Different Donderdag: English

There’s a newish bartender at the Potdeksel these days. He’s very charming and friendly, and despite having a very Dutch name, he has a very English accent. If I didn’t know he was Dutch, I would have thought he was from England.

It’s not unusual for Dutch people to have a touch of an English/British accent when they speak English, because they are often taught “British” English rather than “American” English. However, with the numerous American films and television programs available to them, their accent becomes fairly neutral, other than any residual Dutch accent. I should point out that movies and television programs are almost never dubbed into Dutch here; they simply have Dutch subtitles.

Last week, while complementing Ruud on his excellent English, we found out that English is his major course of study at university. It turns out — and this is something I find fascinating — that when you choose English as a major here, you can also choose whether to have a British or American emphasis. Now I’m curious if they do something similar with other languages, especially those that have some differences depending on which part of the world they’re spoken. For example, if someone is studying Spanish, do they have the choice to learn the version spoken in Spain or the version spoken in the Americas?

Regardless, I think it’s an interesting approach to take when teaching a foreign language, perhaps especially when it’s such a widely used language. I’m curious if this is fairly universal in Europe these days or if it’s a Dutch/Utrecht thing.

Dutch Twang

The title sounds quite naughty, doesn’t it. But get your minds out of the gutter — they’ll drown from all this rain — I’m talking about accents, particularly when singing bluegrass music. Friday night we went to the Potdeksel, as we’re wont to do. When we got there, I remembered that it was Utrecht’s night for the PopRonde, a country-wide music festival taking place at different dates in different cities. The Potdeksel was one of the bars and caf├ęs in town with performances taking place, in this case, a show by Eve’s Apples.

I had heard a bit of their music on the PopRonde website and thought they sounded interesting, but didn’t really give it much more thought as I was trying to get a piece written about the festival for Trippist. When Friday night rolled around, all I really remembered was that they were a country/folk group. We were sitting outside when they actually took the stage — it was getting quite warm and stuffy inside — and were pleasantly surprised by what we heard. At one point, Giovanni was joking that they should do a version of Jolene, the classic Dolly Parton song. The next song they performed? Jolene. Couldn’t ask for better timing!

So, the twang part. If you listen to them, you might be surprised by how decent a job they do at getting the country/bluegrass twang into their voices, despite being Dutch. It was always slightly strange to hear them speak between songs, because you’d get used to hearing these traditional Southern folk songs and then suddenly they’d be speaking Dutch. Makes you want to start rubbing at your ears to make sure you’re hearing things right!