Monday 3 April 2006

First female ... having my first period

The polyglots of the Netherlands
In general, my Dutch colleagues who speak English have a generally good command of the language.
Where they are not grammar perfect they are definitely comprehensible, at times, I help out by asking for the equivalent Dutch word and my basic knowledge of Dutch by the ascertaining the context of their intentions, we get through.
In that sense, I usually concur that they speak better English than my Dutch, in that we can communicate.
However, being away from England, the confusion of language is even more noticeable.
More often than not, many of my friends want to bring me to a place when really they want to take me there and bring me back.
Brengen which means to bring or to take contextually introduces you to a variant of English spoken by the Dutch generally known as Denglish.
Nemen which is to take unfortunately cannot be used in context for taking someone somewhere, so that is understandable.
Then, when you get on the train the announcer welcomes you in the train as opposed to welcoming you aboard the train. You are also welcomed in a town rather than welcomed to a town.
Well, I really should not be pedantic, many native speakers of English cannot string a decent sentence together even in cases where it is the only language they speak.
I always get my sin
So, this morning there was all this giggling and guffaws around the office and people peered into a booklet and read out classic Denglish statements.
Apparently, an erstwhile executive of Heineken who has travelled the world had taken the time to record English statements of his Dutch countrymen who have offered literal translations of Dutch statements to English and left many a red face or jaw dropped – people aghast with embarrassment beyond incredulity, you can only laugh hours afterwards.
What is so interesting about the book is it is flying off the shelves the Seventeenth printing edition between November 2005 and February 2006.
I had not finished completing my sentence asking for the book in the station’s bookshop when the tiller told to colleague to get it, it was found without too much fuss.
I always get my sin* – the title of the book infers a conversation where the speaker was apologising for not being a good English speaker but is always able to convey his feelings.
The Dutch word zin means sense or meaning and in context implies being able to make oneself understood.
Unfortunately, book is not available on English-speaking sites; it appears it has not yet been registered in a global ISBN database.
My first period
When speaking Dutch she would have said …
“Ik ben de eerste vrouwelijke staatssecretaris van Binnenlandse Zaken and in ben in m’n eerste ambtstermijn.”*
When she introduced herself in Denglish she said …
“I am the first woman state secretary for the inside and I am having my first period.”*
What she meant to say …
“I am the first female minister for Home Affairs and this is my first term.”
You can find out who that was.
The book is full of this kind of stuff; if only someone had captured the moment as the faces of the listeners betrayed a sense of uneasiness where the brain could be determine if it was a joke, a faux pas or something more bizarre.
The by-line on the book title suggests it is “bizarre English by the Dutch”, it is both a good read and laugh and if you only had to read the Denglish without understanding the Dutch, you might as well capture that moment as the listeners when those words were spoken – only this time, you can laugh.
I always get my sin – Maarten H. Rijkens ISBN 9045302802
Just in case you do meet a Dutch man who is exchanging a friendly greeting with you, the conversation might start off like this in Denglish.
“How do you do and how do you do your wife?”* It is nothing about what your dirty mind might be thinking, but then you can take it in the broadest sense.
*Quotes from the book, acknowledged in entirety as part of my review.

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