Every month this year, we will be turning our focus towards one of the core languages we love to teach – looking at the language’s potential for business, considering a few facts and figures to put its global prospects in context, plus sharing some tips to help you get started. This month we take a look at Dutch, the language of the Netherlands – one of the European Union’s most open and competitive economies.
Over 17 million people live in the Netherlands, which accounts for a large proportion of the world’s 28 million Dutch speakers (although Dutch is also spoken in parts of Belgium and in the South American country Suriname – it is an official language in both countries). While these numbers may seem small compared to the number of people who speak languages such as English, Spanish, Arabic or Mandarin, Dutch continues to be a particularly desirable language to learn because the Netherlands is such an attractive place to do business.
Learning Dutch: Business Prospects and Opportunities
The Netherlands has long been synonymous with business success – from the ‘tulip mania’ period of the 17th century (during which the price of tulip bulbs dramatically rose and fell, but ultimately caused no lasting damage to the Dutch economy – which was one of the most advanced in the world at the time) to the present day. The Netherlands has a strongly pro-business economy, and its location positions it as an ideal gateway to Europe and the European Union, especially as a result of its excellent infrastructure and established position as a major commercial transportation hub.
For a fairly small country, the Netherlands still manages to find room in the top 25 world economies (at number 17 in the world), with key industries including manufacturing, petroleum extraction and agriculture (it is the second largest agricultural exporter in the world). It also has a thriving financial sector and an innovative technology sector.
The country has also bounced back well after the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic recession – the economy is set to grow by 3% this year and 3.7% in 2022, an improvement on earlier predictions for recovery.
A recent PwC report highlights that the Netherlands is an attractive place to do business for a multitude of reasons – it is home to 15,000 foreign companies, making it a key international player (50% of its GDP is derived from international sources); it is the 4th most competitive country in the world (making it the most competitive economy in Europe); and it has been ranked as the most stable economy in the world by the World Economic Forum (based on macroeconomic stability). With its highly effective government and business-friendly tax treaties, the Netherlands could be the ideal location to expand your business, ride out the current instability surrounding Brexit and look ahead to a more prosperous economic future post-pandemic.
Discover more great reason to learn Dutch for business here.
Did You Know? A Few Facts about Dutch
Whether you work in the shipping and transportation industry or wish to tap into the Netherlands’ highly evolved financial and technology-based industries, learning Dutch may help give your business a competitive edge.
Here are a few interesting facts to know about the Dutch language before you get started on your language-learning journey.
- Dutch is an official language in six countries or dependent entities: the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
- If you start learning Dutch and it seems easier than expected, it is for good reason – the language is closely related to English. As a result, Dutch may be the easiest language for a native English speaker to learn – which may help to explain why so many people in the Netherlands speak excellent English! It is always useful to be able to relate to people in their native language, however – it shows your willingness to go the extra mile in a business setting, so we still think there is plenty to gain by learning Dutch.
- If learning Dutch may be easy(ish) for native English speakers, it may be even easier for native German speakers to pick up. German, English and Dutch are all closely related on the language family tree, but Dutch and German are even more closely linked than Dutch and English. (So, maybe the best approach is to learn Dutch and German…?!)
- Dutch may have a relatively limited geographical range as a language, but one place it has reached is Japan, and many loan words have migrated from Dutch to Japanese. This was made possible because from the 17th century until the mid-19th century, the Dutch were the only Europeans to be in direct contact with the Japanese. The two nations traded and shared developments in science, art and culture and continue to have a strong connection today.
Tips to Help You Get Started
Learning a language may seem like a big challenge, but if English (or German!) is your native language then learning Dutch may feel very achievable. Here are a few tips to help you develop your language skills.
- Because English and Dutch have many similarities, it could be easy to become complacent when you get started. For example, if you start by building your vocabulary from familiar-sounding words (‘work’ is ‘werk’; ‘rain’ is ‘regen’; ‘bus’ is, well, ‘bus’), then you may be wrongfooted when you meet many of the less recognisable words in the Dutch language. Equally, while verb usage is also similar in Dutch, there are a few small differences that could mean your translations lose their way. Maybe the best approach is to enjoy the wins when things seem easy, but not to assume that they represent the whole journey – like learning any language, the going will get tough at times and that is when you need to focus on why you are learning the language (and there are many great reasons to do so!).
- Immersing yourself in the language may help you to see the similarities and differences between Dutch and English in a more practical and useful way. Books, magazines, radio and TV programmes… all are good places to start, but another fun way to practise could be to start small and read books intended for children. It may feel embarrassing at first, but persevere if you can – and perhaps you can share the adventure with your children, or your nieces and nephews!
- As with any language, ‘practise practise practise’ is the mantra – but remember to keep it fun and not too overwhelming. Join a conversational class, learn with a friend you can practise with, or encourage your team to share the journey – any opportunity to speak aloud will be worth its weight in solid-gold progress!
If you would like to find out more about learning Dutch to help you grow your international business prospects and maximise your connection to this gateway to Europe, contact us today. We can work with you to develop a bespoke language-learning plan for your business, as well as provide cross-cultural training to help you connect with your overseas colleagues, whether virtually or in person. All our courses can be taught live online.