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Toch twee keer goud voor Ireen!

Apetrots zijn we op “onze” gouden Olympische helden, Sven, Ireen, Stefan, Michel en Jorien. We zijn heel benieuwd wat de laatste Olympische week ons nog aan medaillegeluk gaat brengen. De sportieve prestaties zijn uiteraard het allerbelangrijkste, maar als taaltrainingsinstituut zijn we natuurlijk ook heel benieuwd hoe de sporters zich presenteren in het Engels. Onze trainer, Jo van Aken, bekeek filmpjes van Sven Kramer en Ireen Wüst en schreef een kort juryrapport.

Sven Kramer

On listening to this the first time, he sounded very fluent with a distinctive American twang of an accent. Sven speaks with confidence which ultimately compensates for the mistakes that are made, making them more difficult to detect. Some of his pronunciation is unclear and at times it is difficult to decipher exactly what he is saying but in context, listeners can fill in the gaps for themselves. Sven makes small errors typical to native Dutch speakers, such as with word order and with prepositions, which are indeed a nightmare for anyone learning English. At the beginning this was apparent when he was talking about his father and said ‘everyday working on his job’, but again the speed at which he delivered this did not impede any understanding and sounded very natural for him. At one point it sounded as if he said ‘making process’ as opposed to ‘progress’ but on listening to this several times it was still tricky to hear exactly what he said. Other mistakes that were apparent were the omission of the ‘s’ in the third person on several occasions and a very common mistake of saying ’the season of the Olympics’ rather than the ‘Olympic Season’.

Sven is a prime example that when speaking with confidence, people can bridge the gaps themselves – yes there were errors here and there, but nothing to the point where you think ‘what on earth is he talking about?’. When speaking, grammar isn’t the be all and end all. In fact, he came across as very passionate about his sport with a very valiant attempt at speaking English.

Ireen Wüst

Ireen displayed a very thick Dutch accent from the very beginning of the short clip and this carried on throughout for example ‘make long shtrides’. However, she spoke slowly and clearly and made a very good narration of her performance using appropriate tenses. She made better use of adverbs than Sven – for example she said ‘skate well’ as opposed to ‘doing good’ which is a very common mistake. Irene used a good range of vocabulary fluently and accurately and her intonation was more natural sounding. Again she came across as very confident and was able to really tell her story to the audience. She used a good range of natural sounding expressions and there were less examples of her translating sentences literally from Dutch to English. Her grammar was also to a good standard. On occasion there were mistakes with prepositions but only very minor faults. Every now and again she displays an American twang and has the tendency of having an upwards inflection towards the end – similar to Australian English.

On the whole, Ireen was easier to listen to, although her Dutch accent was more pronounced than Sven, she sounded more natural and her pronunciation was clear – you could hear every word. Sven had a tendency to talk faster therefore, at times, it was tricky to understand everything.

Most notably with both athletes was that they delivered their stories with confidence. It is a very good lesson to learn and they set good examples to other learners of English. If you have confidence when speaking English, it does not always matter if you make errors, the fact that you can explain yourself in a way that is understandable is often more important than being able to deliver things with 100% accuracy. It would be interesting to hear any of the English athletes attempting to speak Dutch!

Jo van Aken
Jo is trainer Zakelijk Engels bij Language Partners. Ze heeft in verschillende landen in Europa gewerkt en woont sinds 2010 in Nederland, waar ze trainingen Engels en communicatievaardigheden geeft.

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