English in the Netherlands

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English language in the Netherlands refers to the use of English in the Netherlands. Research states that about 86% of the Dutch population claims to be able to converse in English.[1] 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.[2] Furthermore, it is (besides Dutch) an official language of the Caribbean municipalities of Saba and Sint Eustatius. Additionally, a small number of English-speakers live across the country, particularly in the Amsterdam region.


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 U.K., the Dutch put strong emphasis on learning English and other foreign languages, especially German. The Netherlands was also liberated from the Germans by English speaking troops which boosted the status of the English language.[citation needed] In the following decades, with American-dominated globalization, English gradually increased in importance as a lingua franca, at the expense of German and French, which both lost popularity as secondary languages in the later 20th century. This in spite of the fact that German is 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. 70% of the population state they are able to have a conversation in German and about a fourth in French.

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 take 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 an English speaking community for hundreds of years. In the Golden Age, it was common for upper class families to speak English. A church worshipping in English was found in 1607.[3]

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 Netherlands[edit]

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 6/10 for English Language and Literature for their high school finals, or they won't graduate.
  • 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.
  • The first university professor of English, Jan Beckering Vinckers, was appointed at the University of Groningen in 1885.[4]
  • Most university master's degrees are in English, and an increasing number of bachelor's degrees are as well,[5] 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 Netherlands[edit]

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


Main article: Dunglish

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

Linguistic anglophobia and the English disease[edit]

Anglophobia, or more accurately linguistic anglophobia, within the European Dutch language area (i.e. the Netherlands and Flanders) has evolved out of schools and companies switching to English as medium of communication and a large number of English loanwords in the Dutch language. Consequentially this has led to some anglophobia with some groups advocating to dispose of all English loanwords.

English disease (Dutch: Engelse ziekte) is a pejorative term for the effect of the English language on the use of linguistic compounds in written Dutch. The anglicisms (and sometimes americanisms) enter the written language as a result of being exposed to English words and expressions. Examples of the English disease are:

Incorrect use in Dutch English equivalent Correct use in Dutch
IBM computer IBM computer IBM-computer
web pagina web page webpagina
vakantie baantje holiday job vakantiebaantje
taxi standplaatsen taxi stand taxistandplaatsen
schrijf cursus writing course schrijfcursus
informatie avond information evening informatieavond
fietsen stalling bicycle shed fietsenstalling
baby kleding baby clothes babykleding
eco was bal eco wash ball ecowasbal
communicatie deskundige communication expert communicatiedeskundige
yoghurt drank yoghurt drink yoghurtdrank
restauratie atelier restoration studio restauratieatelier
John's fiets John's bicycle Johns fiets


See also[edit]

External links[edit]