Do you speak English? Yes we do! The recent EF English Proficiency Index placed the Netherlands first when comparing the English skills of 72 countries. Why is that, I am wondering, looking for my native Austria on the list, which only came in at number 8 behind a bunch of Scandinavian countries and Luxembourg. Apparently, 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 the Dutch population claims to be able to hold a conversation in English. How do they do that?
Fact is that the Dutch get in touch with the English language early in life through television. They don’t dub any movies or series, and contrary to other European countries like Spain, Germany or France you can watch everything on TV in original language while reading the subtitles in Dutch. This means that the kids in the Netherlands have a much more natural approach when it comes to learning and speaking English propelling them well ahead of their peers in other countries. Although being glued to your TV for hours binge-watching US-series can sometimes result in developing a weird ‘murican accent. Ya’ll know whad I’m talkin’ bout.
A global mind-set
This small-sized country with 17 million inhabitants living on 41,543 square kilometres beats many larger economies and ranks number 17 worldwide as far as their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is concerned. This business-friendly country has always been a land of entrepreneurs with the Dutch learning to master the English language in order to compete on the global market. The Dutch East India Company was found in 1602 as the first multinational company in the world and today many global companies like IKEA, Unilever or Philips have their European headquarters in the Netherlands.
The high rank of their English proficiency also results from Dutchies exploring the globe during their vacations. This nation of former seafarers has always been a country of adventurers. Abel Tasman, for example, was the first known explorer from Europe to reach today’s Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642, while sailor Dirk Hartog was the first to land on Australia’s west coast and is now honoured with an island that’s named after him (Dirk Hartog Island) off the coast of Shark Bay, Australia. Ever the adventurers, many Dutch students fulfill their dream of studying abroad, enrolling in a language course, completing an internship or spending a gap year working as volunteers while perfecting their knowledge of the English language at the same time.
Last but not least the Dutch can also thank their ancestors for their exceptional ability when it comes to speaking English. The Dutch language is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family just like English. This means that both languages share the same roots and have similar characteristics making it easier for Dutch people learning this language. Dat is goed nieuws! (That is good news!)
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