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Why Are the Dutch so Good at English?

October 9, 2017 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Amsterdam is a fascinating city.

Not least because of language. I’ve never met anyone Dutch who doesn’t speak impeccable English.

This is, of course, one of the reasons why Amsterdam is on the rise as one of the key business-centres in Europe following Brexit and the beginning of London’s demise.

Holland came first on the EF English Proficiency Index (compared with 72 other counties – incidentally Denmark is 2, Sweden 3 – go figure) and around 93% of the population speak at least conversational english

The question is though, why?

Well, this video gives you several reasons:

For a start, it definitely helps that Dutch and English are relatively similar – they both come from the same Germanic background.

Another reason is the fact that TV and films aren’t dubbed into Dutch (unlike other European countries such as Spain, Germany or France). They have subtitles. But that’s it. And while that’s fine for adults, kids are lazy and don’t bother reading them and get good at understanding English in English pretty quickly.

All this is well and good…

But it’s not enough.

Do you want to know what I think the main reason the Dutch speak such great English is?


Holland has always been somewhat of a business and international trade centre.

Speaking English for business is a given.

There’s no worrying about not being good enough at English, saying, “I’m not ready to speak English”.


People just DO it.

That doesn’t mean you can get lazy and not bother actively learning the language you need. But ultimately you learn English to USE English, so use it.


If you’re struggling to speak English well, check out my book Master English FAST.

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