Strong Accent

Lately I have become very aware of the accent I use when speaking Dutch. There is nothing wrong with the accent itself. It is very clear, strong and well articulated. As accents go it is a very good accent. If I had to give it a score between 1 and 10 it would be at least an 9, maybe an 9.5.

However, if I was forced to make one criticism it would be that it is entirely the wrong accent of the language I am attempting to speak. For some bizarre reason I have fallen into the habit of speaking Dutch with a very strong English accent.

You might think that this sounds perfectly logical considering the fact that I am and always have been English (it says so in my passport). However, it is not ‘my’ English accent that I am using. Speaking Dutch somehow amplifies my English-ness and brings out my inner upper-class posh gentleman. I don’t consider myself that posh in normal life but the moment I start speaking Dutch with a Dutchman it’s as if I am channelling the spirit of Oscar Wilde.

When buying stroopwafels at the local super market it sounds like I’m on an official trade mission on behalf of Queen Elizabeth herself. Basically, I speak Dutch like a 1950’s BBC radio news reader.

How I manage to mix the refined sounds of English high society and the harsh hacking guttural sounds of the Dutch language is quite beyond even me but at this rate it is only a matter of time before I start using phrases like ‘pip pip’ and ‘good show old chap’ in Dutch.

I am not even sure when or why I started doing this. Maybe it is out of some apologetic politeness towards the person who’s language I am butchering or maybe it is old imperial colonization instincts that are telling me, speak posh enough and you will be understood.

Either way it leads to a lot of unsurprised Dutch faces when I use phrases like, “Ik kom uit England.”

32 responses to “Strong Accent”

  1. Dragonlady says:

    Don’t worry Stu, its what the English call your “telephone voice”Whenever an English person talks to a stranger on the phone they put on a posh voice.

  2. Anita says:

    Petje af, hoor ! At least you are making an effort.

  3. Priscilla says:

    Well, the spirit of Oscar WildE will come haunting you after spelling his name without an ‘e’. ;-)

    And trust me on this one: you will always have an English accent. Just the other day I was chatting with a lady on the train and asked her from what part of England she was from. She lived here for 25 years. ;-)

    I think you’re doing a good job trying and very happy you don’t speak ‘plat Nederlands’.

    Capital, capital!!

  4. Invader Stu says:

    Anita – Thank you :)

    Dragonlady – I had not thought of that. I think you are right.

    Priscilla – Eep. Hopefully I have appeased his spirit by correcting the mistake. Thanks for spotting that.

    Is plat Nederlands anything like chav English?

  5. Jimbo says:

    I got accused of sounding welsh after 6 months in Hereford once. Once.

  6. Amanda says:

    You’re not alone. I’ve been told that I speak Dutch with a French accent. Pretty strange since I don’t speak French.

    The “telephone voice” makes sense.

  7. Invader Stu says:

    Amanda – Are you sure you are not French? Did you check?

    Jimbo – Once? Did you kill them so they never could again?

    Dave2 – You’re Batman?! I love your work.

  8. Dave2 says:

    Deep down, you don’t want people to forget that you’re English. Just like deep down I don’t want people to forget that I’m Batman, which is why I speak Dutch with a Batman accent.

  9. French Bean says:

    You, sir, clearly have nothing to declare except your wit. And your English accent. :-P

    I never had the French think that I was an American based on my accent. They could tell that I was a foreigner…just not an English-speaking one.

  10. Andrew says:

    I did a similar thing. I think it was partly out of a desire to avoid their disappointment, this way they’re less surprised when the inevitable switch to English happened!

  11. Invader Stu says:

    French Bean – Were you trying to hide that you are American? :p

    Andrew – Good point. It could be a subconscious cry for help. “Please switch to English.”

  12. Keith says:

    I know the problem. Whenever I go into a shop in France and ask for “quatre croissants et une baguette de pain” or something in my bestest French, the usual reply is “Certainly sir, and do you require anything else?” in perfect English; better than my French! How the hell can they tell I’m English?

  13. French Bean says:

    Me? Sound ‘Merican? Naw, man, whaevuh gave ya THAT ideer? :-P

  14. Yvette says:

    Interesting. I just moved to Amsterdam 2 days ago so certainly too early to figure out what sort of accent I will or will not have (happy I got “dank u wel” down pat at this stage sort of thing), but I AM fluent in Hungarian which is another obscure small country language. And yep, I have an accent- I’ve never thought about what sort because there it’s just plain weird to have one, period, as people just get confused by the accent existing alone. So enough outside people try to learn Dutch that there are accents then?

  15. Bart says:

    As a native of Flanders, I can tell you that all Dutch people have an accent

    Goed optreden, oude vent

  16. Bart says:

    @Keith: if a French person suspects you’re not from his very own region, they’ll start in English. They annoyed us all the time during our summer holidays, starting in bad English while French is my second language and English my third. I’d much prefer it if they just spoke their own language (or dialect).

  17. VallyP says:

    LOL Stu, I’ve always thought of you as being very slightly, very nicely and very pleasantly posh….so maybe it is your inner spirit emerging on the Dutch channel, so to speak!

  18. Invader Stu says:

    Keith – Are you asking them in French for puzzle parts :p

    French Bean – Hhhmmm. I guess I was mistaken. You’re not American at all :p

    Yvette – I heard a French/Dutch accent for the first time yesterday so yes, there are a lot of different accents used in Dutch here. Welcome to Amsterdam.

    Bart – A Dutch accent?

    VallyP – I’m a posh person trapped in a South East Londoner’s body :p

  19. Anneke says:

    ^_^ Maybe it’s compensation? :P I’ve been taught RP English, resulting in British people thinking I went to public school, play polo and went to Oxbridge. Nice, however, I’m not quite so rich/posh. :P

  20. Yorrick says:

    Don’t worry Stu every person living in the Netherlands speaks with an accent, except for the people from Friesland… they have a speech problem. :-)

  21. Invader Stu says:

    Anneke – So you don’t want to play a game of Polo then? (What’s RP English?)

    Yorrick – My wife is half Frisian sir. I challenge you to pistols at dawn :p

  22. Anneke says:

    Received Pronunciation, aka BBC of the Queen’s English. :D Officially taught in schools and in my case university. I love the way it all sounds, however, like I said, it somehow makes me a badguy/posh bird in the eyes of some people.

  23. Yorrick says:

    Challenge accepted. Will de Prinsentuin or the Oldehoofsterkerkhof suit you? :))

  24. Alison says:

    I’ve no idea what my accent sounds like when I’m speaking Dutch, although based on the ever-so-slight smirk on the face of our waitress yesterday, I suspect I may speak with an idiot accent.

  25. Fatemah says:

    Hello Stu,

    I am currently looking to emigrate to the land of cheese and clogs myself to live with my Dutch boyfriend, and have been searching for jobs in the Netherlands, and being an avid gamer myself (although I am looking to work in Marketing), the search terms “expat jobs gaming” resulted in my coming across the article about you in the telegraph and eventually, this blog. Do you have any advice for an English graduate searching for jobs abroad? Sadly my degree is also in the extremely useful subject of Literature and its only redeeming feature is that it’s an Oxbridge degree, and I have been struggling to find companies that do support expats – bar typing large company names into google and checking their careers section for the Netherlands, I’ve been at mostly a loss as most of the recruitment agencies have been quite useless (as am I, not speaking Dutch).

    And yes, love the blog, really gives me an insight into what I may be getting myself in for! Brilliant stuff!

  26. Fatemah says:

    And yes, on a night in Zwolle when speaking English to ladies in the toilets I found myself a sudden semi-incarnation of Elizabeth Regina herself… and obviously the mass delight of Dutchies proclaiming, “You are from England!!!” simply spurred me further in my impersonation of a Radio 4 newsreader.

  27. Dragonlady says:

    AS soon as the hotel manager on our holiday opened his mouth we both said “He’s Dutch” So yes even the Dutch have an accent.

  28. Invader Stu says:

    Anneke – It’s funny how the BBC accent is always associated with bad guys. When ever they want someone to do some temp evil guy voice acting in the office they grab me or one of the other English expats.

    Yorrick- See you there :P

    Alison – You too? I think I do the posh idiot.

    Fatemah – I’ll send you an email :)

    Dragonlady – I knew it.

  29. French Bean says:

    Just noticed the two French-related comments.

    @Keith: next time, just ask for “une baguette” and drop off “de pain.” And “croissant,” while being a deceptively simple word, can be a dead giveaway is it is not pronounced in a 100% French accent. The way anglophones have a sing-song intonation also does not aid when speaking as French can be quite monotone.

    @Bart: It happens, dude.

  30. suus says:

    Yeah Keith. Drop the pain. It hurts.

    –Couldn’t help it

  31. Windmiltales says:

    Hehe wonder what accent I have when I speak Dutch my English I have been told I have received pronunciation!!
    Here in Brabant it is whether you speak with the zachte g Ever seen the vid?

  32. Laura says:

    Stu, I love your blog.

    There are so many different accents around, and for some reason most people are actually quite bad at identifying them. I myself have a rather preppy accent (which is odd because I’m the only one in the family with that accent), yet people think I come from Rotterdam (not even close).

    Anneke, I thought for just a moment that you are one of my fellow students, but it turns out that you’re not. I’ve been taught RP as well (though we could opt for General American as well). People actually think I’m from London, and Americans seem to be really fond of the RP accent.

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