Dutch once again named best non-native English speakers in the world

Dutch once again named best non-native English speakers in the world

It appears that, if there is one thing the Dutch do well, it’s speak English. The 2021 EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) has, for the third year in a row, ranked the Netherlands as home to the world’s best non-native English speakers!

EF English Proficiency Index 2021

The EF EPI is the world’s largest ranking of countries, regions, and sites by adult English language skills, and the 2021 report is the largest to date, featuring 112 countries from around the world. 

EF calculates each score through three separate tests - two of which are available online for free, and the third is an online placement test used by EF during the enrolment process for English courses. Every score for all of the tests taken was then normalised by EF in order to obtain the percentage of correct answers for each test. All the scores for each country / region were then averaged across the three tests in order to calculate an overall score.

The Netherlands home to the best non-native English speakers

For the third year in a row (and the fifth time since the indexes inception in 2011), the EF EPI has awarded the Netherlands the number one spot, with a total score of 663 - 11 points higher than in 2020 - and falling under the "very high proficiency" category. This means people in the Netherlands are able to carry out various day-to-day tasks in English, such as making a presentation at work or reading a newspaper. 

In addition to this, it means Dutch people are generally able to perform tasks that require a better grasp of the English language. EF explains that examples of these tasks include using "nuanced and appropriate language in social situations" and "negotiating a contract with a native English speaker."

While English proficiency appears to be improving across the world, EF cites various factors for the Netherlands' consistently high scores. For one, the Dutch spend an average of 12 years of their lives at school - higher than the global average - where significant time and emphasis is placed on learning English. In addition to this, cinemas don't dub foreign language films, so even from a young age children are exposed to the English language. 

Similarly to last year, Amsterdam also performed well in the 2021 international city scores. This year, the Dutch capital claimed the top spot with a score of 682 

Top 13 countries around the world for English proficiency

According to the EF EPI 2021, the following 13 countries fell into the “very high proficiency” category, all receiving overall scores of 600 and above:

  1. The Netherlands
  2. Austria
  3. Denmark
  4. Singapore
  5. Norway
  6. Belgium 
  7. Portugal 
  8. Sweden 
  9. Finland
  10. Croatia
  11. Germany
  12. South Africa
  13. Luxembourg

To see the full ranking and read more about the 2021 report, visit the EF website.

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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Karen Monina B.... 21:10 | 18 November 2021

Last month a Dutch lady threw clothes on my face for not speaking Dutch. She kept telling me English is unacceptable (which I didn’t understood until a co-worker translated it). I work in a retail store and since I moved to the Netherlands I get a lot of complaints every time I communicate in English.