New study reveals the Netherlands' impressive language skills

To coincide with the European Day of Languages, a study has been released which investigates the range of languages spoken across the EU.

The importance of English in the Netherlands and across Europe

English was the most common language studied across the 28 EU Member States. Ninety-four per cent of European citizens studied English as part of their upper secondary level education (generally, students aged between 11 and 16).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, English was shown to have particular force in the Netherlands. At upper secondary level English was far and away the most popular language here, with 100 per cent of the Dutch population studying it. The second most studied tongue was German, which was learnt by a still impressive 43 per cent of Dutch teenagers.

Amongst nations where English is considered the best-known foreign tongue, the study noted that the Netherlands also had a high proportion of working-age adults "proficient" in the language (36 per cent). This places the Dutch fourth in Europe, with only Malta, Sweden and Cyprus boasting more proficient English speakers.

An additional 45 per cent of Dutch adults rated themselves as "good" speakers of English. This means that over 80 per cent of the Netherlands' working population has good English skills (a point which has already been made by other studies).

By comparison, 66 per cent of adults in Belgium are "proficient" or "good" at English; 57 per cent of Greeks fall into this category; and the proportion falls to 51 per cent in France. 

The study does not list the proportion of other languages spoken in the Netherlands, but the findings still go some way to confirming the Dutch’s multilingual reputation.

How is Dutch represented across Europe?

In terms of the Netherlands' own language, Dutch made less of an impact across the EU.

It was the second most studied language in Belgium at primary and lower secondary level. Here, 20 per cent of individuals studied Dutch, compared to 26 per cent studying French.

This could be because Dutch is still considered a foreign language amongst the Belgian French Community and has not made an impact in the international business world.

Elzi Lewis


Elzi Lewis

Elzi swapped rainy Manchester for (rainier) Amsterdam a year ago, and has never looked back. Having just finished an MA at the University of Amsterdam, she is both excited and...

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