The Dutch are (once again) the best non-native English speakers in the world!

If any international in the Netherlands has experienced a (rare and fleeting) feeling of inferiority while here, it’s likely because they heard a Dutch person speaking English.

To clarify, they heard a Dutch person speaking English so well that they could be mistaken for a native speaker who also just arrived in the country.

And you’d be right in feeling this strange mix of awe and self-doubt (no offence). Why? Because according to the 2021 EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), the Dutch are the best non-native English speakers in the world — and for the third year in a row! 🇳🇱

The best of 112 countries

We’re not just talking about a small survey consisting of 10 non-native English speakers, one of which being a Dutch person with the very appealing bribe of a warm and gooey stroopwaffel.

Nee, this survey measured the English language skills of two million people across a whopping 112 countries! 🌏

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

Using a points system to calculate the English skills of the different countries, the EF EPI awarded the Netherlands with 663 points (11 points higher than last year), placing them in the number one position with a level of “very high proficiency.”

Amsterdam ranked as having the best non-native English speakers

The Netherlands has won the crown for not only being the best non-native English-speaking country but also for having the best non-native English-speaking city in the world. 💪

Yep, Amsterdam has been ranked the best non-native English-speaking city — and are we really surprised given how much of a hub it is for internationals?

READ MORE | Amsterdam is the second-best city in the world (say what?)

What other countries are great at speaking English?

Of course, while we at DutchReview are delighted to hear that the Dutch have won this round once again, some of you may be curious to know what other countries ranked highly.

Let’s lay out the results! The following countries were ranked as having “very high proficiency” in speaking English as a non-native language:

EF EPI 2021 RankingCountry
07 Portugal
12South Africa

Did your country rank on the list? Tell us your thoughts on these findings in the comments below!

Feature Image: william87/Depositphotos

Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Before becoming the Senior Editor of DutchReview, Sarah was a fresh-faced international looking to learn more about the Netherlands. Since moving here in 2017, Sarah has added a BA in English and Philosophy (Hons.), an MA in Literature (Hons.), and over three years of writing experience at DutchReview to her skillset. When Sarah isn't acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her trying to sound witty while writing about some of the stickier topics such as mortgages and Dutch law.
    • Not actually true. As a native English speaker I have heard lots of Dutch speak Engkish. Accent doesn’t matter. It’s the use of the correct language and understanding of it. In the Uk I sometimes have trouble understanding the language as there are many who have very poor language skills and of course there are many accents to cope with.

    • It isn’t about is there a detectable accent, it is about vocabulary, clarity and understandability. Someone else mentioned India, however, I find Indian b accent can be very difficult although they usually have good vocabulary. The Dutch, Danes, and Swedes in particular are very easy to understand in my experience, racist to understand than many parts of the UK to my Canadian ears.

  1. Inferiority? Many other countries have youths speaking English and their own language. Nobody feels inferior that Dutch people speak English. If only they could at least speak it well cause their accents make it sound like Dutch I can’t even understand them.

    • In Portugal native portuguese still lack in english speaking ….comparatively immigrants are far more comfortable than portuguese in terms of english language..

  2. How dare they say that. Dutch people are the worst at my uni cause they’re the only ones who’s English I can’t understand cause of their heavy accents. Whatever proved that Dutch people are the best at English was probably written exams and Dutch people speaking English to Dutch people. Dutch people are the only ones who don’t know how to write words in class sometimes and I’m talking about easy ones too. If you’re proficient in English you should be able to hear a word you don’t know well and still write it down at least partially correct.

    • I disagree. At uni lots of those students are also using Dutch as a second language. Compare that to Brits and you will find less are able to even speak basic words in another language. There are many who cannot even write simple sentences in their own language. Accent doesn’t have to make a language difficult to understand as long as they try to pronounce the words correctly.

    • Whose*
      And also cough, though, thought, although
      English pronunciation just doesn’t make sense. You can’t hear a word and know how it’s written if you don’t know it beforehand.
      So, you are wrong

    • Ja nee, boet. If you think about it, despite English being one of the 11 official languages in SAfrica, how many of us are actual native English speakers? My mother tongue is Portuguese but I am still a native English Speaking SAfrican because I was taught exclusively in English medium schools. Other SAfricans, whose mother tongues are not English, also do not often have access to quality schooling either, so their English might not be as good as that taught in English medium schools in SAfrica, nevermind in the countries in the 11 places above them. I am pre Model-C schooling by the way, and when I listen to the English accents these schools produce, they are certainly way more polished than mine. Perhaps these are even skewing the numbers in favour for South Africa.

  3. this is simply false. I do not know who did the survey and how but it’s wrong. Maybe under CERTAIN specific conditions, this can be closer to the truth, but NOT in the normal everyday life (in public transportation they dont even care to have double language signs).
    Of course, being Dutch and Frysk the closest you can go to original English, it’s pretty natural that they can recognize some word, often some of the words a native English speaker would define “rare” and “hard”, but there are a whole lot of countries that can speak better English than them.
    As usual, the dutchies like to hear what they _believe_ they are, but reality is totally different.

    It is all propaganda to attract investors, just as they fo with drugs and sex.

    I am almost the only foreigner in a dutch based company, and I can assure you, it’s not easy at all: even when they try to speak English it’s so full of false friends and mistakes that I can barely understand.

    • At peast the Dutch use subtitles and they used to show children programs on Sky in the eighties, which tought them well. Subtitles, Unlike Germany or France, or US or GB themselves.

      The accent may not be there, at least we can understand. That’s 50% more than you critics.

    • Not everything in the Netherlands is about sex and drugs. There are normal people there who have never even seen drugs or been involved with them. Also in my school there are a lot of different nationalities and the only ones that speak englisch that is understandable are the dutchies.

  4. Uganda is considered by many surveys to be the best speaking English speaking country in Africa, I’d be interested to know how South Africa came ahead of it.

  5. I wonder whether the test included the pronunciation. The fact that Amsterdam scores very high is bad news: every year it is more difficult to find somebody in Amsterdam who speaks proper Dutch without using English words.

  6. where does malta stand in the rankings ? Everybody here speaks fair enough English….. from toddlers to pensioners.
    Have you never heard of Malta ? It’s a bit difficult to find on an atlas but we do exist. Check it out please.

  7. English is an official language in both Singapore and South Africa. For the Netherlands to have topped the list with both of those countries on it is a very impressive feat indeed.

    • More to do with class disparity & general inequity in SA. The quality of schooling available to the average SAfrican is not all that great. While it may have English as one of its 11 official languages, English is the defacto business language, and one of the 3 dominant lingua francas in SA, the number of those who have English as their mother tongue is rather small. – (Zulu is probably the next language most widely spoken by non-Zulu, and Afrikaans still predominates as lingua franca in the rural areas)- Of those who do not have English as their mother tongue, not all that many actually have access to (i.e. can afford) the few quality schools that do teach excellent English to all SAfricans that frequent them.

  8. Lol what a joke.
    English is literally the official language in South Africa…
    You’re trying to tell me Netherlands speaks better English than a native speaking population?

    This is clearly a bs survey for PR purposes.

  9. Y’all are getting it twisted. Uganda, South Africa, Malta — all have English listed as an official language of the country 🤦🏻‍♀️

  10. You forgot india. India has the largest English speaking population in the world. Lived in dutch land for 6 months and I find that they understand but cannot speak good native English. By the way can you define what is correct native english? English, Scotish, Welsh, Irish or American or south African or Indian. Please revise your research and add other nations.

    • What do you mean?
      I work in a tourism related field, and every foreigner that I meet is impressed with the level of English the Portuguese have.

  11. Ever tried to learn some Dutch? No offence to foreigners but very few english speaking expats ever bother to learn the language of the country they stay. Investors are attracted to the Dutch being bi or even multi langual but main reason is the tax system. Take your time in Holland to get some facts straight.

  12. Ever tried to learn some Dutch, Nico? No offence to foreigners but very few english speaking expats ever bother to learn the language of the country they stay. Investors are attracted to the Dutch being bi or even multi langual but main reason is the tax system. Take your time in Holland to get some facts straight.

  13. Your results are totally baised. Again “white” supremacy’s “propaganda”!!
    Do you know that almost everytime English spelling Bees competition is won by Indians!
    How many Europeans have written English literature?
    Indians have not only written, but won Pulitzer awards. Indians are the biggest expats population % after Chinese in all Native English language speaking countries.

    • English is a Native Language in India?
      So they are not on the list, I get what you mean but I also don’t see United Kingdom on the list or America etc. Because English is their or one of their native languages

  14. Belgium is number 6 ? How did that happen, since half of the population speaks French and their English pronunciation and knowledge is terrible. This renders this inquiry very unbelievable !!!

  15. Oh yes I completely agree on this finding. The dutch are the best as only the Dutch speak dutch….whatever. Living in Switzerland as a Swedish citizen I know that Skandinavians are pretty good at being articulate in the English Language as they have no imperialistic history so learning Swedish would be considered just a hobby;) That Switzerland ranks far below is interesting as Swiss German with all the different dialects in this small country is a lifetime mountain to climb for immigrants to make themselves really feel at home. If you finally do, you deserve a medal 🥇 for never giving up! 🇨🇭

  16. Germans? 11? They are the worst english speakers. I think lebanese people are the best non native english speakers. I met with lebanese people from different social classes and the least educated ones speak exactly like americans or britains they speak french even better let alone the educated ones.

  17. Not really true. I’ve spend some time with a group of Dutch people in Australia. I was the only Belgian (from the Dutch speaking part, so Flemish). Australians were surprised I was a Dutch speaking person, because they said they could pick out Dutch people just like that. But they couldn’t with me. Then I told them I wasn’t from the Netherlands, but from Belgium and they had their “ahaa” moment. They said my English was much cleaner than those of Dutch people. (There are a lot of Dutch people constantly backpacking through Australia).

    Belgium is a bilingual country (actually, a trilingual country), mainly French and Flemish spoken (and some small part German). The Wallons (French spoken) can hardly speak English, even if their life depended on it. In a lot of cases, they even refuse to learn Flemish, although the Flemish people have to be able to understand and speak French. Flemish people are generally good at English, as we are mostly the ones adapting to others.
    Flemish people are better English speakers than Dutch people are, but they are being dragged down because of the Wallons.

  18. Amsterdam is the ‘ best non-native English-speaking city’ – it gets interesting here. London or NY have bigger non-native English speaking communities for sure and I’d be surprised if they actually fare worse.

  19. “Uma pessoa só deve falar, com impecável segurança e pureza, a língua da sua terra. Todas as outras as deve falar mal, orgulhosamente mal, com aquele acento chato e falso que denuncia logo o estrangeiro.”
    Eça de Queirós, portuguese author and English translator of the 19th Century.


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