Tag Archives: English

Do not move you’re car!

Visiting Americans (and Britons) are often quite surprised by and jealous of the multilingualism of continental Europe. People in small European countries rightfully pride themselves on their language knowledge. When you can drive to the nearest border within minutes, it can be quite useful to know your tongues. There seems to be a loose rule – the smaller the country, the more languages people know. The most extreme example is perhaps that of Luxembourg, where in order to become a bus driver one must be fluent in 4 languages.

An unfortunate side effect of the proficiency in languages, is that some people become linguistically-arrogant, thinking they master a language (usually English) while they are far from perfect in it. The people most prone to this linguistic arrogance are the Dutch, who actually know English quite well, but not as well as they sometimes think. The result is called Dunglish. A professor greeting his class by saying “I hate you all very welcome” is funny, albeit awkward. An info plaque in a museum telling you about something that has happened “in the mean time” get you stuck for a couple of minutes wondering whether it was an evil or an average time. But a prime-minister proclaiming his people to be “a nation of undertakers” its downright embarrassing. Unless he’s Khrushchev in which case he’s creepy.

The devil is in the details. Sure, it (usually) doesn’t kill you when a signpost is misspelled. But when you’re organizing a major international event, like today’s Rotterdam Marathon, and you’re making an effort to communicate to the foreign visitors, why don’t you make the extra step and have all your communications checked by someone who is really-really good in English? Otherwise they will be stuck in your town long after the event, nailed to their place by the fear of becoming a motorized vehicle should they move.

Do not move you're car! sounds like a good name for a school-ground game. This sticker was placed on windscreens of cars parked along the route of the Rotterdam Marathon

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Filed under Small European things, Travel

Student lego

I have survived my first appearance in front of a class full of students. More than that, my first appearance hasn’t scared them all off! Most of them were there for the second round. My conclusions from this initial experience are twofold: 1) when teaching, you learn the most yourself and 2) never wear a black shirt when using chalk on a blackboard.

Also, I can add another feature of a small European country to the list – it sees its language being replaced by English. Even though the course is officially for Bachelor programme students, there are some Masters students from abroad. Since the official language of the Masters education is English, the course (including my part) is being given in English. While this definitely improves the English of the local students, the level of knowledge of their native language suffers. It’s not that they can’t get along in a supermarket or anything. But writing a technical report in their own language instead of in English is something modern students in a SEC just don’t do. So when they get their first job after university with a local firm, they have to learn writing in their own language!

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This week as I came to my work, I was welcomed by this student version of lego.


Filed under Small European things, Work