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Languages of the Netherlands

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Title: Languages of the Netherlands  
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Subject: Culture of the Netherlands, South Guelderish, Sport in the Netherlands, Transport in the Netherlands, Outline of the Netherlands
Collection: Languages of the Netherlands
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Languages of the Netherlands

Languages of Netherlands
Official languages Dutch (>90%)
Regional languages Official: Frisian (2.50%),[1] English (BES Islands),[2] Papiamento (Bonaire);[3][4] Not official: Dutch Low Saxon (10.9%)[5] Limburgish (4.50%) (not official)
Main immigrant languages

Varieties of Arabic (1.5%), Turkish (1.5%), Berber languages (1%)

See further: Immigration to the Netherlands
Main foreign languages English (87%) (Recognised in the Dutch Caribbean)
German (70%), French (29%), Spanish (5%)
Sign languages Dutch Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
US international QWERTY
Knowledge of foreign languages in the Netherlands, in percent of the population over 15, 2006. Data taken from an EU survey. ebs_243_en.pdf (
Knowledge of the German language in the Netherlands, 2005. According to the Eurobarometer: [1] 70% of the respondents indicated that they know German well enough to have a conversation. Of these 12% (per cent, not percentage points) reported a very good knowledge of the language whereas 22% had a good knowledge and 43% basic German skills.

The official national language of the Netherlands is Dutch, spoken by almost all people in the Netherlands. Dutch is also spoken and official in Aruba, Brussels, Curaçao, Flanders, Sint Maarten and Suriname. It is a West Germanic, Low Franconian language that originated in the Early Middle Ages (c. 470) and was standardized in the 16th century.

There are also some recognized provincial languages and regional dialects.

  • Frisian is a co-official language in the province of Friesland. Frisian is spoken by 453,000 speakers [6]
  • English is an official language in the special municipalities of Saba and Sint Eustatius (BES Islands). It is widely spoken on Saba and Sint Eustatius (see also: English language in the Netherlands). The municipality of Amsterdam also recognises English as official language [7] but on a lower status than Dutch.
  • Papiamento is an official language in the special municipality of Bonaire.
  • Several dialects of Dutch Low Saxon (Nederlands Nedersaksisch in Dutch) are spoken in much of the north-east of the country and are recognised as regional languages according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Low Saxon is spoken by 1,798,000 speakers.[8]
  • Another Low Franconian dialect granted the status of regional language is Limburgish, which is spoken in the south-eastern province of Limburg. Limburgish is spoken by 825,000 speakers. Though there are movements to have Limburgish recognized as an official language (meeting with varying amounts of success,) it is important to note that Limburgish in fact consists of a large number of differing dialects that share some common aspects, but are quite different.[9]

However, both Low Saxon and Limburgish spread across the Dutch-German border and belong to a common Dutch-German dialect continuum.

The Netherlands also has its separate Dutch Sign Language, called Nederlandse Gebarentaal (NGT). It is still waiting for recognition and has 17,500 users.[10]

There is a trend of learning foreign languages in the Netherlands: about 87% of the total population are able to converse in English, 70% in German, 29% in French and 5% in Spanish.


  • Minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux 1
    • Frisian dialects 1.1
    • Low Saxon dialects 1.2
    • Low Franconian dialects 1.3
    • Dialects fully outside the Netherlands 1.4
  • References 2
    • Footnotes 2.1
    • Notations 2.2

Minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux

Frisian dialects

West Frisian is an official language in the Dutch province of Friesland (Fryslân in West Frisian). The government of the Frisian province is bilingual. Since 1996 Frisian has been recognised as an official minority language in the Netherlands under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, although it had been recognised by the Dutch government as the second state language (tweede rijkstaal), with official status in Friesland, since the 1950s.

Low Saxon dialects

Minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux countries

Low Franconian dialects

The Rhinelandic dialect continuum
—— Low Franconian (Dutch) ——
  (2) Limburgish (incl. Low Bergish)
—— West Central German (Central and Rhine Franconian) ——
  (3) Ripuarian (incl. South Bergish)
  (4), (5) Moselle Franconian (incl. Luxembourgish)
  • South Guelderish (Kleverlands)
    • Rivierenlands
    • Liemers
    • Nijmeegs
  • Brabantian
    • Northwest Brabantian
    • Central north Brabantian
    • East Brabantian
    • Kempen Brabantian
    • South Brabantian
    • North Limburgian
  • Limburgish
    • West Limburgish
    • Central Limburgish
    • Southeast Limburgish
    • Low Dietsch

Dialects fully outside the Netherlands

Luxembourgish is divided into Moselle Luxembourgish, West Luxembourgish, East Luxembourgish, North Luxembourgish and City Luxembourgish. The Oïl dialects in the Benelux are Walloon (divided into West Walloon, Central Walloon, East Walloon and South Walloon), Lorrain (including Gaumais), Champenois and Picard (including Tournaisis).



  1. ^ Wet op de Friese taal (in Dutch)
  2. ^ Wet op het gebruik van het Engels in communicatie met de overheid (in Dutch)
  3. ^ Wet op het gebruik van het Papiamento in communicatie met de overheid (in Dutch)
  4. ^ The oath in English and Papiamento
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ over Fries
  7. ^
  8. ^ over Nedersaksisch
  9. ^ over Limburgs
  10. ^ Rapport "Meer dan een gebaar" en "actualisatie 1997-2001


  • [3]
  • [4]
  • [5]
  • [5] Ginsburgh, Victor; Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin; Shlomo Weber (February 2005). "Why Do People Learn Foreign Languages?" (pdf). Université libre de Bruxelles. Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2007-10-10.  - specifically, see Table 2.
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