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  • Writer's pictureMatilde Pozzato

Language Preservation and Internationalization

The Dutch are known to speak good English, a fact that has helped The Netherlands build a strong knowledge economy and attract large numbers of expats. But for some Netherlands natives, this feels more like a curse than a blessing, as the spread of English leaves them feeling out of place in their own country

English is so widely spoken in Dutch cities that expats often feel no need to learn the local language. Some of the Dutch fear that English is threatening to replace their native language.

Student advisor Rienk Wielenga (77) told The Groninger that his Dutch students are better at expressing themselves in English. He is worried about the Dutch language and culture loss spreading in the country. “I am a foreigner in my own country,” he says, “when I go to the pub and I have to order in English because the waiter doesn’t speak Dutch.”

There are initiatives to prevent the Dutch from becoming a dead language. For example, a group called Stichting Taalverdediging has started a petition to halt the use of English on public transport in The Hague. Dutch Minister of Education, Culture, and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf is also trying to cut the number of international students in Dutch universities by decreasing the amount of English-taught courses. However, Monitor ICEF reports that both of these initiatives are receiving little approval, showing that not every Dutch is concerned with the deterioration of their mother tongue.

Especially the younger generation of Dutch seem less worried about the future of their language.

Julianne Veltman (24) is a Master’s student at the University of Groningen and told The Groninger that the multiculturality of The Netherlands is one of the country’s distinctive features. She is not worried about her native language disappearing as Dutch people keep speaking it among themselves and consuming local content. On the contrary, she believes using English with foreigners is an opportunity “to improve our English proficiency and to become more aware of our mother tongue.”

While maintaining the Dutch language alive is important to preserve national identity, decreasing the accessibility of English in the country will discourage many foreigners from choosing it as a destination. Monitor ICEF reports it would badly affect the economy as, for example, universities will lose fees paid by international students and housing will lose possible tenants.

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