Is it really necessary to learn Dutch?

by Genie Ijzersmid
3 min read

There is a joke that Dutch people speak English better than native English speakers. Dutch are really better at speaking English than any other country apart from native speaking ones. According to EF English Proficiency Index the Netherlands are ranked first among 72 countries where the comparison of the English skills have been conducted. According to research between 90% and 93% of the Dutch population claim to speak English on a decent level.

It means that you won’t have any trouble with communication on the streets if you don’t speak Dutch. Also movies or TV series are not dubbed in the Netherlands. By contrast to many other countries of the European Union like Germany, Italy, Spain or France the movies and all the shows on TV in the Netherlands are only subtitled in Dutch. Thus, you will be able to watch Hollywood movies in the original language. Researchers suppose that this might be a reason why Dutch kids absorb the English language so naturally and effortlessly.

To learn or not to learn?

Based on the percentage of people who speak English in the Netherlands you might assume it is not really necessary to learn Dutch. The answer is yes and no. If you are a tourist, speaking only English would be perfectly fine. Yet, if you are a resident, Dutch is necessary for being able to fill the official forms, read the governmental websites and avoid feeling excluded while your colleagues are conversing in their native language.

Additionally, learning a native language of a country you reside in is a sign of respect to its cultural values. Learning an additional foreign language is also considered to be beneficial for your mental health and intellectual abilities. So the final answer to the question whether it is worth learning Dutch is definitely a yes.

Where to learn Dutch?

The most obvious way to learn a foreign language is to attend the language courses together with other expats. An additional benefit of this is a possibility to make new friends, who face the same challenges as you do. Dutch courses is also a nice way to discuss cultural differences between the countries. The teachers at the courses are usually trained to communicate with foreigners and explain some aspects of Dutch life that might not be obvious at the first glance.

How to overcome a fear of speaking a new language?

Many people remember their first efforts to practice a new language in the street. It might be stressful. The Netherlands is an exception though: you will be able to switch to English anytime! And no one would ever judge you for that. Also, you may try to start from some very basic words. For instance, you could greet people in Dutch and continue the conversation in English. At the supermarket where people usually communicate using a limited number of standard phrases, you would be able to talk in Dutch very soon.

Big achievements start with small steps: just try saying Hallo instead of Hello.