The Netherlands has topped the charts for English proficiency in a new study released by EF Education First. 

The EF English Proficiency Index (EF EFI) 2020 examined the English-speaking capabilities of 2.2 million respondents across 100 countries. It’s the second year in a row that the Dutch have claimed the top spot.

Naturally, we’re sure the Dutch are proud as punch over the achievement — especially after beating out their language arch-nemesis Denmark for the title. The Dutch scored 652 points on the survey, relegating the Danes to second-place with 632 points.

“It’s great that the Netherlands has again managed to occupy the number one position this year,” says Marc Hollander, Country Manager of EF Education First Netherlands. “It has become clear that communication is key, especially in the challenging circumstances of the past year.”

Which city is home to the best English-speakers in Holland?

Drumroll please … well, perhaps that’s not necessary. Amsterdam is home to the best English-speakers in the Netherlands, closely followed by Rotterdam and The Hague. We could lie and say that we’re surprised but … we’re not.

Of course, the Dutch speak great English all the way across the nation. But how did this tiny country become so good at a language that isn’t their own?

Why the Dutch are great at English

The Netherlands teaches English from primary school all the way through the final years of high school, and even vocational education and university. Some universities have even switched entire courses to English, prompting fear of a “linguicide” of the Dutch language.

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Meanwhile, unlike other European countries, like Germany and Spain, that insist on dubbing popular television shows and movies, the Dutch don’t rely on dubbing. That’s why you can walk into virtually any non-children’s movie playing in a cinema in the Netherlands and enjoy it in English.

READ MORE | Why are the Dutch so good at speaking English?

Dunglish

While writing this article I asked my partner for a translated Dutch phrase about being proud. “Proud as a cockpea!” she said confidently. I must have looked confused. “You know, the bird with all the feathers!” she said.

Perhaps English proficiency doesn’t stretch as far as the word “peacock”?

EF EFI 2020 Country Rankings for English Proficiency

EF EPI Ranking Country or Region
1 Netherlands
2 Denmark
3 Finland
4 Sweden
5 Norway
6 Austria
7 Portugal
8 Germany
9 Belgium
10 Singapore
11 Luxembourg
12 South Africa
13 Croatia
14 Hungary
15 Serbia
16 Poland
17 Romania
18 Switzerland
19 Czech Republic
20 Bulgaria
21 Greece
22 Kenya
22 Slovakia
24 Lithuania
25 Argentina
25 Estonia
27 Philippines
28 France
29 Latvia
30 Italy
30 Malaysia
32 South Korea
33 Hong Kong, China
34 Nigeria
34 Spain
36 Costa Rica
37 Chile
38 China
39 Paraguay
40 Belarus
41 Cuba
41 Russia
43 Albania
44 Ukraine
45 Macau, China
46 Bolivia
47 Georgia
48 Dominican Republic
49 Honduras
50 India
51 Armenia
51 Uruguay
53 Brazil
54 Tunisia
55 Japan
56 El Salvador
56 Iran
56 Panama
59 Peru
60 Nepal
61 Pakistan
62 Ethiopia
63 Bangladesh
63 Guatemala
65 Vietnam
66
United Arab Emirates
67 Venezuela
68 Sri Lanka
69 Turkey
70 Kuwait
71 Qatar
72 Jordan
73 Nicaragua
74 Bahrain
74 Indonesia
74 Morocco
77 Colombia
78 Mongolia
79 Afghanistan
80 Angola
81 Algeria
82 Mexico
83 Egypt
84 Cambodia
85 Sudan
86 Azerbaijan
87 Syria
88 Uzbekistan
89 Cameroon
89 Thailand
91 Ivory Coast
92 Kazakhstan
93 Ecuador
93 Myanmar
95 Rwanda
96 Kyrgyzstan
97 Saudi Arabia
98 Oman
99 Iraq
100 Tajikistan

Feature Image: Vlad Chețan/Pexels

15 COMMENTS

  1. > Which city is home to the best English-speakers in Holland?

    Too bad you left out cities like Utrecht, Arnhem, Groningen and Maastricht that are in different provinces.

    • Er zijn lang niet zoveel toeristen en expats daar als Rotterdam en Den Haag voor onder andere zaken reisjes. Maastricht is een studenten stad net als Groningen. Utrecht zou nog wel op een 4e plek staan.

    • Not true there are plenty on the internet to watch xD
      I’m pretty sure we all know this one famous youtuber who is Swedish!

  2. this is not true because dutch people dont like to speak english and + for normal work you must speak dutch or else you cant get a job.

    • That’s not true. I am dutch and work perfectly well with only english speakers! So I have to debug that one. besides most people like it if you speak both english or Dutch or even 4 languages if s=possible since french and Deutsh both are wolcome here!

  3. There is no way, I am from South Africa, living in the Netherlands for 5 years now, from the south to the north , the English in this country is honestly sub par, compared to South Africa , (btw studying to become an English teacher ) and you got SA as never 11 ? ??? Excuse me ? Non-native, a place South Africa is leagues and leagues higher than what I have encountered in the Netherlands ( also working as a professional IT programmers!!! Show me the non-native english speakers that are better than the people from Denmark ( where I have also lived and I do not agree with this assessment at all, and South Africa is way way way way higher in standard when it comes to English as a language compared to denmark, let alone the Netherlands.

  4. Interesting but I don’t agree. I am also from South Africa and the English spoken there is of a much higher grade than the Netherlands.
    But yay for the Dutch – they do speak English well. My comment would also be that most Dutch people speak a decent grade of English but they don’t make any effort to overcome the heavy Dutch accent – in contrast to, say, the Norwegians

  5. I’m dutch and my English is close to native. This article completely wrong about the reasons our English is so well. Nobody learns a language from class. We learn English because we speak English almost every day. We watch television in English and even cartoons used to be in English. Amsterdam specifically has 70% expats in the city center. Just 30% is local. And we do a lot of business. Big international companies like to setup headquarters in The Netherlands because of tax benefits. Bringing lots of expats and international students in. We got great international schools and Universities too.

    And it isn’t hard to be the best English speaking non native country if French and German don’t speak English at all. Also, our language is very similar to English and German. Naturaly English is picked up quick. School is not the reason!

  6. I would expect that having an accent is not a big factor here. I would expect the survey to pay attention to grammar and vocabulary and the amount of people that speak it well. And to be honest, not every South-African is well-spoken in English. I think this is about averages, not just a select community.
    Also I remember an article saying that around 10% of South-Africans can speak English (understanding it is a much bigger group). Perhaps that also weighs in, because in the Netherlands I expect that way more than 10% people speak English (be it with an accent).

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