Getting the Dutch to Speak Dutch

September 26, 2008

As an American who was in Amsterdam recently, I wanted to speak Dutch all of the time. Normally, this is no problem as my Dutch is now at the level where a conversation I start in Dutch, continues in Dutch. One problem though was in my hotel. My theory about this is as follows. In this hotel, 99% of the guests would speak English to the person behind the counter. This conditions that person to expect to hear English. The problem is that when you expect to hear English and someone starts speaking Dutch with an accent, the result is you don’t understand.

It’s as if the person behind the counter has a switch thrown in their brain, which says English is expected, and my Dutch is not quite good enough to instantly flip the switch back to Dutch. Therefore, I use a trick, by starting the conservation with goeie morgen (good morning  = hello, or the equivalent for another time of day) followed by a pause. This is sufficient time to flip the English switch back to Dutch.

Another rant about ISO terminology

September 16, 2008

I recently had occasion to do some consulting on limit of detection and looked up an ISO method. The first sentence in the Introduction of ISO 11843-2:2000(E) is:


“An ideal requirement for the capability of detection with respect to a selected state variable would be that the actual state of every observed system can be classified with certainty as either equal to or different from its basic state.”


Statistical concepts are hard enough on their own without overlaying inscrutable English.


If you want to know what a state variable is, that is in another document: IS0 11843-1:1997(E/F). Here it is: (the definition is also in French).


state variable


quantity describing the state of a system




1 Generally, a system is characterized by more than one state variable. However, depending on the scope of the investigation, only one state variable is selected for the purpose of detecting a difference between an actual state and the basic state.


2 Usually the selected state variable attains its smallest value in the basic state.




a) Concentration or amount of a substance in a mixture of substances.


b) Intensity (energy density, power density, etc.) of the energy (radiation, sound, etc.) emitted by a source.


c) Geometric change in a static system when it is distorted.


I thought you shouldn’t use the word being defined in the definition. Actually, this definition reminds me of the joke about the dictionary definition of recursion:


Recursion: see recursion.