How to Confuse a Dutch Person

Confuse a Dutch Person

During the last couple of weeks I have noticed a great improvement in my Dutch language skills. I can now communicate better then I have been able to before. I became aware of this progression in my abilities because of one simple fact. I am now able to confuse a Dutch Person very easily when I speak to them in their own language.

The more confused they look during our conversation the better I am doing. This might sound odd at first but when you examine the science behind my theory it starts to make sense, let me explain. If the Dutch person in the conversation looks more confused ‘then me’ I consider it a success in cross language communication.

In my previous attempts to converse in Dutch I struggled to understand what was being said. The expression of confusion on my face during these conversational exchanges made me look like the village idiot who had just been asked a very complicated maths question by Albert Einstein. The Dutch person (who was having no such trouble) would usually take pity on my pained expression and switch to English effortlessly.

However, the balance of confusion has now shifted.

My Dutch language ability has improved to a level where I am able to understand what is being said to me. I no longer look like the village idiot on a bad day as I listen. I have successfully got past the first barrier of communication; understanding. I can even reply to their questions… sort of… sometimes.

The confusion starts when I reply using the little bit of Dutch that I know while filling in the gaps in my knowledge with English. I am not confused by this (because I know what I am trying to say) but the Dutch person I am talking to usually is. Switching between the two languages with out warning really keeps them on their toes, especially when talking with strangers.

Confuse a Dutch Person

One example of this happened recently when I tried to purchase a Cola from a girl behind the counter of the local garage shop:

Her: “Goedenavond.”
(“Good evening.”)

Me: “Goedenavond. Ik wil enn Cola alstublieft.”
(“Good evening. I would like a Cola please.”)

Her: “Anders nog iets?”
(“Anything else?”)

I always forget if this means, “anything else?” or, “was that all?” so I replied:

Me: “That’s all I wanted. Dank u.”
(“That’s all I wanted. Thank you.”)

Her: “Hu?…oh… That’s 1 Euro please.”

Me: (while handing her the money) “Alstublieft.”
(“If you please.”)

Her: (looking very confused) “Dank u… er… I mean thank you… er… wait… Are you English?”

Me: “Ya. Ik ben Engels. I’m just need to improve my Dutch. Ik probeer.”
(“Yes. I am English. I’m just need to improve my Dutch. I try.”)

Her: (still looking very confused) “Oh… ok… er… have a nice day?”

I think I broke her brain.

Sometimes I am tempted to throw in a third additional language to see how well they can keep up. Maybe I will start talking in a mix of Dutch, English and Japanese or communicating in clicks and whistles.

I later discovered that you can also confuse a Dutch Person by asking them to explain their own language. All you have to do is ask them the rules regarding the use of the words ‘de’ and ‘het’.

18 responses to “How to Confuse a Dutch Person”

  1. ChickyBabe says:

    Same thing happened to me in Italy. I wanted to improve my Italian and they insisted in speaking in English. I persevered in broken Italian until they made the switch.

  2. an englishman in osaka says:

    Congratulations on shifting the balance of confusion. Sadly, I am still at the ‘village idiot’ stage.

  3. Nicole says:

    I used to have a lot of conversations like that in Sweden (in a strange combination of Swedish and English obviously). It’s a lot of fun :)

    Once I start my Dutch classes (in a month or so), I can follow your fine example and start confusing the Dutch too. I can’t wait …

  4. sophie says:

    haaaahaha!!! I love this post Stuart! I’m with you, be hard with them!!!

  5. suus says:

    How cruel! I had an Australian co-worker who all of the sudden started talking Dutch to me, but I kept on talking English to him, which was probably a bit odd.

  6. BlondebutBright says:

    Welcome to the best part of speaking a little (and understanding a lot of) Dutch! Now just wait until you can break into long, complicated conversations with a comment in English – everyone will jump ten feet in the air and look at you in wonder. “But I thought you didn’t speak Dutch!?!” Speak, no. Understand, yes. ;)

  7. Invader Stu says:

    ChickyBabe – There is something fun about speaking in a broken language isn’t there.

    An englishman in osaka – but I think you have a language that is a lot harder to learn.

    Nicole – You should keep a score of how many you confuse once you get started… actually, I might start doing that as well :p

    Wezz6400 – It’s my revenge for the one who said I had a horrible accent when speaking Dutch.

    sophie – thanks :)

    suus – I’ve seen a lot of conversations like that.

    BlondebutBright – A few of my co-workers have already made the mistake of thinking I don’t understand anything they say. Mahahaha

  8. zed says:

    well done! i once bought some frites in maastricht, ordered in dutch, didn’t understand the reply when i paid (have you got anything smaller ?), apologised in french, they replied in english, i handed over the money and muttered something back in english and left saying ‘goodbye’ in german.

    i was more confused than them in the end.

  9. Ash says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that Dutch people don’t do very well if you are speaking English and intersperse Dutch words through your English speech. Or vice versa I suppose although English with Dutch words seems to confuse them more.

    Apparently our ability to be truly multilingual is dependent on the brain’s capacity to actively compartmentalise the two languages. Without that skill one can’t be truly fluent in any language other than the mother tongue. (Also why some people will never learn other languages.)

    I think this explains why a lot of Dutch people are fluent in more than one language, and also why they get confused when people mix languages.

    You should come chat with me, we kan gewoon Nederlands praten. ;P

  10. Maikl says:

    Well, on my trip to Italy i tried speaking Italian, when I had problems I spoke English. Italians almost understanded what I said.
    When I spoke Italian, then English and the still did not understanded, being irritated I started speaking German. It sometimes worked.
    When I spoke Italian, then English, then German and they still did not understand, I got irritated, and started talking to them in POLISH. No results…

  11. Invader Stu says:

    Zed – lol. You win the confusion technique contest :p

    Ash – Wat zegt je? :p

    Maikl – When at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again :p

  12. Dragon lady says:

    I remember when you couldn’t even speak English ( and I don’t mean when you were drunk) now your bi lingual

  13. Tess says:

    “keeps them on their toes” *LOL* 余りにおかしい…!

  14. Invader Stu says:

    Dragon lady – I’m bi lingual when I am drunk… just not in any language sober people talk.

    Tess – I could always use cocky rhyming slang. That would really confuse you I bet :p

  15. Tess says:

    Oh try me, you would be surprised… :9

  16. Ian says:

    Japanese is a really bad language to know.

    Waiter (French, Dutch, German, really doesn’t matter): blablabla

    Me: Hai. Er, er, oh bollocks.

    It’s a natural reaction. You say it in Japan to keep someone talking if you have a vague idea about what you just said. Over here, it gets some really bemused looks…

  17. Dykam says:

    I really like your blogpost’s… I like to see someone who can’t speak Dutch… Must be funny.

  18. I’m not really confused by that sort of things, and i’m Dutch! infact i do this a lot myself. mixing Dutch with English. Because i talk to english speaking people so much on the internet, i sometimes forget the Dutch words for stuff and replace them with English words!

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