Everybody speaks English in the Netherlands - even when they speak Dutch

Post date: Oct 01, 2012 5:22:23 PM

From where I was standing on the promenade in Vlissingen (Flushing) last week, the use of English in the Netherlands appears to have reached alarming proportions. Seemingly in every walk of life, the English language is proliferating, and there appears to be little or no interference by Government. Nobody seems to care, in fact, if a newspaper article asks "Wat is de worst-case scenario?", or if advertising makes extensive use of English taglines (without the "asterisk-plus-translation-as-footnote" arrangement required in France), or if TV programs are routinely in English (with Dutch subtitles), or if hotel staff address everybody in English, even before they have ascertained whether or not they are a Dutch speaker. You certainly can't imagine this happening in France.

Look at matters more closely, however, and the Dutch language appears in very rude health. It can happily absorb all of the outside influences it likes, while still being able to function (with tremendous gusto) as a kind of secret code for the initiated (by which I mean the millions of people who speak Dutch in Belgium and the Netherlands, not to mention elsewhere in the world); for someone who has learned the language as a foreigner, it is hard to follow native Dutch speakers, the combination of machine-gun delivery and local accent/dialect presenting an often impenetrable barrier. And just ask an English-speaker to look at posters and adverts in the Netherlands, and see how far they get with translating them. So the long-predicted demise of Dutch is a very long way from being on the cards. Makes you wonder what the French are so worried about...