"You are invited to take advantage of the
You may have seen some of those funny signs like
the one above that was supposed to have been posted in a Japanese
hotel. It was apparently written by someone who knows English but
who doesnt speak it as a native language. A native speaker of
English knows what that sign means, but the words dont express it
just right. Here are a few others:
France (hotel): "Please leave your values at the
Norway (hotel lounge): "Ladies are requested not
to have children in the bar."
Hong Kong (tailors shop): "Ladies may have a fit
Italy (laundry): "Ladies, leave your clothes here
and spend the afternoon having a good time."
Mexico (hotel restaurant): "The manager has
personally passed all the water served here."
My work permit with IKEA expired and so Im
looking for other things to do. Having seen examples like the ones
above, it occurred to me that there may be a need here for a service
to make corrections to English text written by non-native English
language speakers. In the U.S. when one wants to provide a service,
he just does it and files his tax return as a sole proprietorship at
years end. In the Netherlands, one must register with kvk, which is
the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. It doesnt cost very much for a
person with a residence card to register but they want to know who
is doing what.
I paid a visit to kvk recently and spoke a very
nice woman named Joanna. Coincidently, Joanna lived in Philadelphia
for the best part of a year about 20 years ago and, like most Dutch
people, she spoke English well. I explained what it was that I want
to do. "So you want to be a translator," she said. No, thats not
exactly right. I dont want to translate Dutch text to English; I
want to take English text written by someone else and refine it to
make it sound like it was written by a native English speaker. She
eventually seemed to understand what I meant. The reason that this
was significant is that she had to enter a short description of my
activity into her database so that I could be found by someone else
needing that service.
After we came to an understanding, there was some
paperwork involved. She presented me with a three-page form. I
noticed the first page contained space for my name, address, phone
number, etc., and that the last two pages were a description of my
activity and some other kvk items. "Here," she said as she put the
form in front of me. "Ill fill out the two back pages and you can
put your privates on the first page."
I smiled. "This is an excellent example of the
service I want to provide," I said. She looked at me inquisitively.
"What you mean is that I should fill out the front page with my
personal information. What a native speaker of the English language
would have heard you say was that I should put my genitals on the
"Oh. Okay," she said. "Now I fully understand."
I hope so!