Native speakers


The Rough Translation podcast is a very fine podcast, and last weeks episode is about a topic dear to me: the offensive concept of native speakers. Heather Hansen and myself will defend the assertion there is no such thing. Ranking certain accents or dialects above others in terms of correctness or by any other criterium is repressive and abject. People who employ the use of a language are speakers of it, and however the use it and sounds like is what that language is. Leave the teachers out of it, let’s focus on communicating! A great example in the podcast is a bunch of expats in Sweden speaking English, and as soon as a native speaker walks in the quality of communication drops. Right! American English is just like, your dialect, man! Native speakers are sometimes, perhaps often, hindered by being native speakers.

I always though it was a pity that Afrikaans is considered a different language from Dutch. While it has diverged significantly, it is not more remote than some of the Flemish local dialects. You sometimes can’t even watch people speaking Antwerpens without subtitles on national Dutch TV, which is hilariously offensive and unnecessary! People should be forced to be used to a little more bandwidth than whatever is considered default. The region where Dutch is spoken is small enough as it is.