Yesterday I spent the day teaching English to some people who work for a large company in the north of the department. In a town I'd never been to, never even heard of actually. I got the information on the class about a week ago, over the phone, but just the basics, names of the participants, levels, what they wanted to work on and where the company is located.
But all week long I haven't been able to remember the name of that town. In your native language you have a whole ocean of possible names of places. Like if I told you my grandmothers lived in Raeford and Astoria or that one of Beth's grandmother's lived in Rockford, these names would sound perfectly reasonable to you, even if you'd never heard of them before.
But in a foreign language, there's nothing for names to hook on to. Nothing that sounds kind of similar or that you heard someone mention 15 years ago.
So I spent the week calling that town, Gorron, everything that starts with G and ends with N. Goulon, Goudon, Goudron, Gordon, Gobon. The third one means blacktop or tar, which would be an unfortunate name for a town.
Now that I've been to Gorron, population 3000, and seen (only the outside) its bright pink tatoo shop, I'll never make that mistake again.