Why do Dutch and Scandinavians speak English so well?
First of all, subtitled foreign films are a minorty pursuit in the UK but are a mainstream form of entertainment in Scandanavia.
Secondly, watching movies in a foreign language with subtitles in your native tongue helps develop your skills in the spoken language IF YOU ALREADY HAVE A FAIR SMATTERING. My German improved immensely by watching DVDs in the German language.
Of course, if you have no knowledge of the dialogue then it will just wash over you, like me with French or Japanese.
Watching subtitled movies and sitcoms is great for language learning. Here in Slovenia, almost everyone speaks English (thanks to Hollywood) and almost all youngsters speak Spanish (because of 10 weekly Mexican soap operas which are shown with subtitles)...
It's true that we very rarely - in fact, hardly ever - have subtitled films in UK cinemas except perhaps in the equally few and far between cinemas which specifically feature foreign films. They rarely appear on our TV screens here either, but that isn't particularly surprising is it?
This is a native born English speaking island for heaven's sake - often mocked for being "insular" (bloody hell - isn't that what happens when you live on a small "island" which occasionally emits notes? It's only natural!*) - and we can't be arsed with films that require the extra effort of reading Anglo Saxon text at the bottom of the screen in order to understand what's being spoken in an incomprehensible babble*. It affects our concentration!
The last time I saw a subtitled film was in a cinema in Amsterdam showing Keira Knightley in the UK film "Atonement" - but subtitling an English Language film in the Netherlands may well be considered a pointless exercise by and large as at least 95% of the audiences there are able to follow English dialogue anyway! The Dutch are excellent linguists for obvious reasons. Many speak or understand German but much prefer to speak English.
*Tongue in cheek.....
Hello, I'm Dutch. I've had English class since the 5th grade. Now I'm in the 9th grade, and my English classes are getting more advanced and difficult. Now we have to read books written by English and American writers, such as Harry Potter in English, or The Secret! At middle and high school they actully teach you to speak, write and understand English better than actual 'native english speakers'. At school slang(youth/street English) isn't allowed, and you've to learn all the grammar rules. But that isn't the only reason why Dutch people can speak English so well. Almost all the games, movies and other entertaining things are English. We also get french and german classes at school. These classes are less advanced than the English classes, but they are very effective too!
>>At middle and high school they actully teach you to speak, write and understand English better than actual 'native english speakers'. At school slang(youth/street English) isn't allowed, and you've to learn all the grammar rules.<<
What exactly do you mean by that, as that by itself seems to imply that you are only taught literary and formal spoken English rather than, say, standard colloquial* NAE or southeastern English English?
* No, that is not a contradiction in terms; most NAE dialects actually differ little with respect to syntax and, aside from strong verb forms, morphology, yet at the same time they differ greatly in practice from literary English or even formal spoken English.
-What exactly do you mean by that, as that by itself seems to imply that you are only taught literary and formal spoken English rather than, say, standard colloquial* NAE or southeastern English English? -
Yup, they teach you things like SO DO I instead of ME TOO, or BETTER THAN I instead of BETTER THAN ME which is considered ''substandard''...
Paradoxally, 99% of students would end up saying ''Me too'' instead of ''You too'' answering simple ''Nice to meet you'' ...
<<and you've to learn all the grammar rules>>
Hoi, aangenaam and nice to meet you. I'm not being picky, and please neem me niet kwalijk maar when you are using the 'have' + 'to' (=must) it doesn't normally get contracted. Just a friendly caution, it would normaal be heard as "and you have to learn all the grammar rules"
btw, I LOVE the Dutch language
The Dutch people must be applauded for their multi-lingual abilities.
But why are they so unwilling to share their own tongue? I had a go at learning some Dutch but found it very difficult to find Dutch people who were happy to practice with me....they would just start speaking English. That makes it very difficult for an outsider to learn and progess.
In stark contrast, I always found Germans reacted positively to being addressed in their own language and more than willing to have a conversation with me in German.
>> In stark contrast, I always found Germans reacted positively to being addressed in their own language and more than willing to have a conversation with me in German.
I don't see there should necessarily be any truth about that Germans speak English well. I see the same point of you. Germans start speaking German very quickly to me, when I always end up engaging them in German as soon as I start with German... and I have to give up, sort of, when they speak too quickly after a few dialogs. Then they will ask me whether I'm better at English. Many Germans I meet start with German first, not English.
But in "stark" contrast, I'm the poor Chinese in a country where no one except the Chinese speak my language, so I ALWAYS start with German, or English when I fail at German, or even French to my French acquaintances when I want to make things clearer to them - since they don't know both German and English very well. So, I guess, speaking Chinese is again different from speaking English/Dutch/German to its native speakers. If you do, then first you might be judged, and the interlocutor might, 99% of the chance, start with English, until you show that your Chinese is FAR superior to his/her English (or whatnot). Otherwise, considering the global linguistic reality, any Chinese whose linguistic ability is high enough would always NOT start with Chinese. In short, we all know, unfortunately, most of you wouldn't know it anyway... Happy am I to hear Chinese from a "foreigner" - at a level comparable to the English that non-native speakers in Europe.
So, in my own experience as a Chinese, assuming that people know the linguistic reality, it follows that, for strangers and acquaintances (all adults) alike:
- Anglophones: apparently most of them know English only, or, I'm quite sure that they're best at English, so they always start with English, since they can't assume anything of me. They may think they have to cope with my limited English, and they adapt to my level very quickly - speaking more slowly, and using simpler words.
- Mandarin speakers: I can keep on chatting with them even at full native speed, or slightly below it, though I often have slips of the tongue here and there. Again, the talk can be in simple language like English above.
- German speakers: they always start with German unless you show yourself in English first, and it's more difficult to see them switch to English, if you don't do it actively. It's less often that they use simpler words, and, maybe it's my problem, they often go on without myself understanding anything at all.. strangers tend to assume no German from me, unless again I start with German. But it's actually worse to start with German as an intermediate, since they will again ignore your level and speak like a machine gun...
Also, I find that strangers often judge me by my own look, so they won't speak to me as actively as they do to other German-looking people - that is, real Germans or any other people with a European look. It may save me from receiving useless leaflets... but I often feel some hostility among some teenage boys and even some men. Once I was in a supermarket and a moron (30 years old?) said some garbage I couldn't understand (it's German), but certainly hostile. I couldn't understand anyway, so I didn't look back. Finally, I said a few phrases to the cashier (numbers, you know, the price), and he man was silent - maybe by then he knew I actually knew German, and dared not to say even more garbage.
In fact, back in my own country, people do distribute leaflets, most of the time, do ignore foreign-looking people. Japanese and Koreans are least-foreign looking, but as soon as they discover they don't speak anything like Chinese, they ignore them too. I'm not a non-Chinese, so I can't tell, but foreigners could have the same problems I experience in Germany - and I mean the hostility.
>>German-looking people - that is, real Germans or any other people with a European look<<
What do you mean by that?
To put it another way, I feel that, just because of my complexions, people assume I'm not German and won't speak to me, unless I speak (German). One day I was with my French acquaintances, and people did give them leaflets, and since, you know, they are just acquaintances, so I wasn't walking very close to them. So the people assumed they might be German, and I, certainly not. The French didn't speak at all. Then I asked the French guy about this, and he nodded - "yep, I think so."
I worry that people are mixing up correlation and causation as far as subtitles and dubbing are concerned. Germany for instance used to get more subtitled English media, but their English competency wasn't really up to that level, so people preferred dubbing. Common sense says subtitles must be helpful, but I'm not at all sure we know the extent of the link or even which way it works.
"Yup, they teach you things like SO DO I instead of ME TOO, or BETTER THAN I instead of BETTER THAN ME which is considered ''substandard''... "
Ah, English as she ain't spoke.
you think dutch is gutteral, try old english, when english was german!!
Scandinavians don't speak that good, last night on the Eurosong contest, Danish singer pronounced EASY as [i:si], this is not acceptable pronunciation. Do they have a speech defect that prevents them from pronouncing voiced consonants? They'd better get a sound therapist.