These past couple of weeks my students have been taking exams and that means that I had to do a bunch of grading. Grading can be quite a tedious task, but not when you find the creative solutions an linguistic oddities I encountered during this round. Many of my students are not good at English. Some of them are quite dreadful, but even if they are quite proficient, the occasional mistake is easily made. The reason: using their Dutch brains. Sometimes it goes right and sometimes it goes wrong. Here are some examples of what you get when you mix Dutch and English, in other words: Dunglish.
Now some of the mistakes you’re about to see are caused by bad grammar, others by spelling or a confusion of words. I will try to give the Dutch sentence for each of them and also give the correct English translation if possible, because of some of these I sort of get the gist, but not exactly. Hope that Dutchies learning English can learn something from this, but I’m hoping this may also be useful the other way round.
1. “Now we have to sell a no to our customers”.
Dutch: Nu moeten we nee verkopen aan onze klanten. English: Now we have to give our customers no as an answer.
This is a classic example of idiomatic expression gone bad. When learning a language, it’s best to leave the idiomatic expressions for what they are and not use them at all. These expressions can hardly ever be translated one on one. If you want to read more of these, I can recommend the book “I always get my sin” by Maarten Rijkens.
2. “The problems that confront us…”
Dutch: De problemen die zich voordoen… English: The problems that occur…
Here there is a case of mistranslation. This usually happens when people misuse the dictionary and simply pick the first word they see when looking something up. Different contexts, however, can create different meanings and so you will need a different word.
3. “Lastly, I would like to generate an obligation concern this problem.”
Dutch: Als laatste wil ik u wijzen op uw verplichtingen met betrekking tot dit probleem. English: Lastly, I would like to stress your obligations concerning this problem.
This sentence has multiple problems: concern should be a gerund (with -ing) and on top of that there is a mistake in referring to the problem, as well as a mistranslation.
4. “A few roses became to could during the way to us.”
Dutch: Een paar rozen zijn te koud geworden op weg naar ons. English: A few roses became too cold during shipment.
This is mainly a spelling problem (to = too and could = cold) combined with a nice expression gone wrong.
5. “We will not let fall our cooperation.”
Dutch: We willen onze samenwerking niet laten vallen. English: We wish not to end our cooperation, or: We would like to continue our cooperation.
In this sentence I would like to point out ‘will’. In Dutch, willen, means English want. Now in letter writing, want is deemed not that polite so students have to use would like or wish to make it more polite. Obviously, English also has will, but that means zullen, which indicates future or a promise or intend.
6. “We had to dissapointed our constumers who placed orders.”
Dutch: We moesten onze klanten die bestellingen geplaatst hadden teleurstellen. English: We had to disappoint our customers who placed orders.
Here it’s first of all spelling + grammar in dissapointed. After ‘to’ you usually get an infinitive in English, not past tense and there is something that’s doubled in disappointed, but it’s the p, rather than the s. The real interesting and, dare I say, creative mistake here is of course the word: constumers. Often times, people think they know a word, while they actually don’t. I have this all the time. Not too long ago I mixed up the expressions I am in need of and I have a need for. Pfff the differences are just so small!
7. “We also think that it will be proper if we get the money from this order back.”
Dutch: Wij vinden ook dat het netjes is als we het geld voor deze bestelling terugkrijgen. English: We also think it is appropriate if we get the money back on this order.
There are again several things going on here. Proper vs. appropriate is a mistake easily made, either by finding the wrong word in the dictionary or because someone remembered the wrong thing. The second part of the sentence shows a common word order mistake. In Dutch you often place verbs at the end of subclauses, where as in English you do not.
8. “We recommend that you should introduce an abolish membership.”
Dutch: ??? English: ???
This is one sentence I cannot translate. Here someone obviously misunderstood the phrase abolish membership and interpreted as a certain type of membership. Now abolish (Dutch: afschaffen) cannot be used in this way, so you cannot introduce an abolish membership. There is simply no such thing.
9. “There is seeing in The Netherlands a increase of impulsive humans.”
Dutch: Er kan een toename van impulsieve mensen waargenomen worden in Nederland. English: An increase can be seen in impulsivity in people.
Again, this sentence is a mixture of problems. First there is the problem of the ‘There is’ construction. About a year ago, I wrote a post about There is/ There are constructions in Dutch and English, so the explanation for this mistake can be found here. I also love the phrase: impulsive humans. Again, a result of mistranslation.
10. “It’s the first cut back and the worriest one.”
Dutch: Het is de eerste terugslag en de ergste. English: It’s the first throw-back and the worst one.
Last but not least, we have another case of: ‘I sort of know what that word was, but not quite’. Especially worriest is confusing to me. Still, if you look at English grammar it might be explicable. Obviously whoever wrote this confused bad-worse-worst with the word worry, which according to the rule of comparison would become worry-worrier-worriest. Unfortunately worry cannot be used in comparisons in this way as it’s a verb, but when turned into an adjective you would get: worry -> worried, more worried, most worried. Almost there!
What do (or: did) you find difficult when learning a language?