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The Difference Between Languages, Dialects, And Accents Is Fascinating! (Or How To Say The Same Thing And Get Completely Different Reactions From Your Audience)
On Wednesday afternoon I decided my Creative Batteries needed a recharge so I went to see two very good friends of mine.  These two friends have made a few appearances on Inkyworld but I have never named them on here (mainly due to my policy of never naming or quoting any of my friends directly without their permission).

The couple are both a lot older than me - but they don't seem like it.

Alan Window is a retired member of the Australian Airforce (with an accent to go with it) and Viv, his wife, is originally from England.  They are both very entertaining people with a wide variety of stories about all sorts of subjects.

Never mind "Human Library Books" - Viv and Alan are Libraries or Encyclopedias on their own.

One of my discussions with Viv reminded me of a blog post which I was tempted to write a very long time ago on the subject of language and dialect.

You will probably know that there are certain words which your average Australian will pronounce completely differently - to the point of having a completely different word for it in some cases.  ("Flipflops" being one very memorable word - I get the idea that an Australian would process that as "thongs"???)

It got me thinking about other differences and similarities between different languages.

For example - when Stena Line used to have the safety announcements in the public areas on the ferries between Harwich and Hoek van Holland, they were broadcast in English, German, and Dutch.

I have to admit that the best way to send chills down my spine is to stand me anywhere where an announcement is played which starts with the words "Meinen Damen und Herren".  Those three words still carry a hint of an implied threat when I hear them in a deep voice - they used to scare the daylights out of me when I was little.

There is a kind of strange connection between English, Dutch, and German, as far as me and my parents are concerned.  All three of us learned those languages in slightly differing orders.

My Mum learned them as Dutch (obviously), German, English.

My Dad learned them as English (obviously), German, Dutch.  He worked in Germany before he worked in Holland.

I heard them as English and Dutch (sometimes simultaneously - and definitely in the same sentence more often than not - especially when my Mum was talking to me as I was growing up) followed by German.  The order they appear in as far as me getting any qualifications in them is concerned is - English, German, Dutch.  If I had had my way the German would have been ommitted and I would have learned Dutch at school instead.

I have blogged before on the similarities and differences between words in English and Dutch.  I may even have blogged about the similarities between the original lyrics of the Dutch national anthem and the German language.

I must admit to feeling slightly more comfortable listening to someone with a "musical" accent - Dutch, Glaswegian, Irish, Welsh, Yorkshire, Norfolk, etc, than a "flat" accent such as London, or RP (Recieved Pronunciation - or "Posh").  This is only because my ears are used to hearing someone's mood in their voice as they speak to me.  I suppose that is what comes of hearing a Dutch person as they repeatedly run through the entire spectrum of emotions in both English and Dutch over several years.  Trust me - you don't need to understand a word a Dutch person is saying in order to learn what mood they are in - they have a very distinct speech pattern for each mood.

I have written a bit about the differences between some words in both English and Dutch (even when the words are either pronounced the same or use the same letters in exactly the same order with a totally different pronumciation - or even when written and pronounced in exactly the same way).

There is a very famous author whose surname I can guarantee you will mispronounce when you read it.  Ready???

The author is Corrie ten Boom.

(This is an even better test than the "Scheveningen" test that the Dutch used to keep the Germans out during the Second World War.)

If you are an English-speaker you probably pronounced the third name as "boom" as in loud noise???  Wrong! It is pronounced to rhyme with "home".  (By the way - "Boom" is Dutch for tree.)

Put it this way - my Mum's Maiden name has been known to cause English-speakers a big headache - try to pronounce it for yourself - Hoogendoorn.

Of course there are some English words which have different meanings depending on which county, or even country, you are standing in.

To me (standard English) a "lid" is a covering for the top of a box or a jar.  To my friend Deb Maher (a Liverpudlian) a "lid" is a friend.  To any of my Dutch friends or relatives a "lid" is a member of a group.

To me (standard English) "drop" is to allow or cause something to fall from your hand, etc.  To my Dutch friends and relatives "drop" is licorice (a particularly salty version too).

It is funny how languages can be so different.

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