Monday, 14 May 2018 10:16

Medical writing workshop

Written by Marianne Orchard


Emma Goldsmith is travelling from Spain to give a workshop entitled 'EU regulatory medical writing and EMA templates: compliance and consistency' the day before the SENSE 2018 Conference. We caught up with her to find out more

‘I’m the sort of person who loves to follow rules,’ says Emma. ‘Give me a style guide and I’ll read it from cover to cover. Give me a deadline and I won’t be late. That explains why I feel so at home with EMA templates and the strict terminology, quick turnaround times and detailed guidance documents that go with them.’

If, like Emma, you love rules and are a translator who works with European languages, then this workshop is for you. You will learn about, or refresh your knowledge of, EU regulatory medical writing in general and EMA (European Medicines Agency) templates in particular.

‘My goal is to share my enthusiasm for EMA templates with workshop attendees,’ says Emma.

Emma is a Spanish to English translator who specializes in medicine. She has over 20 years’ experience translating clinical trial documentation, articles for publication in medical journals, and product information for EMA submissions. She trained and worked as a nurse before becoming a translator.

The workshop is on Friday 8 June from 14.00 to 17.30, the day before the SENSE 2018 conference. It will take place at the conference venue, Hotel Central in the Dutch city of ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Emma is travelling from Spain to give the workshop. Will she be attending the conference while she’s there?

‘Absolutely,’ she says. ’I’m particularly looking forward to the contrasting talks on well and poorly-written texts by Charles Frink and Valerie Matarese. I’ve also got my eye on the Saturday morning guided tour of 's-Hertogenbosch and I’m only sorry that my early Ryanair flight on Sunday afternoon means that I’ll miss the boat trip!’

Is this her first SENSE conference?

‘This will be the first SENSE conference I’ve attended and in fact the first time I set foot in the Netherlands. So I’m looking forward to it for many different reasons: meeting old friends, making new ones and getting to know a new country, language and culture, albeit in just 72 hours!’

So if you fancy following some rules and want to learn all about the not-so-wild world of regulatory medical writing, sign up for the workshop. (Don’t forget to log in first if you’re a SENSE member).

Monday, 07 May 2018 12:40

Unpaywall: free scholarly articles

Written by Claire Bacon

Unpaywall logoAs a scientific language editor, I often need to browse articles when editing. But without a university/institute subscription, getting free access to the literature can be tricky.

Although the number of open-access journals is increasing, many articles are still locked behind ‘paywalls’. This means that to read the full text of a particular article, you have to purchase it, or subscribe to the journal for a hefty fee. I doubt my clients will accept that add-on cost.

But free versions of paywalled articles are sometimes available, for example if the author has uploaded it elsewhere. Impactstory is a non-profit open-source, web-based service committed to making research data freely available to all. In April last year, they introduced Unpaywall, a web browser extension that can retrieve open-access articles immediately and automatically. For free.

Unpaywall can be installed into Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers. It takes seconds and you don’t even have to restart your computer. It works automatically, while you browse, so no need to insert the article’s DOI into a search box. And don’t worry: Unpaywall only retrieves articles from legal sources.

It’s pretty user friendly. A few seconds after finding an article, an Unpaywall symbol will appear at the side of your screen. If an open-access version of this article is available elsewhere, a green unlock symbol will appear. Clicking on this symbol allows you to read it for free. A grey lock symbol tells you that no open-access version was found. Unpaywall finds a free version at least 50% of the time, which makes life a little easier (and cheaper) for the self-employed language editor.

BaconClaire Bacon is an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and a research scientist turned editor who runs a business called Bacon Editing.

Sunday, 29 April 2018 07:34

GDPR for freelancers

Written by Sally Hill

GDPR1After seeing GDPR and AVG abbreviations popping up all over the place – in emails from Google, from the freelancers’ platform PZO, and on social media – and with 25 May fast approaching, and having missed SENSE’s January workshop on data privacy and information security, I thought I’d better take a look at what all the commotion was about. Read on to find out what I dug up and how it applies to freelancers.


What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation – or Algemene verordening gegevensbescherming (AVG) as it’s known here in the Netherlands – will soon come into force across the EU. It’s basically a privacy law that tightens up the rules on providing third parties with our data, so that we know what will be done with it and why before we give our willing consent. The new laws are relevant to both our professional and personal lives, as Marianne Orchard indicates in her review of John Yonce’s data privacy workshop: ‘professional because we must protect any personal data of others that we have access to and personal because we should protect our own data.’

For a perfect example of why such a regulation is needed, we need look no further than the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which the data of millions of Facebook users was handed over to a political consulting firm without those users’ knowledge or permission.

Of course, it’s easy to say, ‘Well what do you expect if you’re on Facebook?’ But even if you’re aware of their business model – ie, that the advertisers are the real clients and you are just the product – most Facebook users, myself included, have not been persuaded to delete their accounts. Naive it may be, but we assume that companies use our data respectfully and comply with what regulations are in place, for the simple reason that we can no longer do without the plethora of apps and websites at our fingertips.

After all, how else do we keep up with friends and families in other countries and with our kids’ online activities, not to mention our professional networks? How else do we comply with requests for information from our clients, agencies and business contacts? Whether moving house, writing a will, buying insurance, joining a professional association, enrolling at a new translation agency or using our clients’ complicated billing systems, we are continuously filling in our personal data online.

When will it be enforced and to whom does it apply?

The GDPR comes into effect on 25 May 2018 throughout the EU, from which point any large companies found to be in breach can expect large fines. Great news for consumers as it means greater protection of our personal data, including sensitive information such as religion, racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person’s sexual life or sexual orientation.

According to this website for small businesses, the GDPR applies to any business that processes the personal data of EU citizens. This includes customer, supplier, partner and employee personal data. In addition, companies processing data that have more than 250 employees, or for whom processing data is a core activity, must appoint a Data Protection Officer or DPO – someone up to date on data protection practices and the legal framework and who is responsible for ensuring that unambiguous consent is obtained from ‘data subjects’, i.e. EU consumers and citizens.

What do freelancers need to do about it?

Naturally, freelancers are way below the threshold of 250 employees. And another nugget of information I found on this website for startups is the following: ‘The Regulation only applies to personal data if it is processed wholly or partly by automated means or is part of a sophisticated hard copy filing system.’ Aha! – nothing to do with me as I’m not processing data.

But does this mean that I can ignore it entirely? I’m still in two minds. My gut feeling and pure logic says no: I have no automated mailing list for sending round emails to clients or business contacts. I have no form on my website for people to get in touch. The only personal data I have of clients that is not already publicly available is the data the tax office requires that I put on my invoices. Some clients ask me to address the invoice to their private address, and some clients’ business and home addresses are the same. Colleagues to whom I sometimes outsource work also give me personal data in their emails and invoices. But who is going to be bothered about me having that data on my computer? Surely I can’t run my business without it?

But on the other hand, regardless of whether or not the risk of a fine is minuscule, it’s no bad thing to think about what data on other people I have on my computer and how it is protected, right? I found more information on how freelancers can prepare for the GDPR on this website of a collective of freelancers in healthcare communications.

Is there anything in particular that editors, translators or copywriters should consider?

When I put this question to the SENSE members forum, several people confirmed my initial gut feeling that this does not apply to freelancers. But others are not so sure. What about personal information in medical, legal or HR-related files that we edit or translate? From my days as a medical translator I remember one particular agency that rarely took the trouble to remove personal information from the texts they sent me, which was clearly in breach of privacy legislation.

In this respect, it seems I need a privacy notice, available on demand or downloadable from my website. This is a public statement of how a company – whatever its size – applies data protection principles to processing data. And I assume this applies to personal data that clients and colleagues provide me by email. The privacy notice tells them what I’m going to do with any information they provide. Fair enough.

Fellow SENSE member and translator Robert Bradley recently had a privacy statement drawn up. He says:

To me, it's worth it, and I suspect it might be for quite a lot of translators: not so much because people might start demanding to see what data we have on file, but because we have clients who are subject to the stricter rules and who need to demonstrate compliance. That means that they need confirmation from their suppliers (that's you and me) that everything's sorted out. I'd rather not lose any clients over this.

Meanwhile, over on good old Facebook, a translator based in the Czech Repubic (or Czechia if you prefer) has set up a group called GDPR for Translators (you’ll need to log in first) which has plenty of discussions on the topic, plus resources and tips for both agencies and translators who want to make sure they are GDPR-compliant. There are questions and answers on topics such as deleting old emails and email addresses, cloud storage, websites and privacy statements.

So what is SENSE doing about the GDPR?

Sally Hill

Clearly, SENSE as an organization also needs to be on the case with regard to the personal data it collects from members. But more about this in a follow-up post!

Feel free to post your comments below or get in touch to share your experiences with the GDPR.

Sally Hill is an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and newsletter and a British biologist-turned-linguist who runs a business called Scientific Texts.

Sunday, 29 April 2018 06:50

Data Privacy workshop review

Written by Marianne Orchard

lockSometimes you come home from a workshop thinking how useful it was and how you’ll definitely do everything the trainer suggested… when you find the time.

Sometimes you dash straight to your PC.

The latter was certainly the case after John Yonce’s immensely useful Data Privacy and Information Security workshop. By the time the kids had surfaced on Sunday morning, I’d installed two new browsers, tried out a new non-spying search engine, looked at what my virus scanner did on the malware front, installed an ad blocker, reviewed my backup process and configured the password vault I’d recently started using. (And made a checklist of all of this and checked off each item as I completed it.)

Most of us at the workshop were attending because we’d heard about the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and this seemed like an easy way to find out what we needed to do. We were working as translators, copywriters, editors, subtitlers and interpreters.

John began by looking at the origins of privacy and how it has a cultural context: in some cultures you don’t talk about your salary, for instance, whereas in others it’s fine. The modern concept of privacy dates to 1890 Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Samuel D. Warren talking about ‘the right to be let alone.’

We then looked at current privacy laws in the Netherlands and Europe and the GDPR in particular. This was relevant to our professional and personal lives: professional because we must protect any personal data of others that we have access to and personal because we should protect our own data.

The next step was to look at possible threats to privacy and information, and measures to prevent these. This means virus scanners, firewalls, ad blockers, malware blockers, updates and so on.

It also means general awareness of what data you’re sharing with whom when you install an app, create an account or hand over a copy of your passport, and whether you want to share this data at all. And a whole lot more, because there’s a lot of bad eggs out there waiting to get their hands on your data.

SENSE workshops tend to be bastions of niceness with lots of tip sharing and empathising. This stood out against the skulduggery and menace of data theft. But perhaps skuldugs are also charming to each other at skulduggery workshops and travel home together on the train discussing words for sprinkles (chocolate vermicelli, nonpareil, hundreds and thousands…), why coriander is cilantro in US English and how they need crocheted bootees for their sofa legs because they keep stubbing their toes on them. Who knows?

MarianneOrchardMarianne Orchard is on the SENSE Executive Committee and an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and newsletter. She is a freelance translator (Dutch to English), editor and writer who specializes in creative texts.

Friday, 27 April 2018 06:06

New EC: recipe for a team

Written by Marianne Orchard

Shakshuka At the recent AGM, SENSE's Executive Committee (EC) installed three new members, myself included. For our first meeting in mid-April, we got together for a 'team building and website training day.'  For me, the standout moment of the day was an animated discussion on how to chop a pepper. It embodied what teamwork is and illustrated why the EC needs to work as a team and how this will benefit SENSE and its members,

I'm sceptical of 'team building.' Maybe it's because my husband has herded sheep and spent hours communing with horizontal rain on Solex tours (yes, more than one) of the polder in the name of team building.

Sheep and Solexes were unlikely, but would we have to do trust exercises?

Luckily not. After learning how to hoist the SENSE flag for events (no, SENSE didn’t become a paramilitary organization when the SENSE constitution was amended last year), a round of ‘tell us a bit about yourself’ and some strategy brainstorming, it was time for the team-building proper to begin. Time to start doing rather than talking.

Jenny, our acting chair, had chosen the benign ‘make lunch together’ as the activity.

Before we could make our lunch – a dish called Shakshuka – we needed to do the shopping. While three of us headed off to the Albert Heijn at the end of the road, the others started chopping onions, in anticipation of the arrival of the other ingredients.

Yay, we’d allocated tasks. We were working as a team already!

But niggles emerge when you work with others. Wasn’t that too much oil in the pan? Wasn’t the flame too high? Wouldn’t it be better to crack the eggs into bowls first?

As mother of a teen and a tween, I’m learning it’s often best to keep your big mouth shut. Or in the words of the great oracle Ronan Keating, ‘You say it best when you say nothing at all.’ I’d assumed this worked best for teams too. Just let people get on with their oil-dispensing, onion-chopping, egg-cracking madness. Things should work out in the end.

But that was before the pepper discussion. The pepper revelation. As two of the EC chopped peppers they noticed they were using different pepper-chopping strategies! And started discussing them. And wondering if the other strategy might work better.

This is what teamwork is. It’s alright to comment on how people do things. But you have to pitch it right. And if you’re on the receiving end you need to be open to doing things differently.

Will the pepper revelation be emblematic of this EC? Will we be the Order of the Capsicum?

Will we discuss how to do our tasks? Will we offer and be open to suggestions? Let’s hope that this constructive and gezellige day bodes well for the future.

Marianne Orchard is on the SENSE EC and writes and edits the SENSE blog and newsletter. She is a freelance translator (Dutch to English), editor and writer who specializes in creative texts.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018 11:27

Blog workshop: find your hook

Written by Marianne Orchard

The SENSE 2018 Conference is approaching fast and you may be curious about what's going to be on offer. We therefore caught up with Stephen Johnston, who is giving the pre-conference workshop entitled 'The impossible blog: How to write a readable blog from unreadable material.' It’s all about the hook, he says.

Stephen Johnston

Ever been asked to write an entertaining piece about EU legislation, a new pension plan or the latest innovation in grout? Then this workshop is for you.

Or perhaps you just want to learn how to turn drab into fab, sigh into wry, yawn into… prawn?

‘It’s all about looking at the source material and finding an interesting hook,’ says Stephen. ‘This will most likely end up being the title, intended to catch the reader’s eye. The hook then informs the rest of the blog.’

And what will participants take away from the workshop?

‘The ability to turn dry, overly-granular information into an interesting, easy-to-read blog,’ he says.

Stephen is a professional trainer, copywriter and journalist who works with multinational companies on projects such as websites, internal and external communication, white papers, marketing material, brochures, corporate journalism, speechwriting... and blogs.

The blog workshop is one of four pre-conference workshops. How does Stephen feel about giving the workshop?

‘Delighted. It will be a great way to warm up to the event with a fun, interactive (and hopefully skill-delivering) few hours.’

And is he attending the conference itself?

‘Yes! I have attended a lot of SENSE events, but this will be my first conference. I’m looking forward to the mix of speakers and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues.’

The SENSE 2018 conference is on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 June. But there’s also a range of pre-conference workshops and sightseeing activities. So even if you can’t make it to the conference itself, you can still join in.

The workshops will be held on Friday 8 June from 14:00 to 17:30 at Hotel Central in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the conference hotel. They are open to SENSE members and non-members alike. Various fees apply.

So if you want to find out why hooks are as important to writers as they are to shepherds or pirates, go to the registration page and sign up for Stephen’s workshop. (Don't forget to login first if you're a SENSE member.) But hurry because places are limited!

Thursday, 12 April 2018 15:11

Building an editing business

Written by Claire Bacon

businessThe more editors I meet, the more I realise that many of us fall into the profession by ‘accident’. I certainly did not set out to become an editor – my background is in neuroscience and human genetics and I thought I would wind up being a professor with my own research lab.

But three years after leaving research, I am the proud owner of an editing business that is doing pretty well and I love my work. Changing career path can be pretty daunting. Sometimes it helps to hear what people in the same boat have to say. In this article, I share what I have learned in the last three years.

Finding work

Starting out as a freelancer, the big question on my mind was: where will I find work? As a native English speaker working in a German lab, I had been editing papers for my colleagues for years so already had a handful of clients. But I didn’t have enough work lined up to pay the bills.

To ensure a reliable source of income, I joined an editing agency. They sent me regular assignments and although the editing rates were not great, I was gaining valuable experience, earning some money, and was free from the pressures of self-marketing. 

However, I realised that the client can learn a lot more from the editing process when he/she has direct contact with the editor. So after a while, I decided to take the leap, quit agency work, and invest time in building up my own business: Bacon Editing.

Online presence and content marketing

Most people search the Internet for products and services, so I created a website for Bacon Editing. At the SENSE Professional Development Day last September, Theresa Truax-Gischler talked about how to build your content marketing strategy around a hub-and-spokes model.

The spokes (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) can all be used to drive traffic to the hub (your business website). I began to use my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to share content and promote my business.

To enhance my marketing efforts, I started to write a blog. A good blog needs a defined niche and target audience. I edit pre-submission research papers for ESL scientists and clinicians and was coming across the same issues again and again with my clients’ writing. I decided that my blog posts would tackle these common problems.

Writing a blog has promoted my business. Sharing my articles on social media drives people to my website and connects me with other editors. It also gives me a reason to touch base with my existing clients; each month, I email them my blog articles and usually get a job or two in return.

Training and mentoring

Nobody is too talented to learn more. I have the necessary scientific expertise to understand my clients’ work but I was no grammar expert when I started editing.

To strengthen my profile as a language editor, I took an online editing course. Professional training is not essential for freelance editing, but most experienced editors strongly recommend it. The editing course was a good choice for me; it gave me the knowledge I needed to explain and justify my corrections to clients and motivated me to continue with more advanced courses.

One of the best ways to learn how to build a successful editing business is to talk to people who already have a successful editing business. Curtis Barrett took time out of his busy schedule at the SENSE Jubilee conference in 2015 to explain how he made a success of English Editing Solutions in just a few years.

One valuable piece of advice was to have confidence in your abilities as an editor and not compromise on your rates. Curtis encouraged me to quit agency work and go after clients who are willing to pay the fees I deserve, which was definitely a push in the right direction.

If you are very lucky, you will connect with someone who is prepared to invest considerable time in your success. I met Ragini Werner (owner of NEEDSer and former eSense editor) at the SENSE Jubilee conference and she has gone above and beyond to help me become a better editor and writer.

Ragini checked through several of my completed edits, encouraged me to write for eSense, gave feedback on my website, and provided invaluable support when I set up my blog. She also trusted me enough to leave her clients in my hands while she recovered from knee surgery earlier this year.

This mentor-mentee relationship has boosted my professional development and I am extremely thankful to have Ragini on hand to offer advice. That’s what networking can do for you.

It’s all about networking

We all know that networking is one of the best ways to find clients. That’s why we join societies, go to conferences, and participate in online forums. Sally Hill talked in depth about the hidden value of your personal network at the Professional Development Day last year.

‘Prepare a few choice phrases about who you are and what you do,’ Sally told me over lunch, ‘then you will be able to give a good answer when people ask about your work in social situations’.

This was excellent advice, particularly because I have most of these conversations in German (my second language). After Sally’s talk, I decided to explore my personal network a little more.

At the playground, I started to talk to other mums about my work instead of just teething problems and tantrums. I live in Heidelberg, one of the top research cities in Germany, and it occurred to me that some of the mothers building sandcastles and wiping snotty noses could be research scientists on maternity leave, or know people who work in research.

Sure enough, I gained two regular clients from chatting to mums. I also exploited my husband’s connections as a maxillofacial surgeon to get work (now he always attends conferences with a pile of my business cards). As Sally promised, capitalizing on my personal network was a great way to generate business.

A local professional network – people you can meet with face-to-face to discuss work-related issues – is also important, particularly if you work from home. I met some fellow language professionals at a networking event run by the Heidelberg International Professional Women’s Forum, and initiated an informal language meet-up.

Our small group now includes editors, translators, interpreters, and teachers and we meet up regularly for informal work-related discussions and to share our services.

The road to success

Starting a business from scratch may seem daunting at first. Hopefully, some of the tips outlined in this article will help you make the jump from beginner to successful entrepreneur.


Claire BaconClaire Bacon is an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and a research scientist turned editor who runs a business called Bacon Editing.

Friday, 19 May 2017 21:43

GUEST BLOG – Not English, not Dutch, but a language apart

Written by Rogier Willems


Marianne Orchard muses on the pernickety niggles of being coherent when speaking Dutch or English... or both at once 


There’s a wok restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet in the next village. The kids love it. It has sushi alongside stuffed eggs alongside huzarensalade alongside loempia’s alongside chicken nuggets alongside babi pangang alongside chips alongside soesjes alongside chocolate fondue alongside lychees alongside ice cream. It’s a Chinese restaurant that caters to Dutch tastes. It’s safe exotic without being too apart, as my mother-in-law would call it. So it’s a Dutch version of Chinese, which means that, in contrast to British Chinese, babi pangang is a standard part of the buffet. The main thing is that there is no meat-and-two-veggery and not a boerenkool in sight.

And I think this is a good light in which to see the version of English that often crops up in the Netherlands, which we native speakers like to laugh at, because it isn’t the English we speak.

Marianne Orchard sm workshop2

Marianne Orchard (2nd left) schmoozing with fellow SENSE members at a recent Social Media workshop. Besides writing the odd entry for her blog, Like A Sponge, Marianne runs  her business Orchard Text (translation/editing/copywriting) from her home in Leiden  
Exotic but not too apart

You know the kind of things; Albert Heijn’s now discontinued Euro Shopper line is a classic at them – ‘Puff pastry with meat filling’ for saucijzenbroodjes, when sausage rolls would be what the British native speaker would say; ‘Short cake biscuits’ for spritsen, when the British native speaker would say Viennese swirls (and the Austrian in turn would probably say something else); and ‘rusks’ for beschuit.

And there’s the insistence, HEMA is a particular offender, in using the term ‘Old Dutch’ when it doesn’t have any significance to native English speakers because we don’t know – and if we do know it’s a sign we’ve been living here too long – that it’s a literal translation of Oud Hollands and for a Dutch person invokes nostalgic images of when life was simpler, when we were less druk, when we wore newspaper trousers and clogs, and when we counted our blessings.

But these products aren’t aimed at the native speaker of English, so it’s none of our business whether it means anything to us because that’s not the point. It’s just like the Chinese restaurant isn’t aimed at Chinese people. It’s about giving a feeling of something being exotic but exotic within reason, exotic that we can understand.

It’s within these kaders that we should attempt to understand that old Dutch Eurovision entry, ‘Birds’ by Anouk. The whole time I was thinking ‘huh, I don’t get why she’s singing about birds falling from the roofs’, even if I disregarded the niggle that surely they can’t fall down the rooftops but should be falling from the rooftops. They could fall down the roofs but not down the rooftops, but that wouldn’t scan in the song.

Anouk birdThis was just a pernickety niggle compared with the bigger one of what’s going on with all those birds?  My husband solved that conundrum by saying in one of those voices that imply that what he is saying is obvious, ‘It’s a saying: vogels vallen dood van het dak. You say it if it’s really hot. Then it’s so hot that the vogels vallen dood van het dak.’

However, now I’ve looked up the lyrics to the song it still doesn’t make much sense to me. But maybe there are whole layers of meaning that a native speaker of Dutch would understand just as they would understand why you need stuffed eggs and huzarensalade with your sushi.

Exploding rookworst

wurst01We had rookworst recently. It wasn’t just any rookworst but an ambachtelijke rookworst. As an ambacht is a trade or craft, it would have been a pleasant surprise if Sir Ambachtelijke Rookworst of the Poiesz had been wearing a codpiece and carrying a gourd in true tradesperson fashion (in my anachronistic view of medieval fashion).

But let’s step away from talk of sausages and codpieces before it all degenerates into something unseemly and instead turn our attention to the word ambachtelijk. As I said already, ambachtelijk comes from ambacht, as in trade or craft. So it has the same meaning as the English artisan, as in an artisan bakery. However, it has reached a point in its evolution where if it is being used about rookworst sold in a supermarket we can be sure it doesn’t hold much meaning but is being used instead to convey an emotion.

Ambachtelijk can therefore signify a product that has been handmade by a skilled tradesperson. But it can equally signify one that has been carefully developed in an industrial process to resemble a product that has been made by hand by a skilled tradesperson. Or it can signify any old crap that the marketing department thinks will sell better with its addition.

Our ambachtelijke rookworst ended up looking less than ambachtelijk after it exploded in the pan because I forgot to prick it. Which is symbolic of the word ambachtelijk because it has become so full of meaning that it has exploded and now means nothing.

Words don’t come easy

kettle of fish 1 thumbI thought this post could do with some musical accompaniment from the 1980s. So here it is: Words by F.R. David. And, how apt, words not coming easily is the focus of this post. Because they don’t. Come easily. Words, that is. In conversation anyway. Writing is a different kettle of fish because it gives me time to think and revise and think and revise and leave things to stew for a bit. With conversations, though, I find that if I’m speaking English, Dutch words (and the occasional German word, but this is very rare) will jump in and try to clothe my thoughts – a bad metaphor perhaps because it makes it sound as if my thoughts are obscene when they’re probably not obscene enough.

It’s the same if I’m speaking Dutch, but this time it’s the English (and occasional German) words that are doing the decent thing. What I’ve concluded is that when I speak Dutch I’m pretending to be someone who speaks only Dutch and when I’m speaking English I’m pretending to be someone who speaks only English when really I’m someone who speaks both languages and needs both of them to come out with anything coherent.

So if we look at the process, a thought forms and it wants to be clothed in some words. Like in that sinister Amazon warehouse in the UK where the workers are treated like robots, the order arrives and the message goes out to the workers that some words need to be picked.

The system and drones in my brain, however, are a lot crapper than the Amazon system. So the order comes in and the workers scurry off without bothering to check whether the product needs to be in Dutch, English or, on rare occasions, German. They scramble and come up with anything in either language that looks like it might just do, often producing a word that doesn’t match the original request anyway. And this is OK if I’m talking to someone like me who functions in both languages, because I can then say things like, ‘Yeah it was the avondvierdaagse last week and it wasn’t too vreselijk and was actually quite gezellig but we’ve got a verjaardag this weekend and that’s going to be really doomy and all oh lekker kopje koffie-ish…’

Marianne OrchardSo we actually have our own language, which is neither Dutch nor English but both. And it’s a lot easier to speak than Dutch or English separately. I don’t know how polyglots do it.◄

Source: eSense 42 | 2016


Marianne Orchard lived for years in Appelscha on the edge of Nationaal Park Drents-Friese Wold, one of the biggest nature reserves in the Netherlands. Not so long ago she swapped rural village life for the wild westen delights of Leiden. These days she is zodanig ingeburgd that she takes her own potatoes along with her on family camping holidays yet she hasn't altogether given up her English roots. She still can’t drink tea without a wolkje melk
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