Word Play

Anyone who has explored the Dutch world of English-language communications has been forced to laugh or cry at how the well-meaning Dutch mangle our beloved language.


Whether it’s a government ministry website, a company press release or an advert for Liptons’s tea (‘Tea can do dat’), the Dutch can display a singular ability to make a complete mess of it. The culprit on this occasion was a half-page advert in today’s nrc-next, in which Erasmus University proclaims its Corporate Communications course among the best in the world. Amidst a plethora of spelling and grammatical errors, this advert offered readers a ‘unique peek in the kitchen’ of leading US corporations. If you speak Dutch, you’ll know they mean a look behind the scenes, but if you’re not you may wonder why a budding communications expert would want to inspect American kitchens, unless they were looking to switch careers. And these are communications experts….
Then again, if you delve deeper and examine the original text, you’ll find that this is virtually always as bad as the translation. Perhaps the Dutch take the same pragmatic approach to language as they do to food. It doesn’t have to be any good; it just has to fill a space.