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Is our English that great or are the English too polite to tell us that we make mistakes. Differences in what the English say and what they mean.

maart 03, 2014

Our English, especially in and around Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Utrecht, is definitely not bad compared to the English speakers in other European countries.

Still we do make mistakes and yes, the English are too polite to tell us.

Even when an Englishman will comment on your English there is still the chance that you don’t realize that he tells you that you make a mistake. Normally because  he will correct you in a way more indirect then the Dutch would do. This indirectness is what you see in many phrases the British use. Most of the time we just don’t understand what the English want to tell us.

Check out the following phrases:

What the British say                        What the British mean                                                What the Dutch understand

I hear what you say                               I disagree and don’t want to discuss it                              He accepts my point of view

I almost agree                                         I don’t agree at all                                                                He almost agrees

With the greatest respect….                 I think you are totally wrong                                              He is listening to me

That’s not bad                                        That’s good/great                                                                 That’s just okay, not that great

I would suggest                                      This is a (polite) order, just listen and do it                      Think about what I say, but do as you                                                                                                                                                                                     see fit

Oh, by the way/incidentally                The primary purpose of our discussion is….                      This is not that important

Very interesting                                     I don’t agree/ I don’t believe you                                       They are impressed, they think it is very                                                                                                                                                                              interesting what I have to say

I was a bit disappointed                        I was most upset and cross with you                                 It doesn’t really matter that much

I’ll bear it in mind                                  I will do nothing about it                                                      They will keep it in mind, they may do it

Please think about that some more    It’s a bad idea, we won’t do it                                              It’s a good idea; keep on developing it

I am sure it was my fault                     It is absolutely your fault                                                     It was his fault, he admits it

That’s an original idea                           You must be crazy                                                                They like my original ideas


You see that it is not that difficult to get misunderstandings when people interpret phrases that different. So be aware of the indirectness of the English and check what they really mean!

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