Unfolding plans 31 – the concept of separable verbs

Learning a language can be hard especially if you are fluent in your mother tongue.  Foreigners speak in different ways. They construct their sentences in ways that seem alien to the English speaking world, with strange word order and an ill-defined use of the definite article.  What’s the matter with them?

I’ve been struggling with Dutch.  Progress is glacially slow.  I believe I am getting somewhere only to feel that I am back to square one the next day.  What I have got hung up on lately is the concept of separable verbs.  I’d never heard of them before.  It turns out they are verbs which have component parts that can become separated yet still remain related.  If ever there was a mind blowing concept.  So words like weggaan, to go away, fit into this category.  The away can be separated from the go with disastrous consequences (for a persistent novice like me).

Thinking about it though I’ve known this all along.  It turns out that I’m fluent in this kind of verb already – in English.  To ‘eat up’ is an example only in English the components are already separated.  Eat up your dinner!  I’ve already eaten it up.  I would have eaten all of my dinner up if it had been warm. See what I mean?  To eat up, to go away, to think big are all separable verbs.  There are hundreds of them as Michael Caine might have said.

I use separable verbs every day and manage their complex rules without a second thought.  In fact I managed very well without realising that they existed and only now that I have struggled conceptually have I been able to apply this learning.  To help me with my Dutch I needed to learn about English.  To learn something new I had to learn about something I already understood.

I wonder how many things there are that I am trying to learn which have a parallel in something I am already proficient in.

What does your Sky box tell about you?  I know other providers are available but I use the box to record programmes that I can watch later.  It has been one of many transformations in the way that we consume television recently.  No longer are our lives defined by the broadcaster’s schedule and instead we are free to watch whatever we like and whenever we like with only one condition, that is the programme has been aired at some time before.

I think my box can store around eighty hours of programming and so, assuming I sit in front of it for about four hours per day then this gives me twenty days of enjoyment to look forward to.  It doesn’t work that way though.  What is usual is that I will record faster than my ability to consume.  I record lots of things that I think I’m going to watch and get around to as little as one in five of the hours I’ve saved.   This is usually due to a combination of either of us recording things that the other is unlikely to watch, or programmes that after a while we just don’t fancy.

So the box very quickly ends up full and I ritually have to make some space by deleting those that I’m never going to watch in order to record those that I am unlikely to watch.  I store programmes like a squirrel stores nuts just in case there is going to be a time when I have nothing to watch.

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