One of the most interersting things about teaching English as a foreign language is observing how each nationality has its own set of little mistakes they always make – a strange error that is made by most of the learners, not just one or two. It shows something about their native language and what influence it has on their learning process. The Italians, for instance, amused me with their love (and misuse) of the words “strong” and “particular”.
In their vocabulary, ‘strong’ does relate to physical strength but also seems to be synonymous with powerful and just generally good. When I asked students “How was your weekend?”, “Strong” would be deemed a suitable answer (as would “So-and-so”, despite repeated attempts at correction, and the fact that ‘so-so’ is a direct translation of their own native expression – how baffling!).
As for ‘particular’, well, you might hear “Alice in Wonderland is a particular story” or “She wore a particular dress” – it’s hard to really pinpoint what it means. I began a crusade to try and teach the correct usage of these two words, but it rather backfired a bit when one of my students told me that I was very strong, then immediately corrected himself “No, you’re not strong, you’re strict”. The first one sounded much better!
It’s odd when you hear words so often, they start to lose all their meaning and you begin to wonder if the Italians are even using them wrong. All last year, every time I used the word “particular” (and I started using it a lot) I’d have to stop and question myself as to whether I was using it in the traditional English way. Even now I always smile to myself when I refer to a cup of tea as “strong”, liking to use the double meaning of a strong brew and also a good one.
Whatever funny little mistakes they make, the Italians are still the experts when it comes to food. I’m missing Italy quite a bit right now after over a year away, and here is a good old-fashioned spaghetti bolognese to transport me back. Or the vegetarian version, anyway. The processed vegetables and lentils give it a really nice texture, and the oregano is just lovely. A sprinkling cheese and lots of black pepper are essential!
from BBC GoodFood, serves 4
1 each: onion, red pepper, carrot, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
100g red lentils
400g can tomatoes
600ml vegetable stock
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. Put the vegetables in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped.
2. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the vegetables for about 8 minutes until soft.
3. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, stock, oregano and cinnamon. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Season, then simmer for a further 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to packet instructions.
6. Serve the cooked, drained spaghetti with the sauce and generous helpings of black pepper.