Dutch English: Tolerable, taboo, or about time too?

Published in English Today, Vol. 26, No. 1 (March 2010). Printed in the United Kingdom © 2010 Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/S0266078409990563

On keeping versus ‘correcting’ Dutch flavour in English texts

As early as 1992, Cox and Furlong indicated that some already considered English a national language in the Netherlands given how widely it was understood. Likewise, McArthur announced at a 1993 conference in Amsterdam, ‘English is now simply one of your languages, along with Dutch and Frisian.’ Against this backdrop and the increasing momentum of notions of World Englishes, it is no longer far-fetched to consider seriously the proposition of Dutch English emerging as a legitimate variety of the world’s lingua franca. That such varieties have emerged in ESL or ‘outer circle’ countries such as India, Nigeria and Singapore is now well established. More controversial is the idea that so, too, could they emerge from traditionally EFL countries once relegated to Kachru’s (1982) ‘norm dependent’ expanding circle (such as the Netherlands and Scandinavia), which are now seen as transitioning – or indeed having already transitioned – to the ‘norm-developing’ realm of ESL. This paper first briefly examines the position and use of English in the Netherlands. It pays particular attention to the Dutch university setting, based on the notion that it is people who are highly competent in English and who use it daily in their professional and private lives that represent the most likely case for new variety development (Mollin, 2006; Jenkins, 2009; Mauranen, 2006). It identifies various potential features of Dutch English. And finally, it reports on a study examining attitudes towards the potentially emergent variety among English-language professionals in the Dutch university environment.

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2 thoughts on “Dutch English: Tolerable, taboo, or about time too?

  1. If that is the “English” that was used by some of my professors of English at the University of Amsterdam in the 1960 and early 1970s, I fear for both languages. In addition, I make a fair amount of money translating and interpreting between both languages, so there are enough Dutch whose English is not up to speed. In my experience many Dutch-speakers only think they know English. I also fear that many users of Dutchified English use that “language” because they (mistakenly) believe that English is sooo much more sophisticated than Dutch. Which is NOT true.

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    • Hi Benno,
      Thanks for your comment. One the one hand, I agree; I too would be out of a job if there were no ‘need’ for editing or translating into English! On the other hand, there are also plenty of Dutch people who work in English every day and who are highly competent, communicatively successful and creative with the language. They are at one of the spectrum, and it is particularly these people I am interested in; but of course, there are also those who use English much less frequently and confidently…

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