“The Dutch speak excellent English” foreigners often tell me. I then explain we study it from a young age. And that Flying Doctors, Fawlty Towers, CSI or Oprah is not dubbed in Holland like in Germany. That together with our sea traders past makes us indeed likely to speak good ‘England’J. Or as one of my Ozzie friends puts it: “Come on Linda, your English is too good. That mistake was a genuine fuck up!”
But there is another reason. English grammar is actually quite similar to that of Dutch. Often all you have to do is translate your Dutch sentence literally into English, et voilà, we are understood by many. However, there is a catch to this often used trick. Not all phrases can be treated as such. I once had a whole pub laughing at me in-the-middle-of-nowhere-England, when I politely asked my friend “can you please take me?” (I meant to ask if he could give me a ride to his mothers’!). My request to an Ozzie bartender if he could “give me some head” got me a big smile and a giggle from his colleagues. (All I wanted was some extra foam on my flat beer!).
Then there is my use of phrases or expressions. I love speaking in metaphors, and also often do this in English. Same nowhere-land pub. Playing darts with my Kiwi friend this time. She’s winning by far, when the bartender rocks up to ask me how I’m going, I send him a lovely smile and reply; “She’s wiping my ass, man!” I turn back to my friend as she whispers in my ear “it’s whipping Lin, whipping!” Later that night my local friend tells me that the bartender walked over to say “your friend is weird, you know that, right?”
As you can see, the Dutch level of English often creates more confusion then understanding. I have no doubt that Ozzie bartenders think Dutch women are either really easy or extreme feminists. The Dutch insist on ‘making photos’ instead of taking them. This makes us look either super-genius or highly underdeveloped. On the other hand, my friends often tell me they love me more because of the crazy stuff I say. And I am now pretty famous at that same nowhere-land pub. Every time I am over on another visit, many a “yes, she’s back!” can be heard. And hey, English itself can be pretty confusing too. UK people talk about “grabbing a cab” (I am still to see it done). Ozzies have sandwiches at ‘smoko’ and kiwi’s talk about “dirty sex” when they mean 36. Oh and can someone please explain the phrase ‘blow job’ to me? “Bullocks” I think. It’s all just a case of “you say potato, I say portato”!
In our next issue