Do People Speak English in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is a country situated mainly in Western Europe and partially in the Caribbean, making up the largest constituent region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

So, do people speak English in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands’s population is about 16.8 million people. Out of the total population about 91% or 15.3 million Netherlanders speak English. Given so many people speak English, it is rare you would find someone who doesn’t. Those who don’t speak English tend to live in the countryside, have a lower level of education and are poorer. 

As you travel in Netherlands, how easy can you rely on your English skills to get by? When travelling around the Netherlands, you will find a diverse number of historical sites with some that date back to the Middle Ages, and a landscape scarred from events in World War II. As you travel around the Netherlands, will you easily find people speaking English?

English Use in Major Cities in the Netherlands

Amsterdam – Amsterdam is the city with more than a million inhabitants and it draws more than 7 million international visitors a year, which makes it on of Europe’s most visited destinations. The city serves as the largest financial and cultural hub, and it is regarded as Venice of the North due to the more than 1,500 bridges that span the city’s canals. The city has many different tourist destinations for everyone to enjoy. With many beautiful locations and interesting museums, the city provides plenty of opportunities to explore true Dutch culture. Popular festivals in Amsterdam are the Koningsdag, the Holland Festival for performing arts, and the annual Prinsengrachtconcert.

Eindhoven – Eindhoven is a major city in North Brabant province, and it is the Netherland’s fifth-largest city. Eindhoven is one of Europe’s technology hubs, as the home to electronics maker Philips, a technical university, and many other technologically focused businesses. Many tourists visit Eindhoven to visit many sites related to Philips. For contemporary art lovers, another place to visit is the The Van Abbe Museum. Once you have seen enough of Eindhoven’s urban landscape, then you can travel to one of the many natural areas, and see an entirely different side of Eindhoven.

Rotterdam – Another famous Dutch town is Rotterdam; a famous city that is known as a hardworking city, and a recently built modern city center because the old town was bombed during World War II. A fascinating fact about Rotterdam is that it is Europe’s largest port, and the world’s fourth largest port. As an important city for transportation, logistics, and marine interests, Rotterdam has welcomed tourists for nearly 800 years.

The Hague – The Hague is a Dutch city in the western part of the country and is considered to be South Holland’s capital. The city is recognized as the administrative center of the Netherlands, as the headquarters of the Dutch government as well as a wide-range of embassies and the highest International Court of Justice is located in the Hague.
Utrecht – Utrecht’s ancient city has several buildings that date back to as far as the Middle Ages. Since the 8th century, Utrecht has been a religious center for the Netherlands. Utrecht was the most important city in the Netherlands until the Dutch Golden Age, when Amsterdam replaced it as cultural center and most populous city. Utrecht is home to Utrecht University, as well as many other higher education institutions.

When travelling around the Netherlands, you might find it is easy to locate English speakers. Sometimes these English speakers might have a greater command of English than you, which should not be surprised. Dutch people speak English from an early age, and their proximity to English speaking media and people is very near. In addition to media, these speakers might have used English in their university courses.

What Languages are Spoken in Netherlands?

Dutch – Netherland’s official language is Dutch, a West Germanic language spoken by about the entire Dutch population. About 23 million people worldwide speak Dutch, and about 5 million people speak it as a second language. Dutch is the third most widely spoken Germanic language in the world. In addition to the official language of the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language in Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.

English – According to research, about 90% of the Dutch population can speak English. Like many other European countries, a high English competency is attributed to country’s size, a reliance on foreign trade, and consumption of English language media. The genealogical similarity of Dutch and English is a significant factor as both languages are closely related to West Germanic languages. Occupations requiring complex English expertise such as aviation and sciences are abundant in the Netherlands. English is also an official and primary language in the municipalities of Saba and Sint Eustat in the Caribbean.

Frisian – Frisian is a West Germanic language that is spoken by about 453,000 people. Most Frisian speakers live in the Dutch province of Friesland. Frisian is the co-official language of the province.

Papiamento – The Papiamento is another recognized regional language. The language is derived from African and Portuguese languages. It is the official language of the Municipality of Bonaire in the Netherlands. Papiamento is commonly spoken on some of the Caribbean Islands.

Is English Necessary in the Netherlands?

As a tourist, visitors may get the impression that living in the Netherlands without learning Dutch is possible for a long time. A small number of Amsterdam residents have English as their native language, mainly British and American residents. Most hopefully make an effort to learn Dutch. Nevertheless while traveling around the Netherlands, announcements, traffic signs, and advertising can be found in both Dutch and English. Amsterdam has always had an English speaking population for hundreds of years. In 1607 the Dutch Reformed Church, a church worshipping in Latin, was reopened for worship. Most important scholarly and scientific publications in the Netherlands are now found in English with the exception of government and legal documents.

As a local, English is compulsory in public education. In addition to the education, most British television channels are available and other English television programs are available. The BBC network channels are available, CNN, and Al Jazeera’s English version are available all with Dutch subtitles. Usually children’s programs are dubbed though.

Aside from media, there are many other explanations for the popularity of English in the Netherlands. The Netherland’s small size and population, and hundreds of years of having a trade economy, especially between Continental Europe and the United Kingdom. The Netherlands placed strong emphasis on learning English and other foreign languages, particularly German. With globalization dominated by Americans in the 20th century, English slowly grew in importance as the lingua franca, at the detriment of both French and German. This is despite the proximity to Germany, and Germany is one of the more important trading partners with the Netherlands.

English Teaching in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands there are opportunities to teach English, but the competition is high. Most teaching opportunities in the Netherlands are likely found in private language training schools, or in-company teaching Business English. Reading about others’ experiences on blogs, most people will move to the Netherlands first, then look for a job after arriving in-country. Larger schools like the Hague-based “British School” hold recruitment fairs throughout the year. At the recruitment fair, you can talk with recruiters and show them lesson plans and curriculum that you have developed.

There is not a huge market for English teachers in the Netherlands because the Dutch have outstanding English competency, and are ranked second in an English Proficiency Test administered by EF Education First. English lessons are mandatory in all Dutch schools, and English is the official language of more than 1,500 university degree programs.

To teach English in the Netherlands, you will not need a degree unless you would plan to teach English at a public school, but a TEFL or CELTA certification is preferred especially if you have no teaching experience.

Indeed and LinkedIn are two useful resources for search-seekers. Indeed is the current market leader for Dutch job seekers, followed by LinkedIn. Whereas Indeed will have job postings from education and different industries, LinkedIn will have mainly white collar job postings.

Bustling in the Dutch Windmills

In Europe, the country consists of 12 provinces bordering Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with the maritime boundaries in the North Sea with those countries and the United Kingdom to the north. In the Caribbean, the country is comprised of three special municipalities: the Bonaire Islands, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. The Netherlands official language is is Dutch, and West Frisian is a secondary language spoken in Friesland, and English and Papiamentu as the secondary official language of the Caribbean municipalities.

When thinking of the Netherlands, windmills and wooden shoes might come to mind, but there is much more to Holland. Aside from stereotypes, some popular things to do in the Netherlands include going for a walk along the coast, or a Veluwe bicycle ride. You can also learn about ways that the Dutch battle the rising waters in Flevoland.

A great cultural exchange took place in the Netherlands among the Celtic and Germanic tribes, and later the Roman conquerors. The adaptation of polytheistic beliefs and myths of one another’s tribes took place among the different peoples, originating from the Germanic, Celtic, and later Roman mythologies. Around the 4th to the 6th century, the Great Migration took place, in which the Franks, the Frisians, and the Saxons supplanted the pre-existing tribes. The spread of religion and similar cultural ideas is a way to spread language. In addition to an ancient transmission, language is shared nowadays through business.

The Dutch culture is complex, reflecting regional variations as well as global influences built up by centuries of mercantile and exploratory, mainly colonial, spirit of the Dutch. In regards to a colonial spirit, English is becoming a necessary skill of the entire global workforce, just as the last two centuries literacy has turned from an elite luxury into a fundamental requirement of educated citizenship. English competency creates opportunities, strengthens employability, and broadens horizons. According to those ideas, it is obvious why the Dutch have the third highest English proficiency rate in Europe.

Final Thoughts

While traveling around the Netherlands, you will most likely be in awe of the landscape. The word “Netherlands” means lower lands, so most of the country is flat and situated close or below sea level, and hills may only be found in Veluwe and Southern Limburg. With the flatland, industrialized farming is extremely developed, so much so that it now one of the largest food exporters in the world.

However tourists expecting to see beautiful landscapes filled with tulips and windmills may be disappointed, as areas like that do not exist. Stereotypes are funny like that. Regions like that though might exist, and they are so remote that Dutch people might have only visited them in their imaginations.

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