English speakers arriving in Amsterdam already know that residents have amazing English skills. If an English speaker walks into a bar and tries to order in terrible Dutch, it’s likely that the bartender will reply in perfect English, and that will surprise neither party. This is how it has been for decades.
It is exciting, therefore, that the Netherlands has rightly been appointed first place in the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) for the third year in a row! The list is compiled by Education First, a Swedish company with branches worldwide, which stresses the importance of international communication skills. Through their research, they have concluded that those aged 26-30 speak the best English and that English proficiency is improving worldwide.
English is not one of the Netherlands ‘ official languages, so it is remarkable that the Netherlands scores higher in English proficiency than some places that do consider English an official language. For example, South Africa has English as one of its many official languages but the country 12 with regards to English proficiency.
Similarly, English is one of Singapore’s official languages but English proficiency comes in behind the Netherlands at number two. Singapore is an incredibly diverse city-state where English is the de fact language but a lot of people will speak Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil as their first language.
Our country’s proficiency in a second language is extremely valuable. It is a skill that helps Dutch people to communicate effectively with neighboring countries and it demonstrates the excellence of our educational system. The country’s amazing English skills are definitely something to be proud of!