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Listening to Dutch on TV

June 2004, Nijmegen the Netherlands —

Oil is crude

It does seem primitive to think of a thick black semiviscous and rather smelly liquid as "energy."

I had a unique sensation of understanding Dutch, watching a documentary on TV.

It was a show called "Waterstof Revolutie," about the hydrogen revolution, the presumably-imminent industrial-revolutionary switch from the use of hydrocarbon fuelstuffs to that of hydrogen.

I recognize now the two main features of this show and its format that made it conducive to understanding Dutch.

One is simply that the topic interests me. Science, social change, some hope against a radically unworkable regime.

The hydrogen economy is: energy - electricity - electrolysis - storage - [fuel cell] electricity - energy.

The trouble with hydrogen is that it's not an energy source.

The second feature that made it good for learning Dutch is that the narrative, in Dutch, was punctuated by the English speaking of interviewees. English, the [second, after mathematics] language of science. Experts and entrepreneurs from around the world, (including Jeremy "as I say in my book" Rifkin,) all speaking English.

The Dutch always subtitle, never overdub; so you hear it in English, read it in Dutch... then comes the narrative, in Dutch....

This created a type of momentum — people speaking in English, me paying attention.... When the narration segued the explanation into spoken Dutch, it just seemed like it was natural and easy to follow along.

— June, 2004 Nijmegen, The Netherlands