English for Dummies, pt 1 – You’re Speaking my Language?

You probably noticed when reading this series, I am not a native English language speaker, I am from Holland (The Netherlands). I guess you understand what I write, but there is a very good chance, native English speakers sometimes giggle or need to “read again” to understand what I am saying.

For this blog I don’t care so much, it is volunteer work I do for my friends at Sisulizer. If they have issues about my grammar or sentence structure, they can hire someone to clean it up 😉

For our own software, I sell on the web… The US/UK/English market is something like 50% of total sales. These people find my website on Google, what if they get annoyed or confused by the very first sentence of the web page they land on? What if they install my software and the opening window has a ridiculous spelling error? Yor Spaking Ma Langauge?

Uninstall, no customer.

Just for Laughs, some really bad translations (Chinese <-> English). Were they using Google Translate? What if they are selling software “on-the-web”, will they sell much?
Once on Dutch television, a Dutch horse breeder said he f*cks horses (in Dutch, breeding is called fok or fokking – it sounds the same in Dutch, so it must mean the same in English).

Do you make such Mistakes??!?!?!?? Even if you *think* your English is fine, just maybe you need someone to check your software and helpfiles….

Non English Software Shops

Most software in the world is produced by companies outside the US and UK. We all want to sell to America, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand… (I probably forgot a few).

The English language is quite common as a 2nd language: a lot of people, like me, can order a hamburger while on holiday in America without major problems (perhaps a bit of indigestion).

Is that the impression you want to make to the largest customer population in the world? I am a tourist who wrote some software? Are you sure your “English” software is understandable for your potential customers?

Have a look at your current sales, please. Unless your software is targeted at a really local niche (software for cheese sellers in Amsterdam), anything less than 50% of sales to America/Great Britain (etcetera) should be ringing Alarm Bells.

Are your sales to “English” lower? The most probable reasons are:

  • Your Website
    Wreally Badt Grrrrrrammar
  • Your Software
    actually, also Wreally Badt Grrrrrrammar

Next, in part 2 of English for Dummies

My experience with The Doctor, how Martin helped me with our new File Viking Program. Why we made a Sisu English Translation for an English program… English translated to English, yes, that makes sense! And Sisulizer supports it!

Also worth mentioning is Al Harberg’s Web Site Sales Makeover, besides your sales message (which he will improve), he will also complain about your bad English.

5 Comments

  1. Re the horse guy – an easy mistake to make since one explanation for the infamous 4-letter word is that it came from Holland with Dutch weavers.

  2. Martin, You and me both know lots of English and Dutch words have the same roots. Aint language fun?

    I just found out, Russians have several marine words they take from the Dutch Navy (from the time one of their tzars (Peter?) was in Holland).

    Schout Bij Nacht
    (the Dutch Word – wow, your a BIG man if you have that title)
    — The Waiter At Night

  3. I’m Dutch too and poking the web with my crappy English. For professional English, I use extensive text-checkers and dictionaries. Just common sense.

    There is a word called ‘Denglish’ – that means translating Dutch phrases 1:1 to English. I am a fan of Denglish;

    A funny illustration of Denglish is this song on the Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_taJMMDWCk

  4. You are correct about marine words. But actually Peter borrowed almost all marine terms in the past. Russia was learning sea shipping and many other things from Europe in Peter’s days.

    Actually lot of words have Latin or Greek roots. I think you may find many samples in your languages. And they lead to mistakes sometimes. I read about ‘false translator friends’. Say Russian word attorney sounds like ‘advocate’. So sometimes people translate it to incorrect word.

Leave a Reply