Double Dutch

Dubbed

Hello again,

While on holiday in August I had the chance to drink a glass of wine with a Dutch couple. We spoke in English, although one of the couple was studying Italian and had a lot of difficulty in speaking it. She recounted how only that day in the supermarket she had asked the cashier ‘posso andare?’ instead of ‘posso pagare?’. The cashier was very confused by this of course, as one generally tends to pay before leaving the shop. She was highly embarrassed by this episode which she said she encounters regularly and which causes her particular frustration.

After a few minutes of small talk I was curious to know how it is that the Dutch speak English so well. They told me that they watch virtually all the films they see in English / original language with subtitles from when they are children. When children in The Netherlands go to see the new Batman / Spiderman and other non- Dutch films on a typical Sunday afternoon, they see them in the original language. Strangely, this doesn’t happen in the same way in Belgium,  where international films are shown in either French or Dutch and where the general standard of English is lower.

Applied linguist Kees de Bot has spoken on this subject with the BBC.

One Dutch applied linguist likes to speculate that there might be a correlation between language aptitude and intelligence. The reason why Dutch people have a reputation for being good at languages might be, therefore, that Dutch people are simply cleverer than other people. “Unfortunately,” says Kees de Bot, “the experience of having lived in that country for more than 50 years has made it absolutely clear to me that that cannot be the explanation.”

Instead, his research shows that the stereotype of the multilingual Dutch person isn’t entirely accurate. The Dutch aren’t amazing at languages generally; they just speak particularly good English. In fact, things really aren’t all that rosy for other languages in the Netherlands. The numbers of students taking French and German are in decline. University departments teaching other European languages are struggling to survive. Teaching minority languages such as Turkish and Arabic is no longer allowed during school hours. And other languages are hardly taught at all – just like in the UK. The main reason why the Dutch are so good at English, according to Kees de Bot’s analysis, is that English is highly visible and valued in mainstream culture. Most of the music Dutch kids listen to is in English and the films they watch are mostly in English. Most interesting, in my view, is the link between TV and being good at English. In the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where proficiency in English is very high, English-language TV programmes are subtitled. In Germany, Spain and France, where fewer people speak English well, the TV programmes are dubbed.

Read the full extract on the BBC voices website.

Europe and Dubbing of Films and TV

The graphic on the left backs up what is stated in the article. Those countries in blue are those where English is more proficient and are the same countries where TV/ films are not dubbed (including countries in eastern Europe where proficiency levels are high with regard to English). The countries in red are generally less proficient in English and are those countries where dubbing is commonplace.

So to return to my original point, why did this Dutch woman communicate so confidently in English and so insecurely in Italian? The most obvious reason is because she had started studying English at a young age (this is also true of many Italians who aren’t so confident with the language, however). The most important reason is because she had been exposed to ‘natural’ English from a young age. And by ‘natural’ I mean television, music, cinema and so on. It’s generally not the type of language one comes across in schools.

The moral of this post; go on line and watch language clips, rent a movie, watch an English language program in the original language and don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult…it has to be. Then if you’re feeling really ambitious you can also decide to read a few pages of a book or some articles in English every week.

You can see in the video below why many English speakers have always disliked dubbing!

 

Writing Letters

Hand-written

Hi again,

I recently received a wedding invitation. These often contain a card inside for the purpose of RSVP which derives from the French ‘répondez, s’il vous plaît’. Traditionally, this card wasn’t included, so invitees had to respond using their own stationary, as was the case with this invitation. The last time I wrote a hand-written letter was in 2002. That’s a long time ago. To make a long story short, I didn’t have any specific stationery and so went out to find some. I went to 3 different stationers and guess what . . . they didn’t sell the stationery I was looking for because in their words; ‘nobody really uses it anymore.’

I eventually found a shop that sold something close to what I was looking for. And this made me think about this video I watched a few months ago, which describes how digital technology is changing the way we use (or don’t use) the materials around us, and how not using these materials (pen and paper in this case) can cause the disappearance of services linked to them, such as the printer and paper experts in the video you’ll see below.

The speakers are American and they speak clearly, so although it’s 9 minutes long, it’s worth it from a comprehension, and mechanical engineering point of view.

Music

Different types of language…

Hello again,

So, why / did / I / choose/ this particular song?

1. It has lyrics which I can use to draw attention to vocabulary and pronunciation.

2. I can put it online without copyright problems.

2. It was made using 2000+ pieces of recycled paper and was filmed using an iphone4 and time-lapse photography editing, which I think is pretty cool.

3. It’s short and you’re all extremely busy, aren’t you? Although at the same time you want to improve your English, don’t you? (slight hint of irony there).

4. You might actually watch it,  listen to it and learn something new; this being the objective of the blog, after all.

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough /tʌf/ one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me.

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough /tʌf/one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me.

now I’m driftin‘,  but my heart /hɑː (r)t/ is sinkin‘, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart /hɑː (r)t/ is sinkin’ like a stone (x3) (UK).

Now I see land ahead, I see blue skies, these crashin’ waves they are wearin’ me down, and the water’s leavin’ salt /sɔːlt/ (UK) /sɔlt/ (US) in my eyes.

I am driftin’,  but my heart  is sinkin’, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart is sinkin’ like a stone (x3) (UK).

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me,

now I’m driftin’,  but my heart is sinkin’, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart is sinkin’ like a stone (x3).