English as a second language: differences between countries

It feels almost natural that people grow up with a command of the English language, but in practice this is not the case. The Netherlands is known as a country with a lot of attention for this foreign language, where in other countries this may be different. Which countries pay more attention to English, how did it become a real world language and how do you develop a good command of English? You can read all about it here.

English as a world language

English is one of the largest languages in the world, with 380 million native speakers and more than a billion people who speak it as a second language. Why has English become this world language? This has everything to do with Britain's colonial past, which brought countries from all over the world under British influence. This allowed the English language to spread effortlessly, so that today you can make yourself understood in English almost everywhere.

Where is English used as a second language?

The special thing about English is that people from all over the world speak it. In large parts of Africa, for instance, it is an important second language, but also in many Asian and South American countries, it is common for the population to have a partial command of this language. Many European countries score well on their English language proficiency, which means that you can almost always get ahead if you have a good basis in English. In all of these examples, however, it is mainly the inhabitants of large cities who have a good command of the language, which means that you might not get very far with English in small rural areas.

Why is English an important second language?

Speaking a second language is always valuable, among other things because it makes the brain more flexible and efficient. For example, a child with a bilingual upbringing can concentrate more easily, make connections more quickly and remember more information. English is a good second language because it is a real world language that is not only used during holidays, but also within the worlds of science, economics, politics and journalism. A good command of the English language gives you more opportunities to develop yourself in these areas, for example, during your studies or in your job.

Where is English best spoken as a second language?

Year after year, the Netherlands tops the list when it comes to command of this foreign language. This has everything to do with the international character of the Netherlands, but the young acquaintance with the English language also plays a major role. Furthermore, many other countries in Europe score well, such as Denmark, Austria, Norway and Belgium. Singapore and South Africa are also among the countries with the best command of English as a second language.

English classes at school

The advantages of English as a second language are obvious, but how do we help children to master it in the best possible way? In the Netherlands, it is compulsory to start English lessons at primary school. Primary and secondary schools must introduce students to the English language in order to maximise their chances for the future. At primary school, the emphasis is on listening and reading, while secondary school also pays a lot of attention to speaking and writing.

Learning English outside school

For many young people, their knowledge of the English language is not just acquired during lessons at school. Children and young people learn best through play, for example by practising English in conversations with their friends or by following English-language media. Films, series, books and music are often in English and appeal to young people. This keeps their knowledge of the English language up to date in a playful manner and they slowly learn new words and sentence structures.

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