Tuesday, 28 September 2010

K is for...


Being Dutch means that English is my second language. Which can sometimes mean I get into trouble for something I said or misunderstood. Like kid gloves. For years I thought they were either made for children (kids) or from children (gruesome). Until I found out that baby goats are also called kids! What a relief. Although not for the baby goats I presume.

Some other mistakes I made over the years: Well, I can get you cheese crackers, or even plain crackers. Don't know about the Christmas crackers though. (I now know they are tube-like shapes with goodies inside that are pulled at Christmas. Nothing to do with edible crackers)

After the crackers: well, he spoke Chinese. My boss then replied to me: he didn't speak Chinese, he was Welsh! You should have said Double Dutch! (As if, I do have my pride...)

While speaking of a man: he's got a nice breast. Of course I meant to say chest, but since the word in Dutch is the same for both English words...

Question: do you have any wellies? My answer: you tell me what they are, I tell you whether we have them. (the answer was no by the way, we did not have any rubber boots)

And of course my favourite when I just started out working at reception and was taught how to use their computer. Me: What's to alter mean? My boss: to change. Me: what's to amend mean? My boss: change. Could they make it any harder?

So, what's your biggest mistake as an 'English as your second language' English speaker?

For more K-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Photo taken in Parc des Felins in France, May 2010


  1. Oh, those are hilarious but totally understandable mistakes, Mara.
    Even though English is my first (and almost only) language, I remember asking similar questions when I was little. My dad loved teaching us words, however, and how to spell them, and what they meant. English grammar was my best subject in school, thanks to my dad. I might have enjoyed becoming a grammarian, but a printer/editor is almost as unbearable to have around, as my old friends can tell you.
    I understand a bit about the Welshman, too, because my Davies grandparents spoke with Scottish accents all their lives.
    My youngest brother (although English was the first language he spoke) learned spelling and grammar in Spanish before he learned them in English. His first three years of schooling were completely in Spanish, and his next four were Snowbird years.
    "Snowbirds" are older Canadians who spend their winters in warm climates. My parents chose Mexico, and took their last-minute baby with them. Robbie went to school in Canada in September and October, Roberto spent six months in school in Mexico, then Robbie returned to Canada for May and June.
    If he left notes for Mom, Dad, or big sister Kay, we had to apply a knowledge of Spanish pronunciation to what he considered messages in English. What fun we had.
    "English spelling doesn't make sense," he said, and we agreed, no, it doesn't.
    A successful artist and businessman in Canada now with a family of his own, Rob has his two children in French Immersion school.
    Plus, my brother Clint's wife was born... guess where... in the Netherlands!!
    So my family knows all about English as a second language, in a manner of speaking. LOL
    Great choice for the letter "K", Mara, and I love your attitude. You didn't give up. I don't blame some people for giving up on English, because it is full of contradictions, contractions and actions that can drive ESL students to inaction.
    -- K

  2. That is funny... since my first and only language is English. I sometime wonder how people learn English because there are so many words that are spelled the same, but pronounced differently, with totally different meanings. Examples: read, read, lead, lead, etc. Then there are the words pronounced the same but spelled different. example, read, red, way, weigh, etc.

    My granddaughter has a kid living with them for a short while, because, the mother goat died. So the family is taking care of the kid goat. The kids, meaning my grandchildren are having a ball with the kid goat. LOL... Are you as confused as I am?

  3. Well, English is my first language but I still get caught in some of our idioms. And "double dutch" to me is a form of skipping rope! lol Have a great week! :D

  4. Free is a trap for Germans. It sounds a lot like frei, which can be used in the sense of not used/not taken. It's a mistake I have made a few times in theatres for example although I did know that it was wrong.
    I've tripped over accents and dialects more often than over single words, though. On my first trip to London (still in school, with five years of English under my belt), the first person I asked something spoke Cockney. I knew he was speaking English, but I couldn't understand anything. He took pity on me, though, and changed to a more understandable accent. Reading Trainspotting was an equally confusing experience.
    These days, I'm actually able to spot and recognize different accents/dialects and I enjoy it very much.

    You said that you may take a detour to Walsrode. It gives you the chance to see many rare birds and I did enjoy my visit, but many of their aviaries could do with a serious overhaul, especially the parrots and birds of prey. Since you live in the Netherlands, I would highly recommend a visit to Burgers Zoo - it's the best zoo I've seen. Bring a lot of time and patience, though, many animals are freeroaming. I have a series of posts about it if you are interested.

  5. I do sympathise - even those of us with English as a first language get confused! And I don't always understand people with strong Glasgow or Newcastle accents, though different accents are interesting. I am so grateful that people like yourself, Mara, take the trouble to write so beautifully in English. My Dutch is non-existent!

  6. Oh, my! Gloves made from children! A great and enlightening post. It's always interesting to see things from other's perspectives.


  7. Wonderful and fun post.
    I have always spoken English and have enough trouble speaking it correctly.

  8. I too have a lot of trouble with english eventhough in my homecountry, it was considered as our second language.But I guess it doesn't really matter, as long as we understood each other, who cares with the spelling! :)

  9. 'Kid gloves' love it!

    As a native to England I still have trouble understanding Welsh people sometimes. Can imagine how difficult it can be if English isn't your first language.

    My husband is American and even though we both speak the same language there are still nuances. He didn't know what wellies were either nor cardigans.

  10. Native speaker, but have trouble with UK, NZ, Australian English sometimes.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  11. Even American english varies from state to state or area of America. We have words for soda here: coke, pop, soda- all are the same thing. Some people say couch, some say sofa. I like to throw in Brisiths English to mess people up (and yiddish-lol)

    Kid gloves- I just assumed it mean to treat whatever you were holding like you'd treat a child, since we only use that term when saying "handle it with kids gloves"

    fun post!

  12. You are funny.... I got a great chuckle from your post, and not having English for you first language... Clever post.

  13. How easy it is to get confused. I can't think of anything to add to your list. I enjoyed it, it was funny.

  14. Oh, so funny! English is my first language - actually my only unless you count a rather long stint of studying Latin. :) And I've made my share of sillies anyway!

  15. Oh, what fun post for K!!! I (still) make many mistakes, my friends noticed my difficulties with pronounciation when I was 17 and went to the US. More than 30 years later, they still ask me to go "chopping" (shopping) with them. It's a label I will never get rid of! Cheers!
    K is for...

  16. I have no clue how anyone figures it all out when they're learning English as a 2nd language. ABC Wednesday is one place I try to write in proper English so those who are translating won't get confused by my words.

  17. Many English speakers have trouble with many expressions as in "cutting the mustard" instead of "the muster," and so on. Also, there are so many words in this language that mean the same thing or almost the same thing as in your alter and amend example.

  18. Once I met some English people when I was in Africa and we came to talk about the delicious English cakes and scones and what have you. And I said: "I always grow a lot when I am in Great Britain". Looking quite puzzled, the lady said: "Grow a lot? Ooooohhh, you mean: put on a lot of weight!"

  19. English is my first language, but American is my second. Things have changed a little since I first came over, but words like spanner, lift, match as opposed to game,lorry and how to pronounce words like aluminum gave me some headaches and I still, after fifty years, occasionally run into other odd ones.


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!