Guestblog – Going Dutch: typical errors made by Dutch speakers in English

Nederlandse taal op de werkvloer

Elycio Talen beschikt over zo’n 250 trainers die taal- en cultuurtraining geven aan een breed scala van bedrijven en instellingen. Al onze trainers zijn native speakers en kennen de zakelijke cultuur van binnenuit. Ze zijn gespecialiseerd in specifieke sectoren als financiën, marketing of techniek. In een serie blogs geven we u een kijkje in de keuken van een aantal van onze taaltrainers. Deze keer Alma Bonger, taaltrainer Engels bij Elycio Talen.

English exposure from birth

Growing up in the Netherlands means you’ve probably had some exposure to the English language, whether it was formally taught to you at school or informally transmitted through television and other media outlets. This clearly gives you an advantage against other non-native English speakers. As a disadvantage, it is highly likely that you’ve also managed to fossilize a number of errors in your English syntax (sentence formation), pronunciation, grammar use or vocabulary choice. This not entirely your fault, of course. In fact, English and Dutch have more in common than you think.

How Dutch is your English?

English and Dutch, together with German, are all part of the Germanic language tree, meaning they share certain aspects of the language but also differ greatly from one another. And even though it has been proven that the Dutch can manage just fine using steenkolenengels, it might be less desirable when running the risk of miscommunicating with native English speakers, impairing your professionality at the workplace and, ultimately, being taken less seriously by others.
This article will highlight a few common errors typically made my Dutch speakers to help you sharpen your knowledge and use of the English language at home and abroad.

I am born in the Netherlands and I live here already 10 years

This is almost a literal translation from Dutch. Firstly, the event of your birth is in the past so we need to use the simple past tense: I was born in the Netherlands. Secondly, when referring to a time frame which started in the past, is still true in the present and is likely to continue into the future, we need to use the present perfect continuous tense: I have been living here for 10 years. The use of ‘already’ in this case is unnecessary.

For how long are you living in Amsterdam?

Much like the previous example, this sentence concerns a period of time which appears to be active in the present and possible continuing into the future (clue: how long). When asking questions about duration, we should use the present perfect continuous: How long have you been living in Amsterdam? The preposition ‘for’ is redundant (unnecessary) so it’s best to avoid it.

I am working in Amsterdam since two years

This is a series of typical errors that many Dutch speakers are guilty of making. In this case, the sentence refers to a job which you started two years ago. It is unclear whether the event will continue into the future, or whether it might have recently ended, however the focus on time is ‘so far’ or ‘until now’.  Firstly, we could use the present perfect continuous tense: I have been working in Amsterdam for two years (and I still work here) or the present perfect tense: I have worked in Amsterdam for two years (and I plan to move soon). Secondly, you could mention the specific time when you started your job: I have worked in Amsterdam since 2017.

 Remember: ‘for’ is used before a period of time while ‘since’ refers to a specific point in time.

Door Alma Bonger – Taaltrainer Engels bij Elycio Talen

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