Dunglish thoughts

Since I’m awfully busy and trapped ‘behind’ my computer, I’d like to share some Dunglish with you.

Some Dutch companies refer to their company in English as a “she”. There is a historical reason for calling a boat a “she” (long story), but it doesn’t apply to a company. Companies are female in Dutch, but not in English. The following bits were all taken from the same text:

– Company XYZ does her own R & D.
– She has an experienced sales department.
– Company XYZ strives to keep her customers satisfied.

Another thought, this time about the Dutch media:

Dutch television often subtitles the Flemish or Limburgers, but often leaves English without subtitles, especially advertising. Sometimes, even French and German is left alone. That’s odd.

Back to work I go.

5 Responses to “Dunglish thoughts”

  1. Larry says:

    Actually, there’s an additional problem in that companies are not feminine in Dutch. Well, firma and maatschappij are, but most of the time we’re dealing with bedrijf, which is neuter. Neuter nouns use the masculine possessive pronoun zijn, but at some point some people decided this was somehow unfair and now haar is overused (‘verharing’), leading to nonsense such as:
    Het bedrijf en haar medewerkers
    instead of
    Het bedrijf en zijn medewerkers

    They used to have subtitles for English-language music on TV, featuring some hilariously square translations.

  2. Natashka says:

    Thanks for your excellent explanation! Enjoy this site full of hilarious subtitling mistakes: http://www.barthokriek.nl/instinkers.html

  3. Serge says:

    Interesting point, emphasizing being “behind” your computer. Having lived in the US for over 20 years and speaking English fluently and without the slightest accent, I still make that mistake! The proper English is to say you’re sitting “in front of” something, like the TV. It’s a hard habit to break.

  4. Larry says:

    Who are these subtitlers who appear to have no feel for the language they are translating out of (it’s as if they never read books in the source language or travel to countries where it is spoken) or even the language they are translating into? I have an urge to hunt them down and beat them with a remote control.

  5. Natashka says:

    Subtitling for the Netherlands is often done very quickly, considering the amount that has to be done. There will be even more once the law changes to accommodate the deaf, which is about time. Idiom remains the biggest challenge. I see many American shows poorly subtitled because the translator knows nothing of North America. I also see American concepts very well translated into Dutch. Numbers gets screwed up all the time. The problem remains that Dutch natives are the ones translating into English instead of English natives or near-natives, resulting in… Dunglish.

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