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Monday, 21 December 2009

The long and winding road .....

..... from Poland to England - except of course that in our case it's a railroad!

We're now on our way to England for Christmas. We stopped off first in Berlin and then in Wuppertal. Why Wuppertal? Because there's a temporary exhibition of work by Monet, who's one of my favourite artists. They've managed to gather paintings from lots of different galleries around the world, and the result is a real feast for the eye.

Apart from that, Wuppertal is a significant place for me because it was the destination of my first-ever trip abroad. I went there on a school exchange visit when I was twelve. I'd only been learning German for a year, but I found that I could understand at least some things that people said, and they seemed to understand at least some things I said. So it was a key experience for me, and the start of a whole series of connections with Germany, still continuing today. Wuppertal is famed - if it's famed for anything at all - for its Schwebebahn, which is an overhead suspension railway dating from the early 20th century. I used to be able to recite the names of all the stations by heart (and in the correct order!) but not any more - it's ages since I've travelled on it and I was looking forward to doing it again. Unfortunately, though, it's closed for renovation work.

Now we're in Brussels, and we're supposed to be catching the train to London tomorrow. Well, trains through the Channel Tunnel have been cancelled for the past three days, since a number of trains got stuck in it on Friday, causing all kinds of chaos and, worst of all, trapping some passengers in the tunnel for hours. It seems that somehow the high technology that runs the trains broke down because it couldn't handle the temperature difference between the cold weather on the French side and the relatively warm conditions in the tunnel. It seems incredible that such a thing's possible or, if it is possible, that it hadn't been foreseen and provided for. No doubt more detailed explanations will gradually emerge. Meanwhile, the lastest news is that they intend to start running a limited service tomorrow, so maybe we'll be able to catch a train, maybe not. I'll tell you next time!

Thanks for all your comments about trains, languages and so on.

Kirsti, I've read 'The Adventure of English' - and lots of other books about this topic! As you say, if you speak both Germanic and Romance languages, you've got a pretty good basis for making connections with English. With Polish, it's not so easy, though there are connections if you dig down below the surface of the languages. I speak Polish but I don't think it influences my English - I could be wrong, though!

Taru, I know a bit of Finnish - you could say I started learning it but didn't 'finnish' - and I've always been very impressed by how it uses so many home-grown words instead of international ones, e.g. puhelin (telephone). So I was very interested by your examples.

Pary, yes I do remember you. I've never been to Iran but I've got a good friend from Iran and I know from her accounts what a huge and varied and interesting country it is.

Jonathan

Answers to the vocabulary quiz in my last blog:

a system where you only need one ticket for a journey involving different types of transport and/or different transport companies - through ticketing

very steep - precipitous

stop working, collapse, become useless - break down

say/write that you're worried about something - express concern

strange, unfamiliar - alien

become extinct - die out

a vote by the population of a country to make a decision on one specific issue - a referendum

completely, fundamentally - radically

frightening - hair-raising

a growing trend - an increasing tendency

holding on very tightly - clinging

Comments

Hi,I have learned German in my spare time for a year and a half .But it turns out to be a hard work for me to learn those words by heart.You know,without words,it's impossible to move a step.It's really disappointing.

Hi,I'm first here. How amazing! I'm glad to read your journal and comment like this. Your twelve-old-year experience reminded me of my first foreign country visit to Vancouver. The 'first' itself is meaningful, isn't it? It was last winter. I was there on last Christmas. Sending cards to my friends of Van last week, I really missed the city. Totally gray it was due to the snowy weather while I was there, I loved it. Thanks to you, I look back into the time once again. Thanks and Merry Christmas~!

Hi. I think that when one has lived for a while in a foreign country one makes errors one does not see oneself. I think it's my case. Of course people always say something like it's astonishing that you after 20 (or 30 or 40 or...) years in another country still speak your mother tongue accurately, but they are just flattering. I remember having met a French lady who had been living in the UK for about thirty years. She was in a group where native English speakers spoke French. I heard the lady tell a story about two people who "éventuellement" (= "maybe" in French) got married. Didn't she know if they got married? She did, she wanted to say that they finally got married. False friends (in a language) are terrible but so funny.

Hello Jonathan! Wonderful to see this ´traveling´ post again. I remembered of your journey last December, too. Wuppertal and Monet sounds intriguing, though, I´d like to have a look at Botticelli´s exhibition in Frankfurt, too. He used tempera colours for his works, and it gave me a bit of confidence in my painting atemts. I am not so far to use oil at work. Anyway, happy arrival home and MARY CHRISTMAS there in the UK and everywhere!

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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