How come Dutch people are so good at languages?

Easterner   Monday, October 18, 2004, 20:29 GMT
People always speak "with an accent", it is only that some accents are more privileged than others. I think you cannot be expected to speak the accent of a native speaker who grew up speaking it from early childhood. Of course your accent should always aprroximate that of a native speaker, but given the variation of accents among native English speakers themselves, a slight Russian, Bosnian, Dutch/Flemish, Spanish etc. accent can really do you no harm as long as you are fluent enough and aware of correct usage.

As far as Belgium is concerned, as I know interpreters are nearly always needed if Flemish and French participants are together at a meeting. I have even heard of a train accident which happened because the Flemish railway employee did not understand the French one, so he failed to redirect it to another track, which caused a collision with another train (the train had the misfortune of driving across the language barrier). I think this is very absurd given it is one country (though there are also some others where such a situation may be possible). And all this near the very headquarters of the EU! Quite a coup de grace to the notion of unity in diversity!
Easterner   Monday, October 18, 2004, 20:35 GMT
>>They say Frisian is even closer to English than Dutch.<<

That's what I have heard, too. I have also checked out Omrop Fryslan, but unfortunately the audio materials were not available (at least I couldn't download them). But judging from the written variety of Frisian, it seems to be equally close to Dutch, English and Danish, therefore, as it were, a link between the three.
Joe   Monday, October 18, 2004, 20:37 GMT
LOL That's exactly what I thought when I read Mathijs's post, a typical example of the everlasting Flemish-Dutch rivalry.

The stuff you say Mathijs, you have to be kidding around. You both speak the same language, no matter if you call it Nederlands or Vlaams. It's the equivalent of the British English and American English, except we don't have anywhere quite as charged a rivarly. ;-)

And as much as I know, there's a lot of controversy over the trilingual society in Belgium. The Flemish want to speak their language, the Walloons theirs, and the Germans theirs. All are protected, but each kind of refuses to speak the others.
Sergey   Monday, October 18, 2004, 20:54 GMT
> As far as Belgium is concerned, as I know interpreters are nearly always needed if Flemish and French participants are together at a meeting.

Another interesting thing I noticed in Belgium is that Francophone and Flemish people, especially those with higher education, sometimes communicate in English with each other. Not all of them, but I have seen them do it many times.
Sergey   Monday, October 18, 2004, 21:02 GMT
And the last thing about languages in Belgium. :-) Practically all _national_ scientific conferences and cogresses are held in English. I haven't seen a single one in French or Dutch, and I attend more or less all of them in my field of research.
Natalia   Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 03:36 GMT
To Mathijs.
You message remembered me about relationship between Swedish and Finish people. Their languages are not in close relation, but Finland for a long time belonged to Sweden and now they are very strict competitors. They laugh each other and their jokes used to be not so simple. When one Swish man saw the picture card of computer turning on to the microscope in the study room of Helsinki Uni he exclaim, "Wow! Computer! Finish has a computer!". I think the deal between residents of Belgium and the Netherlands is not in bad accent only, it is much deeper . In my opinion Holland accent is close to German. But, I like most of all when Finish speaks in English. Why? They speak not so fast : -))) as other and I can catch their speech.
By the way, most of people speak in fluent English in Sweden and Finland like in the Netherlands , excepting too little kids and old, old persons and some foreign persons (for instance, from my country Russia).
allthesheep   Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 13:48 GMT
i speak flemish which is the same as dutch.
afrikaans is a variant of dutch .
dutch is also spoken in suriname and the dutch antilles .
the dutch don't speak french. but they speak english and german because these languages are brotherlanguages of the dutchlanguage .the flemish understand also french because the south of belgium speaks french.
they don't learn the foreign languages because of a better schoolsystem but because of foreign tv programs and movies . the movies aren't dubbed in the dutch language but subtitled in dutch .and spoken in their original english german french or whatever language
Sanja   Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 14:45 GMT
As I said before, the fact that foreign movies are subtitled in the Netherlands can't be the reason why they are so good at English. All the foreign programs have always been subtitled in my country too for a long time and people still don't speak foreign languages. No matter how much TV can help you improve your English, you still can't learnt it without a serious and systematic studying.
Sanja   Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 14:46 GMT
Oops sorry, I meant "learn it", not "learnt it".
Mathijs Standaert   Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 16:45 GMT
I guess you didn't understand me ... Dutch and Flemish people do speak the same language. But there are some phonetical differences ;) . Flemish people don't pronounce the G with a scrapping sound like the Dutch do. Our R is different too. ( By the way, West-Flemish or sometimes called Zeeuws (Zeelandic) is not far from becoming a minority-language ) :p I hope I cleared up some confussions . you can always mail to if you have any questions ( Keep in mind that we're in different time-zones)
mathijs standaert   Tuesday, October 19, 2004, 16:54 GMT
I guess you are right about those Dutch-Flemish discussions.They're kinda silly , don't you think, I just love our Dutch language so much, in particually the many dialects ( Both Flemish and Dutch)... When it comes to LEARNING languages both Dutch and Flemish people can handle it very well. When it comes to pronouncing it properly , I think flemish people are slightly ( just slightly ) better at it.
Hilma   Wednesday, October 20, 2004, 07:07 GMT
Hi! I live in The Netherlands and I most say that we use the bike much more than the car. Everyone has a bike here. I'm just 13 so i'm sorry if the spelling not correct is. But we learn englisch on school, and French and the German language also. I'm surprised that you (Maya l'abeille) liked the landscape of us. I always thought that we didn't had a interesting landscape. And I think Dutch is an difficult language, sometimes even I have problems with it.