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This, my second post on the subject of learning a language, was prompted by another flashback to the Frankfurt Book Fair. (See also my first post, Language at the Speed of Sound.)

After a long day at the fair selling translation rights to people from different countries at meetings spaced just thirty minutes apart, it’s a wonder that anyone could remember their native language, let alone a language they’re struggling to master.

So there I was, in a state of exhaustion, stepping up to one of the on-floor wine bars at the Fair, trying to order a drink in celebration of a good day’s work. Here’s how the exchange went:

Me: Weiss wein, bitte.

Bartender: Ja.

I turned my head to survey the exiting crowd, then suddenly remembered I hadn’t told the bartender whether I wanted sweet white wine or dry white wine.

Me: Oh, dry, bitte.

Bartender: Ja.

I turned to watch the crowd again while the bartender poured my drink. When I turned back to grab my glass of wine, there before me was not ein, not zwei, but drei glasses of wine.

Two attendees directly behind me reaped the benefit of my mistake.