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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Accent Betrayal

Dutch people coming home from Germany speaking Dutch in slight German accent get confused for Germans


NEW: Comic Suggestion Box!

This week's strip was written by Jonathan Tolksdorf, an enterprising Itchy Feet fan who had an idea for a comic, sketched out a very rough version, and sent it to me. Not only do I think he captured the Itchy Feet humor perfectly, he also did it from the perspective of another culture, something I could never achieve. So I redrew it and featured it as the comic you see above.

Which made me think - all you readers have your own cultural perspectives, your own funny troubles learning languages and challenges traveling abroad, experiences I would never be able to communicate because I'm just one person. What about the Japanese perspective? Or the Bolivian perspective? Or the half Native American, half Jewish African perspective? YOU tell ME!


There are a few ground rules, but you'll learn all that on the Suggestion Box page.

Can't wait to see what you come up with!


  1. An american friend of mine who has lived in Sweden for twenty years went home to visit his mom. And in a store, the clerk asked where he was from because he had an interesting accent. This while he was in the town where he grew up.

  2. Sorry to pick out just such a small detail, but I'm in love with the shoes!! I took Klompen dancing as a kid and I'm being flooded with very fond memories

    1. Yeah clogs are pretty much the greatest. Not that the Dutch actually wear them much anymore...

  3. We have something similar here in Taiwan, where people speak traditional Chinese. Mainland Chinese to traditional Chinese is like German to Dutch. After traveling to China, Taiwanese people tend to get a Mainland Chinese accent. People from China always think traditional Chinese is soft and sweet, like Germans think Dutch is a cute version of German :-P

    1. To make matters more complicated, some of my friends sometimes get asked if they're from China when they've never been to China :p

      (I'd say people 'write' and not speak Traditional or Simplified Chinese though, and luckily usually the difference between Putonghua and Guoyu are not as big as German/Dutch....)

  4. When my brother attended the US military chapel in Darmstadt and was chatting to US soldiers and their spouses in his normal West of Scotland accent, he would get well-meant comments like:

    "You know, you're English is REALLY good!"

    to which he would reply:

    "Thank you. So is yours"

  5. Correction to above:

    "You know, your English is REALLY good!"

    Apologies :-( One always spots the mistake the moment one has printed or published!

    1. Murphy's Law of the Internet, I suppose...

  6. xD I feel this poor guy's pain. While talking to some American tourists in Leipzig once, I accidentally pronounced "problem" the German way. It was a complete slip of the tongue and I corrected myself instantly, but I guess the woman realised how embarrassed I was because she just laughed and said: "Awe, don't worry. Your English is already really good. I'm sure you'll be fluent in no time". (insert image of British English heart getting stabbed here) I was also too embarrassed to correct her, so I just thanked her instead.

    My husband, a native German speaker, and I were also once talking in our weird mixture of English and German in a doctor's waiting room when a nurse walked in and told us that it was our turn to go in, to which my husband thanked her, and then added that his German "sehr gut für einen Ausländer war". xD (insert image of his pride getting trampled here)

  7. I know this is a super old post, and I'm not going to submit this idea cause it's not comic worthy (and it's largely about accents, not languages) but this happens to me all the time:

    Born in Michigan, US, moved to Atlanta GA US age 8. Currently in my mid 30s.

    My southern friends: *What*? I can't understand you when you talk Yankee.
    My Michigan friends: Hahahaha! OMG, you sound like such a hick! What happened to you?!

    Meanwhile, in places I've never lived:

    My Northern Irish friends: You sound like you were born around the corner, how do you codeswitch like that?

    My Cuban-American friends: You speak Spanish *just* like a Cubano.

    So apparently, my accent is AWESOME as long as I'm not in my own country or either of the two states I call home.