Languages of the Netherlands

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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 (90%) (Recognized in the Dutch Caribbean)
German (71%), French (29%), Spanish (5%)[6]
Sign languages Dutch Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
US international QWERTY
KB US-International.svg
Knowledge of foreign languages in the Netherlands, in percent of the population over 15, 2006. Data taken from an EU survey. [2] (
Knowledge of the German language in the Netherlands, 2005. According to the Eurobarometer: [3] 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, Belgium, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Suriname. It is a West Germanic, Low Franconian language that originated in the Early Middle Ages (c. 470) and was standardised in the 16th century.

There are also some recognised provincial languages and regional dialects.

  • Frisian is a co-official language in the province of Friesland. Frisian is spoken by 453,000 speakers [7]
  • 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 an official language [8] but on a lower status than Dutch, meaning that communication with the municipality can be done in English, but Dutch remains the language of publications, meetings, and administration. A large majority of primary and secondary education in Amsterdam remains in Dutch only, but there are some bilingual Dutch-English schools. On Saba and St. Eustatius, the majority of the education is in English only, with some bilingual English-Dutch schools.
  • 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.[9]
  • Another Low Franconian dialect 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 recognised 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.[10]

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.[11]

There is a trend of learning foreign languages in the Netherlands: between 90%[12] and 93%[13] of the total population are able to converse in English, 71% in German, 29% in French and 5% in Spanish.

Minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux[edit]

Frisian dialects[edit]

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[edit]

Minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux countries

Low Franconian dialects[edit]

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
    • North Limburgian
  • Brabantian
    • Northwest Brabantian
    • Central north Brabantian
    • East Brabantian
    • Kempen Brabantian
    • South Brabantian
  • Limburgish
    • West Limburgish
    • Central Limburgish
    • Southeast Limburgish
    • Low Dietsch

Central Franconian dialects[edit]

Note that Ripuarian is not recognised as a regional language of the Netherlands.

Dialects fully outside the Netherlands[edit]

Luxembourgish is divided into Moselle Luxembourgish, West Luxembourgish, East Luxembourgish, North Luxembourgish and City Luxembourgish.[citation needed] 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. ^ [1]
  6. ^ European Union
  7. ^ over Fries
  8. ^
  9. ^ over Nedersaksisch
  10. ^ over Limburgs
  11. ^ Rapport "Meer dan een gebaar" en "actualisatie 1997-2001
  12. ^ European Union
  13. ^ "English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes" p. 316 and onwards
  14. ^ "Gemeente Kerkrade | Kirchröadsj Plat". Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  15. ^ "Cittaslow Vaals: verrassend, veelzijdig, veelkleurig". Retrieved 9 September 2015.  The PDF file can be accessed at the bottom of the page. The relevant citation is on the page 13: "De enige taal waarin Vaals echt te beschrijven en te bezingen valt is natuurlijk het Völser dialect. Dit dialect valt onder het zogenaamde Ripuarisch."