How Do the Dutch Learn English so Well?



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In the above video, recorded in the Netherlands, I ask Dutch people how they learn English so well. Below I’ve written a concise summary of the answers I got to my questions on the topic.

1. How the Dutch Learn English

When I asked Dutch people, “How did you learn English?” The answers were diverse. A good chunk credited TV, Netflix and the ever-present influence of the internet.

Schools, of course, play their part. Many mentioned they learned the basics in school, and one even had bilingual lessons. Gaming and music also were popular mediums.

One person mentioned she learned English at a young age to watch YouTube videos and Scooby-doo – before going to school. She was among the best English speakers I encountered that day.

2. Using English in Everyday Life

Visits to England and Scotland led one person to pick up the language. To another living in a cosmopolitan city like Amsterdam meant speaking English was almost a necessity, given the diverse population.

There were also anecdotes about German tourists in the Netherlands, and how the Dutch would switch to English to communicate with them.

One lady charmingly mentioned she uses her hands and feet to communicate when her English falls short.

3. Estimating English Fluency Among the Dutch

When I quizzed people about what percentage of Dutch people can speak English conversationally, most believed it to be around 80-90%.

An Indian student living in Amsterdam mentioned “100% in my experience”, excluding older people though.

4. The Dutch as Non-Native English Speakers

A study has pointed out that the Dutch rank among the best non-native English speakers, and I was curious to find out why people thought this was the case.

The general consensus was that the Netherlands, being a small country, makes it essential for the Dutch to learn other languages. English, being so widespread, is an obvious choice.

Another important factor is media consumption. Unlike in countries like Germany where movies and series are dubbed, in the Netherlands, they’re usually in English with Dutch subtitles. This naturally gives the Dutch a leg up in understanding and speaking the language.

5. Living in the Netherlands with Just English

When I posed the question, “Do you feel someone who isn’t Dutch but speaks good English can easily live his life here in the Netherlands with just English?”, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

The feeling was that the Dutch are so comfortable with English that foreigners rarely feel the need to learn Dutch. The Dutch seem to pride themselves on making sure everyone can get by easily.

The vibe I got was that the Netherlands is a place where you can easily navigate life with just English in your toolkit.

6. The Value of Knowing English

One person expressed that knowing English is important to her, especially for travel and global communication, providing a practical way to connect with various cultures and navigate different countries.