I pointed out above that the intuitive appeal of the phenomenon of language attrition can be both a blessing and a curse for those of us who are doing research in this area. A blessing because it is usually easy to find speakers who are interested enough to invest their time in participating in our research. Furthermore, ours is one of the few areas of science that others – linguists and non-linguists alike – tend to find fascinating. Most of our colleague scientists will generally reap anything from politely feigned interest to outright boredom when they attempt to tell others about their research passion (remember poor Ross the palaeontologist, from the TV series Friends?). However, few people will not be intrigued and moved by stories such as those of Gertrud U. or Albert L.
The potential curse, as I also pointed out above, lies in the fact that for many of our interlocutors the fascination of the subject is rooted in some resonance in their own experience. For example, few Dutch people do not have an Uncle Wim or an Aunt Agada who moved to Canada, Australia or New Zealand in the 1950s and, these days, has such a strong English accent or simply cannot use articles properly any more. Like Mma Ramotswe in the quotation at the very start of this book, those who have experienced this (either in themselves or by proxy) often feel puzzled, unsettled, saddened or shocked.