. Oh sure – I’d eventually get out of jail, but given my linguistic skills, it could take decades.
I compound my problem by immediately saying “oh no!”, repeating the word with the right vowel, followed by “damn it”. So if I was trying to say “I speak with Roberto”, my sentence would be: “Parla con Roberto…..oh no…..parlo…..damn it.” Italians are incredibly forgiving, but let’s face it – doing this with every sentence means that a conversation with me quickly turns tedious for them. You can understand why after the first halting exchange, they flee every time they see me coming.
And one last story: Since I’m not a huge coffee lover, I was very excited when I first learned of a drink called latte macchiato. “Macchia” means “spot or stain”, so while a coffee lover would order a caffe’ macchiato, which is an espresso with just a spot of milk on it, my latte macchiato is a glass (not a cup) of hot milk (latte) stained with just a small amount of espresso poured in the top. I practiced and practiced saying “latte macchiato, latte macchiato, latte macchiato” over and over again – including while walking up to the counter to order it the first time. Does it really surprise you to learn that when I opened my mouth, I asked for a “matte lacchiato”? The only saving grace from this particular embarrassing exchange was that I could still hold my head high since this was one of the few times I got the last letters right.