Dunglish: a persistent virus common to Wageningers
Welcome in my class, I am heppy to see you here. Today I will learn you about... If you haven't noticed three funny details in these sentences, then beware, you may already have fallen victim to a subtle but persistent language virus due to your stay in Holland: Dunglish
Native English-speakers in particular, suddenly find themselves helplessly struggling against an inevitable Dutchification of their vocabulary, and even worse, mixing up of their word order, prepositions and verb tenses. And the longer you stay in Holland, the worse it gets. However a remedy is at hand: Wageningen-based editor and translator Joy Burrough-Boenisch has taken up the challenge of deciphering the mysteries of written Dunglish in her book Righting English that's gone Dutch, due out in November
The use of English is becoming more and more common in the Netherlands, and in Wageningen, which aims to offer all its programmes in English to a 60% international student population by the year 2010, this language will become increasingly important. However, Wageningen's level of English is often a subject of debate. Burrough finds that Dutch people are very confident of their English and do not always believe native English-speakers when they are accused of committing Dunglishisms. Dunglish is perfectly understandable by all Dutch people, and as a result it has become acceptable here. But, Burrough calls this virtual English, and warns against using it for a wider international audience
A Dutch scientist might write about collecting soil monsters - and a computer spelling checker will accept this - but only readers who've gone Dutch will know that the writer actually means soil samples. International visitors can expect to encounter Dunglish everyday in Wageningen, especially over the telephone. When PhD student Julia Wright was told by a Molenstraat cinema attendant that the movie would begin at half eight, she arrived on time only to find that she was an hour late. In English, half eight means 8:30, but in Dunglish it means 7:30, because of the direct translation from Dutch
Confusion may also arise when buying your groceries: a cashier cheerfully asks for 62 guilders, sending you into a panic until you look at the cash register which shows 26 guilders. A common Dunglishism as numbers are verbally expressed in the opposite order in Dutch.The spelling out of words can also lead to brain-teasers as the Dutch pronunciation of i is the English e, and the Dutch e sounds like the English a.These kinds of misunderstandings stemming from language interference can be funny, inspiring books like The Undutchables and others. Burrough's book, however, takes an academic look at the types of errors that come up, consistently lowering the quality of written English in Holland
Burrough, originally from the UK, became interested in writing about Dunglish when she observed herself starting to speak it: I needed to counteract my own gradual slide into Dutch usage and conventions in my own English. Working in the Netherlands for the last 22 years, Burrough has edited numerous English-language research papers and theses. She is also one of the founders of SENSE (Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors working in the Netherlands) for whom she started a regular column Don't go Dutch, forming the basis of her book. I am fascinated by what happens when two languages mix, there is always a blurry part as patterns of one language interfere with the other,she explains
Gathering examples over the years, Burrough has noticed that it is not just a question of structural and grammatical details, but that language style is also closely bound to culture. For instance, the desired personal characteristics in Holland, such as directness, honesty, assertiveness and forthrightness, influence how the Dutch communicate. This is not always considered to be admirable (and may even be considered rude) in other cultures, so English translations need to keep in mind a softening of the Dutch writing style. Dutch sentences also tend to be shorter and tend to have the focus at the beginning, while English uses more conditionals (might, may, would) and longer sentences with the focus at the end. This is why direct translations, even if they are grammatically correct, may not get the message across.
Some Dunglishisms you may come across..
- Welcome in (should be to) Holland
- To learn a student (the Dutch word leren means to teach as well as to learn)
- Life music instead of Live Music
- Menu: Choice of eggs of chickens: where is the choice? (of is the Dutch word for or)
- That can: Dunglish for that is possible
- In Dunglish, you hear according to me over and over: in English it is better to say I think or in my opinion (and not as often!). Linked to this, people often want to give their meaning (they mean opinion but get confused with the Dutch mening). In Holland you're entitled to have an opinion, but in other cultures you may not be!
MSc Food Sciences: a balancing act of study and travel
What kind of a student are you? was the reaction Gokhan Oran got from the Turkish embassy when he registered for the European Masters in Food Sciences. They couldn't understand that a programme could exist in which students move around every two months, he explains with a laugh. The MSc is now at the end of its introductory stint in Wageningen and the 14 students from nine countries will move to Ireland next, and then go on to universities in England, France and Sweden. Students are also expected to conduct research for a company in a country other than their own, and to formulate a business plan which could take them to Japan or America at the end of the MSc. So how do students find it so far?
We have a very heavy workload which is what I expected, Suzanne Portsmouth from England remarked, but it seriously competes with all the sight-seeing I want to do. Many students are attracted to the programme by the opportunities it offers for travel, in addition to the varied professional experience of learning from different institutions in Europe - both universities and businesses. Next week, for example, they will visit companies like Heineken and Bols to investigate their food applications. But Oran finds that some people may be put off by all the travelling: It is very unstable. I am finally getting settled in Wageningen after two months, and now I have to pack up and go. This will be hard to do four times. For programme director Henk van den Broek, a different type of problem exists: I just found out that we own 14 mattresses and lamps, and now I need to figure out what to do with them all.