Lost in Translation Part Deux/Twee

By - July 8, 2005 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

Is it just me? When someone I’m speaking with has an accent I immediately hear myself start to imitate it. I do this all the time. I remember being a kid and traveling in the southern states with my parents and before I knew it I had picked up the drawl. It happened when I spoke to tourists visiting Canada and now I find myself doing the same thing in Europe.

When speaking English with a Dutch or French speaking person, I inevitably start to pick up their accent. This is a serious problem because it leads the person I am speaking with to think: A) I am making fun of them B) I am mentally unbalanced C) Both.

My other big language problem in Europe is remembering which language to speak. Granted, I can only speak English and French fluently, but I’ve picked up words of other languages here and there in my travels. For example, while living in Amsterdam my husband and I visited Barcelona for a few days. By the end of the trip we had picked up a few essential words. When we got back to A’dam we kept asking for the check in Spanish.

Living outside of Brussels is especially tricky. If I get in a cab in Brussels, the driver is generally French. When I get out of the cab in my very Flemish town, I have to then switch mental gears to my limited Dutch. Invariably I screw it up.

So I tip my hat to the Europeans who have mastered the art of speaking many languages with grace. I will continue with my efforts to not be a spoiled English speaker and attempt to learn as much as I can.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Liz

    Liz July 8, 2005 at 19:15

    Unwillingly adopting accents seems to be a common theme among people I know. I’ve done it too, and not noticed right away, and hope people don’t think I’m making fun of them 🙂

  2. Comment by mare

    mare July 9, 2005 at 15:36

    i do it all the time. the irish and newfie accents are particularly evil.
    at least when i lived in france, it was a language i was fluent in. kudos to you for living in a country where the orange juice is “not apple juice” and other such fun things. i love belgium, and am very jealous.
    also look for framboise by belle-vue, and have you tried their cassis? the cassis is excellent, though a tad overpowering. if memory serves they also make a peach beer?

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison July 13, 2005 at 11:05

    There are so many flavoured beers and yes I have tried most of the bellevues but it’s the Lindemans that are really great. Their raspberry rocks, much more berry-ish than the others. Peach is good too but more like wine than beer… Chocolate beer is wrong, as is pineapple, but regular apple is good … not that I drink a lot of beer or anything… 🙂
    Glad to know I’m not alone on the accent thing.

  4. Pingback: Expat Life in Belgium: An Interview with Alison | CheeseWeb: Travel, Photography and Expat Life in Belgium Blog

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