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The Dutch need to improve their German: minister

Monday 12 November 2012

The Dutch need to improve their standard of German if they want to keep the good relationship between the Netherlands and Germany at the same level, foreign affairs minister Frans Timmermans said in an interview with German paper Die Welt.

'People think English is enough and that is a tragic misunderstanding,' Timmermans told the paper.

Now fewer Dutch people speak good German, the Netherlands risks losing its advantage over other countries, Timmermans said. In particular, small German firms are not happy about being spoken to in English.

Agree with the minister? Have your say using the comment box below.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

How about the other way round, small German firms start learning English & Dutch?

By Peter | 12 November 2012 2:24 PM

The Lingua Franca of business today is English. Germany must realise this and adapt. The Dutch have shown how it is necessary to take on English in order to conduct international business with others in Europe and across the globe, so why is it important to speak German if only out of politeness?

By Martin Bacon | 12 November 2012 3:09 PM

it makes perfectly sense for 82 million people to learn a language spoken by 17 million.
Such patriotism is anachronistic.

By joanna | 12 November 2012 3:24 PM

English like it or not is still the worlds most spoken international language with the largest continents speaking it worldwide. The English are lazy at languages but are improving, the Germans are also lazy - equal efforts are needed by all EU to sleak all EU languages.

By AndyT | 12 November 2012 3:47 PM

The more the economy and world become global, the more I feel we all need a common language. English seems to be the most obvious choice. It should become the standard, even while of course, maintaining the current languages and traditions.

By Roger | 12 November 2012 3:58 PM

Perhaps all communication can be conducted in Dutch, French, Spanish, Greek, German etc, according to which country holds the EU presidency. This would make perfect sense amongst all the other Eropean lunacy.

By Peter | 12 November 2012 4:20 PM

@Peter: Dutch economy depends on german one..not the other way. Minister is 100% right. More language skills will improve competence of dutch labour market. It should not be seen as anti-nationalistic statement. Grow up!

By Andrea | 12 November 2012 4:42 PM

Well said Peter. Isn't this "ubermensch" mentality rather out of touch with the progressive society and essentially alien to the basic principles of international harmony and co-operation ?

By Terence | 12 November 2012 10:41 PM

You know what they say... "the customer is always right". And right now, more bucks come from the east NL border, than the west, or south :)

By Alex | 12 November 2012 11:04 PM

I find the comments from Mr Timmermans surprising, as a once diplomat who studied French he should know Dutch, a West Germanic languages is basically old German. The everyday German of the north Germans and the south Germans is like Edam and Gouda. The Germans have a habit of changing their language now and again the “Rechtschreibreform von 1996” for example changed the ”ss-ß-Regel” which would have been to the distaste of Hitler. The Dutch should stay with speaking good English.

By Terence Hale | 13 November 2012 3:31 AM

actually timmermans sounds like the foreign affairs minister of germany...

By jim | 13 November 2012 3:56 AM

Often I whine about the Dutch, but when it comes to languages, they are simply one of the best. As an export oriented country it has never hurt to speak the language of the customers. Provided it can be demonstrated that Germany remains a big customer for Dutch products and services, it makes sense to me.

By GS | 13 November 2012 7:41 AM

and that is a tragic misunderstanding,' Timmermans told the paper.
Sounds ominous...is there something about germany we're not being informed of?

By Al | 13 November 2012 7:45 AM

everybody who wants to work internationally should learn english.. i respect that germans do not want to learn dutch since it is a useless language but english could help them a lot..

By noone | 13 November 2012 8:45 AM

What about learning chinese? There are one billion chinese verses 80m germans out there.

By ufo | 13 November 2012 9:00 AM

I'm a Native English speaker who lives in Germany, works with Dutch and has a spouse who teaches English in Germany and speaks German plus we speak French and learning Dutch. I always comment on the Dutch peoples great language skills, much better than in most countries. I am also astounded by the lack of any language skills in Germany where the first thing they say is "This is Germany so you must speak German" which makes me wonder why when in the Netherlands they only speak German at the Dutch.

By Seaiq | 13 November 2012 9:45 AM

Of course it would be appropriate for the Germans to improve their English, but in the end it is the same as with the French. If you want to do business with them, it is an advantage to know the language. No one forces you to learn German and all that Timmermans said is, that you improve your chances to win business with them. Nothing wrong with that.

By AFM | 13 November 2012 10:59 AM

80 Million Germans? Perhaps true but in Europe over 120 million people are "native German speakers". This and the fact, that in Eastern Europe German is a very commonly spoken second language, extends the circle of German speaking population in Europe to perhaps 200 million people or more.
Therefore it could be a wise choice to learn German...
And: not all Germans are Nazis nor do they force everyone to learn German. Many Germans even speak English or even Frensh ;-)

By bushdoctor | 13 November 2012 11:11 AM

The sooner the EU settles on one international business language the better for business communications. And,I don't think that language is going to be German... even the Germans accept that fact.

By Quince | 13 November 2012 11:41 AM

german should be mandatory in school.
in fact dutch and german are so similar that maybe german should become the natioinal language of the netherlands and the netherlands should become a german province.

By paul | 13 November 2012 12:00 PM

That is weird. I am English but speak fluent German, French and Dutch. I was constantly told by Unique Multilingual and Randstad that my work experience was irrelevant so I moved to Germany and found a job almost immediately, on the strength that I was a native English speaker. I find the standards of English to be much higher in Germany than in The Netherlands as well.

By Roy T | 13 November 2012 12:30 PM

@Peter as an English instructor in this country I can assure you that the average German speaks far better English and the average Dutch person. The Dutch like to think they speak it as well as the Scandinavians. They are light years away from that....

By Michael | 13 November 2012 1:17 PM

English is the best and easiest medium for communication.

By toria | 13 November 2012 1:18 PM

@paul: apparently this is the general plan.. but they first need to see how the annexation of Greece will turn out. Be patient.

By kakos | 13 November 2012 4:30 PM

I agree Michale. If you look at the IELTS league tables you will see that German speakers score very highly in English tests, while Dutch speakers fare less well.

By Darren | 14 November 2012 8:10 AM

How is it of any business to English speakers what language the Dutch and the Germany use while doing business together?

By pepe | 18 November 2012 8:58 PM

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