The language abilities of an ambassador, and his/her choice of language, can be a reflection of his/her qualifications and/or the face he/she chooses to present to the country to which they are appointed.

Pete Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands, to Dutch parents, and raised in the historically Dutch town of Holland, MI. Furthermore, he has historically taken an interest in the Netherlands and US-Netherlands relations. This suggests he might be able to speak Dutch.

However, in recent weeks, his prominent and widely shared interactions with the Dutch press have been entirely in English, and his Twitter feed contains a statement entirely in English on recent events.

Does the Ambassador speak Dutch? If so, to what extent?

  • This is on topic, but might be hard to answer.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 20:21
  • @JamesK: Respectfully disagree. This is about trivia (and hard to know for sure, at that). Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 22:05
  • 1
    It might be hard to prove a negative. But for other ambassadors the information can be found. Edwin Reischauer was the last US ambassador to Japan to be fluent in Japanese. Caroline Kennedy was not a Japanese speaker when appointed, which caused some to question her appointment. William Hagerty has functional Japanese, but uses translators for all important matters. Questions of political personalities are explictly on topic.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 22:21
  • Forcing the ambassador to know the local language could restrict too much the pool of available candidates. If knowing the local language was mandatory, how many people in the USA would have the skills, security background & other needed qualifications to be ambassador to Belarus? Or Sweden? Or even South Korea. And other countries with less population (= less possible candidates) would have even more issues.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 22:44
  • What does his LinkedIn say? :)
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


Below is a short quotation from an article in the Holland Sentinel ("Speaking Dutch in West Michigan"), published on 7 September 2008:

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, came to the United States at age 3. He said he thinks he is the only Dutch speaker in Congress. He visits the Netherlands and speaks some Dutch.

  • Well found, and welcome to Politics!
    – James K
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 9:19
  • This sort of begs the question why he doesn't speak Dutch when talking to Dutch journalists?
    – user11249
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 23:51
  • 7
    @Carpetsmoker "some dutch" would mean that there is a considerable risk of saying something wrong. At best it would be something senseless or that cannot be understood, but at worst he could unadvertently say something offensive. It is always wise for an ambassador to avoid misunderstandings (doubly so if the ambassador did already say offensive things even before being appointed).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 1:50
  • Besides, the vast majority of Dutch people are pretty fluent in English. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 5:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .