When non-native speakers correct native speakers (happens all the time … in the Netherlands)

Forever ago, back in 1998, Joy Burrough-Boenisch wrote two articles about non-native English speakers, including Dutch people, ‘correcting’ (not always correctly) the English of native speakers. They were published in the newsletter of the Society for English-Native-Speaking Editors in the Netherlands and aren’t readily available online. But they were really worth rescuing, I thought, so (with Joy’s permission), I’m posting them here. Joy Burrough-Boenisch, incidentally, is the author of the book Righting English that’s gone Dutch, on typical mistakes in the written English of Dutch people, which is well worth a read. I’ve since done my own little survey on the topic of native speakers being ‘corrected’ by Cloggies and will write about that soon – well, one day, when I get a chance, as it goes. For editors, the topic will be infuriating; for linguists, it’s fascinating; and for anyone who’s ever lived in the Netherlands or, let’s face it, known a Dutch person, it’s both accurate and a laugh. So without further ado, and with apologies for the quality (as said, they had to be rescued …):

And the second article:


3 thoughts on “When non-native speakers correct native speakers (happens all the time … in the Netherlands)

  1. A very interesting article. Not too surprised that Dutch people do this. Overconfidence in our command of English is probably the biggest problem. We can be bigheads in general 😉
    I can imagine a L1 going crazy after having ‘lost’ a discussion with a L2 supervisor 😉

    The problem with my own command of English is that it’s such an enormous mix of English-English (as taught at school) and American-English which everyone get’s flooded by in books, tv, internet etc. Mixing up words and spelling is a complete hell. I’m probably doing it right here in this comment (the spellingcheck for Chrome is currently suggesting American or Australian English, but leaves out UK English). But since you’re Phd’ing on this thing you know by now haha.

    Another problem (I think..) is that we almost never get corrected by L1’s (L1 commanders?). It seems (assumption alarm!) L1’s are, most of the time, ‘fine’ with L2’s communicating in some form of English. I’d like to be corrected now and then since my English will not get any better otherwise, but obviously friends/contacts (L1’s or L2’s incl. non-Dutch L2’s) have other things to talk about then my command of English.

    As an L2 I cringe as soon as I see L1’s messing up where/we’re/were or there/they’re/their in writing (of course typing errors do occur, but messing up occurs a lot too), but I cringe even more when I catch myself on similar errors 🙂


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