Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Xmas

It's a great Dutch tradition that, come Christmas, all those people who served you in some way throughout the year get some kind of reward. Most of all, for instance, those who deliver your papers. Here it's cheaper to get them delivered than to buy them in the shop. In other countries, like England, it is the other way round.
It means that around Christmas time, all kinds of people turn up on the doorstep claiming to have delivered the paper all year. We haven't actually had a single local rag the last year (the free local newspapers in which the local council informs the population about building permits etc.), but we still get a visit from some kid claiming to deliver them. You have to be very cool to ring a doorbell claiming to deliver something that hasn't been seen in years.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Dutch English in danger...

People have always been amazed at just how well the Dutch speak English. Of course they'd always like to speak it better, and occasionally think they can. We can't have that, as English translators, can we? And we probably won't for much longer.
When people ask, I always explain the Dutch skills in the English-language as resulting from the fact that the Dutch watch a lot of television and all of it in the original language. That means a lot of British and American series on Dutch TV, all with subtitles. Even children are used to subtitling rather than dubbing, and this also contributes to their reading and writing skills.
But all that's about to change. In the last few weeks, the Disney Channel put in an appearance on the Dutch cable network and has taken the unparalleled and awful step of dubbing English-language children's programmes into Dutch. No more reading subtitles whereas in the past, even 6- to 8-year-olds had some English skills because they had been subjected to a diet of the Olsen twins and Batman.
So it'll be a great relief to English native speaking translators like me that the Dutch are about to see the quality of their English plummet.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


These days it's essential to keep the computer up to date. Some software sorts it all out on its own, some gets a little out of control - I want to change my mp3 tags about once a month,but always have to update the tagging software first. Don't get me wrong, it's a great package, but I just want to use it.
In the meantime, Microsoft makes sure Windows is up to date - along with some drivers - and the anti-virus does so too. But the rest gets left out.
It would be better if there was just one a package to keep track of all updates to drivers and software, and CNet has apparently seen the market value of such an approach. It's just a pity that their offerings fall lamentably short of providing a real solution. First I tried CNet Version Tracker Pro, but it kept offering to update my up-to-date drivers to older versions. Now I can try CNet TechTracker, but it even tries to downgrade my Avira Pro to an Avira Free. It also only allows me to own one PC. I do have more, at home and at work, like so many people. Looks like CNet wants a free ride. If you want to serve your audience and take advantage of their advertising income, you also have to do some work and actually check whether the drivers are up to date.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Okay, I admit it, I'm an expat. Torn from my native soil and thrust into the heart of the Dutch Metropolis (locally and weirdly known as the "Randstad").
I tore myself away from the UK - like so many other later Expats - because I couldn't settle and find a job. So now I am an Amsterdammer, but one with a few strange asides. I can't adjust to the lack of service in shops and - while appreciating the advantages of a different democratic system based on consensus - I also see its disadvantages.
Today there was an Expat Fair in Amsterdam. Realy quite a surprisingly pleasant affair. Okay, it was dominated by Real Estate, Insurance and Removals, but fortunately also had Australian football, American Ladies and BritSoc - alongide my favourite local source of information and delicious cheese from Ron Pieters at the Reypenaer.
The most surprising stall however was that of the Dutch Labour Party - the slightly left party of regents that has ruled Amsterdam for decades. Familiarity breeds contempt and the incestuous corruption that Britain is only now starting to discover among indolent social democrats has caused most of the problems Amsterdam now faces. I'm glad that opinion polls here now suggest the PvdA is in for an historic drubbing.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Circus Theatre

This morning my son had the opportunity to "space" Amsterdam's Royal Carré Theatre. He's going to do a circus show there in December with 20 other kids and several real live circus artistes. They were able to use the large round auditorium as a playground and rehearsal space, just for an hour or two. They'll be performing there on 9-11 December, and while they are there the Christmas Circus will be set up. There'll be horses in the stables under the stage and lions in cages behind. Scary when you emerge from the stage door late at night!
Scarier is the financial straits of many cultural initiatives for young people. Budgets are being cut and there is apparently only money for multicultural initiatives. Unfortunately this does not always ensure quality.
On a different tack - congratulations to the Dutch anti-vaccinators for winning the Meester Kackadorisprijs, a major prize for quackery.

Friday, 16 October 2009


The days are getting shorter and the weather less clement. The trees are still green, but with amber accents. It's time to get away, but there's just too much going on.
School is out, but the worries of seeing a school system groaning under the burden of too much to do for too little cash are not reassuring. Certainly not when you still have a son to go through secondary school. There aren't enough good schools.
I am glad to see a healthy development in England. At last there's growing awareness of the benefits of play and the dangers of a formal education too young. If you try and teach four year olds to read, some will manage, but even more will be put off school for life.
A great contribution to this debate by Ken Robinson.