There aren’t many things that make me laugh and be embarrassed at the same time. Something that does this to me however is hearing Dutch people speak English. The Dutch, although usually complimented because of their excellent knowledge of the English language, have a tendency to speak English with the most horrible accent imaginable. Surely not all of us do, but 9 out of 10 times when I encounter a Dutchman abroad having a conversation in English, I am an unwanted witness to something that sounds extraordinarily ridiculous. Unfortunately it’s not only the accent. Although a Dutch person’s vocabulary usually isn’t too bad, English sentences are usually constructed by translating them straight from Dutch. This doesn’t only apply to grammar, but also to the words used, which are literally translated without keeping the context in mind.
Not sure what I am talking about? Well let me present exhibit number 1: I would like to invite you to watch the following video in which CNN’s Robyn Curnow interviews Dutch ex-footballer Ruud Krol about the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. You will only need to watch the first 30 seconds to 1 minute in order to see, or rather hear, my point (I would encourage you to watch the whole thing, if you can endure it):
Now how funny was that? And so painful and embarrassing at the same time! You don’t even have to be Dutch to have a good laugh, and I suspect that non-Dutch people would also see why this kind of accent is so immensely embarrassing to witness. His vocabulary isn’t bad at all, I’ll give him that. Even the occasional Dutch word thrown in can be forgiven, but the way in which the words are pronounced… it’s too much for me to handle. Let me attempt to phonetically analyse the first 30 seconds of Ruud Krol speaking English :
“Jaaa, inn seventy-for end in seventy-ate” […] “Boos tymes we was ferry anlacky det we play boos tymes agenst, in the vinyl, agenst Germany and Argentina who organised the wurld cup, and det was of course never heppened in historie, end it neffer heppened again, I fink”
Should it matter that he speaks English with a funny accent? No, not really. But it gets worse. At 00:54 in the interview Ruud Krol uncovers the truth behind the world championship finals lost by the Netherlands in 1974 and in 1978: he was orgasming on the pitch. Again, I shall analyse phonetically:
“You play eh, pool metsjes det arr de same, butt the vinyl if jor cumming on de field, jaa det was samthing, ja how do you say det in Inglis, you get ehhh”
There you have it: tens of thousand of people in the stadium, millions of people in front of the television or listening to the radio, and Ruud Krol is having orgasms whilst he’s on the pitch. He explains it whilst his arms thrust forward, and it apparently still gives him goosebumps. Great, thanks Ruud. Or should I say Rude.
Not only Dutch ex-footballers go about in this way, Dutch politicians do too. Exhibit number 2. Although not as bad as Ruud ‘cumming on the pitch’ Krol, surely someone could have advised former Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende to go and see a speech therapist before visting former US president Bush. Although the accent is less thick and the sentences less Dutch-like, it might even be more embarrassing to watch as this person was representing the Netherlands in the United States for the whole world to see. To say the least, his diction doesn’t make a strong impression (skip the first two minutes of Dubya*):
And last, but not least, exhibit number 3. Someone else that has been ‘representing’ the Netherlands on the world stage, a xenophobic and populist blonde. Luckily he was only addressing rednecks and teabaggers (skip to 0m37s*):
At least in the latter case, Wilders’ poor diction and knowledge of the English language takes away from his message of hatred. All in all, Ruud Krol’s accent is the worst, but has the least consequences, although his on-the-pitch ejaculations did cost the Dutch two world championship finals.
Now, for those English speaking individuals that have firsthand experience interacting with Dutch people, a fabulous schedule has been created to avoid confusion about what is being said and what is understood. This of course is also very helpful for Dutch speaking individuals.
More of this can be found in the book I Always Get My Sin.
I had forgotten all about this classic Dutch commercial!
*Timestamp doesn’t seem to be working whilst embedding YouTube videos