• Taalvakman

Annoyances: Dutch people speaking English


The average Dutch person switches effortless to English when they hear the listener isn't a native speaker. This is both a curse and a blessing. Of course it is convenient to communicate in an universal language, but when you are a learner of Dutch, you do want to practice the language.

In my courses, I usually get a confirming nod when mentioning this topic, so for this blog I will try to explain why Dutch people love to speak English and provide some tips on how to cope with these situations.


From a young age on Dutch children start learning the English language, be it through movies, music or television programs, which are readily available in The Netherlands. Moreover, the UK is practically next door, so children become quickly accustomed to the foreign language.

Above all from a international perspective, English is considered the lingua franca. The Netherlands is an export-oriented nation and to do business with the rest of the world in an efficient manner it is necessary to master foreign languages. In conclusion, this is why Dutch people are quite good in talking English.

In fact, Dutch people see this as their pride and consequentially they will try to show of their language skills on every occasion. Hence, that's why they abandon their mother tongue for the English language. When they hear a foreigner takes the effort to speak Dutch, they are usually startled.

The average Dutch person looks upon his mother tongue as a tiny language, that is not worth learning. I wrote about this in another blog post. However, to truly integrate in Dutch society it is of upmost importance to learn Dutch.

In order to be able to practice Dutch, you can do the following: when someone addresses you in English, tell them politely you can only speak Dutch. If this doesn't achieve the desired effect then switch to your mother tongue.


The more exotic your mother tongue, the better. In case your mother tongue is English or your Dutch colleagues already know you can master English, then you need to use a different strategy.

Let your friends and colleagues know that you are learning Dutch and make agreements on where and when you would like to speak Dutch. The underlying thought is that you keep in control of the conversation.


Practical places and moments to practice your Dutch are during the coffee break and during the lunch break. Other opportunities can be created by finding a language buddy and practice over the weekend. Good luck!

#engels #taalvakman #wereldtaal

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