Why are the Dutch so good at speaking English?

What's their secret? ✨

Do you speak English? Yes, we do! The 2023 EF English Proficiency Index placed the Netherlands first when comparing the English-speaking skills of 113 non-English-speaking countries.

Next to ranking among the tallest people in the world, the Dutch are also better at speaking English than any other non-native country. According to research, between 90% and 93% of Dutchies claim to be able to hold a full conversation in English.

So our only question is: how do they do it?

The Dutch don’t dub

The Dutch are surrounded by the English language from an early age through television. They don’t dub any movies or series.

Contrary to other European countries like Spain, Germany, or France — in the Netherlands, you can watch everything on TV in its original language while reading the subtitles in Dutch.

READ MORE | 21 YouTubers that’ll help you learn Dutch super fast

This means that children in the Netherlands have a much more natural approach when it comes to learning and speaking English. It propels them well ahead of their peers in other countries.

photo-man-sitting-in-bed-watching-dutch-show-on-netflix-on-laptop-to-learn-english
Watching shows in their original language is a great way to learn a new language. Image: Depositphotos

Although being glued to your TV for hours, binge-watching American series can sometimes result in developing a weird ‘murican accent (ya’ll know what I’m talkin’ about).

The global mindset of the Dutch

This small-sized country, with 17 million inhabitants living on 41,543 square kilometres, beats many larger economies and ranks number 18 worldwide as far as GDP is concerned.

With the business-friendly culture that the Netherlands has, the Dutch have had to master the English language to be able to compete in the global market.

Two Businesswomen Shaking Hands In Modern Office introducing themselves in Dutch
Many international companies have their headquarters in the lands of windmills and bikes. Image: Depositphotos

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #13: Be innovative (and not be shy about it)

It all started with the Dutch East India Company (founded in 1602) — the first multinational company in the world. Today, many global companies like IKEA or Philips have their European headquarters in the Netherlands.

The history of worldwide explorers from the Netherlands

The Dutchies’ high rank in English proficiency also comes from exploring the globe. This nation of former seafarers has adventure in its blood.

Abel Tasman, for example, was the first known explorer from Europe to reach today’s Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642. Sailor Dirk Hartog was the first to land on Australia’s west coast. He’s now honoured with an island named after him (Dirk Hartog Island).

READ MORE | 7 places named by the Dutch (that you might not know about)

Today, ever adventurous, many Dutch students choose to study abroad. They also often enrol in a language course, complete an internship, or spend a gap year working as volunteers, while perfecting their English language skills at the same time.

Dutch vs. English: many similarities

Last but not least, the Dutch can thank their ancestors for their exceptional ability to speak English. The Dutch language is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, just like English.

This means that the two languages share the same roots and have similar characteristics, making it easier for Dutch speakers to learn English. Dat is goed nieuws! (That is good news!)

What’s your experience with English proficiency in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2017 and was fully updated in November 2023, for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Alexandra Huetter
Alexandra Huetter
Alexandra Huetter is a native Austrian with a passion for traveling. Having worked in tourism, marketing and sales she finally decided to exchange her 9-to-5 job for the unpredictable yet rewarding world of freelancing. She has been working as a freelance copywriter in Amsterdam since 2011.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. There has been a troubling trend with more and more childrens tv shows being dubbed lately. Especially the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are guilty of this. It annoys me to no end havin to listen to my kid watch dubbed live action shows (somehow it’s nowhere near as annoying with cartoons).

  2. My band has performed at maritime music festivals in the Netherlands. Two years ago I thought it was time to learn Nederlands. I was amazed at how many Dutch words looked or sounded almost identical to English! It was actually confusing at first, thinking that I was remembering incorrectly.

  3. Nice blog! Thanks for sharing Alexandra. The Netherlands is a very international country and next to learning English at school, you learn it easily by watching television, or just going into town. Furthermore, there are various English language courses available in the Netherlands.

  4. Most of them are fluent but far from accurate, same as with the Danes.
    The Dutch tend to use Dutch grammar translated to English, which to many might sound as amazing but just a massacre to native ears.

  5. Impersonating, or rather “parroting” Hollywood and American sitcom actors, can hardly be labelled as being “so good at speaking English”, however, the Dutch are “very good at bragging about how brilliant they are at everything; “het kleine land met de grote mond”.

  6. My message has been censured just because I don’t agree with the assertion that “the Dutch are so good at speaking English”, and the fact that you are a very arrogant nation, well you are, first you can’t take criticism, and have no sense of humour, second, no one can teach you anything since you know everything better than anyone, and that obviously is the complex of the megalomaniac “par excellence” which most Dutch people have, you have no notion of “HUMILITY”, you are too self-centred and full of yourselves (Not to say full of something else).
    “Het klein land with de grote mond” this what seems to have offended you, you can’t take a joke, can you? “Touché”, I must have touched a raw nerve there…you should land sometimes, otherwise your landing could be painful for you.

  7. You use the word ‘Dutchies’ twice. As a native English-speaker I have to say that the only people I have ever heard use this word are Dutch-speakers – it certainly isn’t normal English. In fact, there isn’t really an everyday colloquialism for ‘Dutch people’, apart from ‘cloggies’ – which is derogatory, an insult. The only people who say ‘cloggies’ are dissatisfied English-speaking (especially British) inhabitants of the Netherlands. Perhaps it will die out when Brexit takes effect!

    • In Australia the term was quite prevalent in the 60s and 70s and was not meant or regarded as offensive. With the decline of dutch immigration into Aus and the emphasis on political correctness it has just about disappeared. However being called an arrogant dutch bastard is NOT a compliment! 🙂

  8. Just so you know it, we do dub series in Dutch, but it’s usually only children’s tv shows and movies. Series for adults usually don’t get dubbed, but we do start to dub adult movies more.

  9. HonEstly they suck at it and we live in the most international city. They also dont like it when you speak English. And then There’s the ones who refuses that their kids go to an English school

    Owning a gym and dealing with 100’s of people, we’ve realised that very few of them can speak or even understand English.

    I tend to disagree that they are good at speaking the lingo

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