“Krom Engels” ain’t so bad

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

“It’s time to face the truth and stop this strange English”, wrote Rik Smits, a Dutch linguist and publicist, in last week’s Volkskrant. English in the Netherlands is “onverstaanbaar Dutchglish”, he says, and Dutch universities would better serve foreign students with good Dutch rather than cruddy English. What Smits doesn’t mention is the worldwide trend of students consciously opting for countries where English is not the native but a strong second language (the Philippines for south-east Asians, or Holland for other Europeans). This is due not just to cheaper tuition fees than in the UK and US, as Smits claims, but also to an English variety that is easier than in, say, Birmingham or Baltimore. Indeed, the English used here is not native – but perhaps this should be embraced as a draw card in its own right.

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