English in the Netherlands

English language in the Netherlands refers to the use of the English language in the Netherlands. Research states that between 90%[1] and 93%[2] of the Dutch population claims to be able to converse in English. According to some, the main reasons for the high degree of English speakers is the country's small size, dependency on international trade, and the use of subtitles for foreign languages on television rather than audio dubbing. The Dutch language's genealogical proximity to English is also noted as a significant factor; both languages are closely related West Germanic languages.[3] Occupations which require a complex knowledge of the English language, such as those in aviation and the sciences, are also abundant in the Netherlands. Furthermore, it is an official and the majority language in the Caribbean municipalities of Saba and Sint Eustatius.[4]


Various explanations contribute to the popularity of English in the Netherlands. Due to the small size and population of the Netherlands, and hundreds of years of having a trade and commerce economy, particularly between mainland Europe and the United Kingdom, the Dutch put strong emphasis on learning English and other foreign languages, especially German. In the following decades, with American-dominated globalization, English gradually increased in importance as a lingua franca, at the expense of German and French, both losing popularity as secondary languages in the latter part of the 20th century. This is in spite of the fact that German is linguistically much closer to Dutch than English, and that Germany is the most important trade partner of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, knowledge of more than one foreign language is still widespread compared to other states of the European Union.

In Amsterdam, in particular, visitors may get the impression that it is possible to live in the Netherlands for a long time without learning Dutch. A substantial number of the inhabitants of Amsterdam have English as their native language (mostly British and North American immigrants), however most of them make an effort to learn at least some Dutch. Nevertheless, in and around Amsterdam one may find announcements, traffic signs and advertisements in both Dutch and English, or even in English only (as in Schiphol Airport). Amsterdam however already has had an English speaking community for hundreds of years. A church worshipping in English, the English Reformed Church was reopened for worship in 1607.[5]

Nowadays, most important scholarly and scientific publications in the Netherlands are in English with the exception of government-related and legal publications.

English language education in the NetherlandsEdit

English is compulsory on all levels of the Dutch secondary education system. In addition:

  • Many elementary schools teach English in the upper grades.
  • A student has to score at least a 5.5/10 for English Language and Literature for their high school finals, or the student will not graduate.

Pupils learn Received Pronunciation / Queen's English. Since high schools in the Netherlands have different levels of education (preparatory mid-level professional, higher general continued education, pre-university college/preparatory scientific education) a test from elementary school together with the advice of the teacher will determine which level a pupil will attend. The first one will teach a pupil enough English to have simple conversations. The second will be focused on achieving the ability to speak formally and in a professional setting. The third is focused on understanding the most difficult kinds of texts and communicating on a university/scientific level, which is a little bit more than a master in English needed for British universities would ask, albeit without the proverbs and or sayings.

  • Around 100 schools offer bilingual education (Dutch / English). This concept was first introduced in several high schools, but has found its way to primary schools. The aim of bilingual education is for the students to obtain the same level of English as the native speakers of Great Britain.[citation needed]
  • The first university professor of English, Jan Beckering Vinckers, was appointed at the University of Groningen in 1885.
  • Most university master's degrees are in English, and an increasing number of bachelor's degrees are as well,[6] and even the first degrees of community college given in English have made their way into existence. In addition, many degrees that are taught in Dutch utilise English language materials (e.g. books) and names.
  • Students are often taught to perform Internet searches in English, as the results of these obtain a far higher variety and extent of information compared to the Dutch equivalent.

English language television in the NetherlandsEdit

In addition to the availability of the British channels BBC One, Two and World News, the American CNN and the English edition of Al Jazeera, many programmes broadcast on Dutch channels are broadcast in English with Dutch subtitles.[3] English language children's programmes, however, are usually dubbed. Dubbed commercials, films and TV programmes (apart from animations and cartoons) have often come to be disliked by the Dutch public. People very much prefer these to be broadcast with subtitles, or even with no form of translation whatsoever.

Apart from this, there are a few television stations broadcasting in English, targeting the English speaking community of the Netherlands, such as AF-TV, or dedicating large portions of airtime to programming in English, such as RTV7 and Amsterdam local TV channel Salto 1. (See also: Television in the Netherlands)


Dunglish (called steenkolenengels in Dutch translating to coal English) is a portmanteau of Dutch and English and a term often used pejoratively to refer to the mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "EUROPEANS AND THEIR LANGUAGES" (PDF). Ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  2. ^ ""English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes" p. 316 and onwards" (PDF). Alisonedwardsdotcom.files.wordpress.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b Cenoz J., Jessner U. (2000). English in Europe: The acquisition of a third language. Multilingual Matters, Ltd. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  4. ^ "Regeling - Invoeringswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba - BWBR0028063". Wetten.overheid.nl. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  5. ^ "History - English Reformed Church Amsterdam". Ercadam.nl. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  6. ^ "NRC". Nrc.nl. Retrieved 23 August 2017.

External linksEdit