These further musings on the challenges of technology have been prompted by a post I put on Facebook last week that got me thinking, so apologies to those of you who've read some of this already, but bear with me…there's more here than there was before.
When I first came to the flatlands, I used to travel round much more for my work than I do now. I often went to The Hague, Breda and even to Tilburg in the south to give lessons. Because of the high traffic congestion on the roads here and the difficulty of getting places by car on time, I used to travel regularly on the trains. But even the trains were often delayed for various reasons and my morning musings on the platforms were punctuated (or punctured was more like it) by the sing-song and dulcet tones of the announcers.
This happened so often it was how I actually managed to start learning Dutch.
The thing is I've never had a proper course of Dutch lessons. I took a few from a teacher friend some years ago, but I think I only had about four full lessons in total. The rest of my Dutch (which is still very much *my* Dutch) has been gleaned from reading, re-playing telephone messages over and over again, and listening to loudspeaker announcements such as those at the station.
I know, I know. You're all thinking that Koos could have taught me. You're right, but for now I won't go down that road. Suffice to say it's a bit like asking your husband to teach you to drive!
So to return to my train travel, I spent many a morning standing on bleak and drafty stations listening to the staff telling us of delays, platform changes and alterations to routes. Now I know they say that conditioning and behaviourist methods of teaching are only any good for Pavlov's dog, but maybe I am more canine than humine because this is a way that I really can learn. Repetition, I find, is a wonderful way of concentrating the mind. The evidence is below:
This sentence was the very first I learnt because it was the one that affected me most.
"Dames en heren, de Intercity trein van Rotterdam Blaak naar Den Haag Centraal heeft een vertraging van ongeveer tien minuten" (the train from x to x will be delayed by about ten minutes)
or then there was...
"Dames en heren, de Intercity naar Delft, Den Haag Hollands Spoor en Den Haag Centraal vertrekt over enkele minuten vanaf spoor 5." (it'll leave in a minute or so from platform 5, not the one I'm standing on! Oh heck! They've changed the platform!)
"Dames en heren, de internationale trein naar Brussel Zuid vertrekt over enkele minuten van spoor 1."
(just an announcement of an imminent departure).
These sentences are imprinted on my brain. I heard them so often I swear I'll never forget them. The sad thing, though, is the first one is no longer used. It has been replaced by an electronic display showing simply "+/- 10 minutes" instead of keeping weary listeners awake with a tonal mantra. And increasingly, the voices we hear are digital recordings and not the sometimes mischievous, sometimes weary tones of real railway staff.
These days too, we are reminded constantly to "forget not in and out to check with your OV chipcards". Sounds positively Shakespearean, doesn't it? Although of course they say it in Dutch - 'vergeet niet in en uit te checken met uw OV chipkaart'. But, I think it shows how close 16th century English was to its Dutch origins and I enjoy playing with these direct translations!
Eventually, I suppose, the more we move towards apps, icons and emoticons, everything will be announced by numbers, symbols and smileys and my public broadcast Dutch lessons will disappear forevermore. In linguistic terms, that means I will undoubtedly fossilise - if I haven't already :-)