Occasionally an old friend of mine asks me to translate some portions of his correspondence with his Asian business partners into proper English. Of course the native English speakers of you will agree when I say that I’m not the first person one comes up with when it comes to translating large amounts of text into English. But as my friend and his business partners are not that good in English as I am, I think I do a pretty good job. (Again you see that it always depends on the perspective if you want to measure the quality of your skills.)
This said I have a smooth opening for this articles topic.
It was the same friend who asked me at his last visit to my place why I have mainly English books on the shelf, rather than Dutch. I told him that I have two main reasons for this:
- As a writer myself (some people like readers and journalist call me that) I have a different look at the Dutch market when it comes to book publishing. New writers don’t get the chance they need on the Dutch market because the publishers want to make sure that the books they produce are selling. The best way to achieve this is just to publish translations of books that are already successful in other countries. The result is that the market consists a huge amount of translated titles.
In fact I would take away a tiny bit of a chance for a Dutch writer to get published by buying one of this translations. If everybody would buy the original, the publishing companies in the Netherlands would just change into import businesses without any publish related work on their own. Just a small amount of them would survive.
This may sound very idealistic but in my opinion this is better than mourning and doing nothing to change the situation.
- Much more important is that I’m eager to learn the English language. As I learned the Dutch language by reading a lot and brought it in the end to a nearly native level, I know that reading in the language you want to learn is paramount.
The English lessons I had at school never went any further than the absolute basics. The result was that if I of any of my class mates went to England, the people there would understand us but we wouldn’t understand what they were talking about. I don’t blame our Russian English teacher who wasn’t as good in the English language as an English teacher is supposed to be. She just was part of a weird system that let us waste our time with learning nothing from somebody who had no experience at all and has never been there where the language is spoken.
Practice is very important. You shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes while you practice (no matter what you want to learn) as it’s important to make them. You learn more from your mistakes than from the things that you are doing right. This is logical as thinks you already can do you don’t have to practice anymore.
The biggest blooper I have ever made whilst learning the Dutch language was by mistake congratulate someone with the dead of her spouse instead of expressing my deepest sympathy for the loss. Of course this are the mistakes we al want to avoid. But they shouldn’t stop you from practicing. Just think on my blooper once you have doubts, it can’t get worse I think.
Have a nice day!