How Many Dutch Speakers Are There in the World?

how many dutch speakers

How Many Dutch Speakers Are There in the World?

How Many Dutch Speakers Are There in the World?

(Last Updated On: May 16, 2024)

Dutch Speakers

Dutch speakers, dispersed across Dutch-speaking countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, form a vibrant linguistic community with a rich historical legacy dating back to the 16th century. Dutch holds official status in these regions and serves as a standard language, rooted in Franconian dialects and the North Sea Germanic branch. With its origins as Cape Dutch and its development into Standard Dutch, this language has evolved into a literary and regional language spoken by millions as part of their daily lives, particularly in areas like North Brabant.

Dutch speakers benefit from instruction in schools and resources like Dutch courses offered by prestigious University Presses such as Cambridge University Press and Amsterdam University Press, ensuring accurate pronunciation and understanding of Dutch vocabulary. Through language contact, Dutch has influenced and borrowed from other languages, such as English and Yiddish, reflecting its dynamic nature within a dialect continuum.

Additionally, Dutch speakers share mutual intelligibility with languages like Afrikaans, spoken in Southern Africa, and Surinamese Dutch, underscoring its sister language status. Despite historical colonial presence, Dutch maintains its legal status and academic level, shaping cultural exchange and academic discourse with its extensive use of Dutch loanwords and English loanwords. This linguistic richness extends beyond geographical boundaries, with Dutch speakers in urban areas showcasing diverse urban dialects, while northern dialects in regions like North Rhine-Westphalia highlight the language’s adaptability and resilience.

A term that has been used in the context of technology for decades. In his book, White Space: The Hidden Dimension of Design, he describes how white spaces are areas of a design where there is no information or content to be displayed Dutch language isn’t only spoken in the Netherlands, but also in a number of other countries around the world as well. In fact, there are estimated to be approximately 23 million people worldwide who speak Dutch, although this figure doesn’t take into account how many people speak regional variants of the language like Flemish and Afrikaans. Here’s everything you need to know about how many Dutch speakers there are in the world and which countries they can be found in!


Within Europe, there are many languages spoken. One of these is known as Dutch. When you count those who speak it fluently and those who understand it, more than twenty million people all over the world speak some version of Dutch! That is why we will be looking at exactly how many dutch speakers there are in total and where they come from today!

Current Estimates

The Netherlands is a small country with only about 17 million inhabitants. But it has more than 100,000 native speakers of the Dutch language. That’s a lot!

But how many people speak the Dutch language in total? Well, according to estimates by the United Nations, there are somewhere between 22 and 25 million people who have learned Dutch as their first or second language. And if you add in the number of people who speak a variant of Dutch called “Afrikaans”, this number rises to over 50 million.

So what does this mean? It means that there are more people speaking Dutch than any other European language except for English. So if you are interested in learning a foreign language, then the best choice would probably be Dutch!

Current Trends

There are 23 million native speakers of Dutch and 60 million people who speak it as a second language. This makes it one of Europe’s most widely spoken languages, after English and French, with German in third place. This is largely due to its presence in both Belgium and Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), but also in Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and other Caribbean islands.

Where Do They Come From?

Dutch is spoken in several different regions across the globe. The largest concentration of Dutch speakers can be found in the Netherlands itself, followed closely by Surinam, Indonesia, and Germany. However, there are also significant communities of Dutch speakers living in Australia, Canada, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

dutch speakers in the world

Where do all of these people come from?

To find out, we need to go back to the year 1609. At that time, the Dutch East India Company was founded. Since then, the company has grown into one of the world’s biggest companies, and today it’s known as Royal Dutch Shell.

In addition to being one of the world‘s leading oil and gas companies, Shell also happens to be one of the world’s biggest employers. Over 250,000 employees work for the company around the globe. As such, it’s not surprising that the Dutch language has been adopted by so many people working for Shell.

In fact, the company has even set up its own online community where employees can communicate with each other using the Dutch language. In this way, Shell hopes to foster a sense of unity among its global workforce.

What Is Their Culture Like?

While the Dutch language may be spoken in several countries, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they share the same cultural traits. For example, while the Dutch population tends to be very friendly, the Dutch are also famous for their reserved nature.

This is something that you will quickly notice when you visit the Netherlands. You won’t see too many smiling faces here. Instead, most people tend to keep a stiff upper lip and maintain a serious demeanor.

This isn’t to say that the Dutch are unfriendly though. On the contrary, they are extremely welcoming and open-minded towards foreigners. It’s just that they prefer to keep things under wraps until they feel comfortable doing so.

The Dutch are also well known for their love of bicycles and cycling. Cycling is a popular form of transport in the Netherlands because it’s both cheap and environmentally friendly.

And since the Dutch are so fond of cycling, they often cycle together on group rides. These group rides usually take place at lunchtime and last anywhere from an hour to two hours. During these group rides, participants typically chat about whatever topic comes to mind.

It’s important to note that the Dutch don’t like to talk about politics or religion. This is especially true during public events. If someone tries to start a conversation about either of those topics, they will likely get labeled as “intolerant” or “bigoted.”

worldwide dutch speaking people

What Does Their Language Sound Like?

If you listen carefully, you might think that the Dutch speak English. After all, the Dutch have been speaking English ever since the British took over the country in 1588. However, the truth is that the Dutch language is actually quite similar to German. Both languages belong to the Indo-European family of languages and were originally spoken in what is now Northern Europe.

The Dutch Language

Dutch is a West Germanic language that was first spoken around 500 AD by the Frisians, who lived on the North Sea coast. The Frisian language has been extinct for hundreds of years but it is still used today as a regional dialect in northern Germany. Dutch is closely related to the Low Saxon language (which is spoken in the southern part of the Netherlands) and the Flemish language (spoken in Belgium). All three languages are descendants of Old Dutch. Read about the list of languages spoken in the Netherland other than Dutch.

As mentioned earlier, Dutch is a West Germanic tongue. This means that it shares some similarities with English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. One of the biggest differences between the Dutch language and other European languages is that the Dutch use a lot less articles than other languages do.

For example, instead of saying “the” or “a”, the Dutch would simply say “een”. When referring to multiple items, the Dutch use the word “veel” (“many”) rather than “deze” or “die”.

For instance, if I said: “I want a new car,” the Dutch version would be: “Ik wil een nieuw auto.” Another difference between the Dutch language and English is that the Dutch use the letter æ instead of the letter A. For example, the Dutch word for “car” is “auto” while the English equivalent is “automobile”.

Another thing worth noting is that the Dutch use voor instead of de for the verb “to be”. For example, the Dutch sentence “Het is voor het laatst geweest” means “It’s been raining for the past few days.”

The main foreign influence on Dutch vocabulary since the 12th century and culminating in the [120]French period has been French and (northern)Oïl languages, accounting for an estimated 6.8% of all words, or more than a third of all loanwords. In Canada, Dutch is the fourth most spoken language by farmers. Dutch, the language of power, was supposed to remain in the hands of the leading elite. Nevertheless, the Dutch government remained reluctant to teach Dutch on a large scale for fear of destabilizing the colony. Filipino Tagalog is one of the official languages of the Philippines and another Austronesian language.

In North-Western France, the area around Calais was historically Dutch-speaking (West Flemish), of which an estimated 20,000 are daily speakers.

The Dutch Language Union

The Dutch Language Union (DLU;, ) is a language union of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. It was founded in 1884 by the three countries’ respective governments to promote their national languages as well as to protect them against foreign influences. The DLU is responsible for the protection and promotion of the Dutch language throughout the world.

The Dutch Language Union also promotes the teaching of the Dutch language in schools. They also organize many activities such as conferences, competitions and festivals.

In addition, the DLU organizes the annual International Congress of Linguists (ICL), which takes place every year in one of the three member states. This conference brings together linguists from all over the world.

Education in Dutch as a foreign language

In the Netherlands, education is compulsory for all children from age 6 to 18. The primary school system consists of six grades (ages 7–12) and two years of high school (ages 12–18). Secondary schools offer three years of study (ages 10–14). After completing secondary school, students can choose to continue studying at university or vocational college.

There are about 1,500 public elementary schools (ages 5–13) and approximately 2,000 private elementary schools. Public middle schools (ages 13–16) and public high schools (ages 16–18) have roughly 20,000 students each. Private middle schools (ages 9–13) and private high schools (ages 14–18) have fewer than 200 students each.

There are more than 300 universities in the Netherlands. Most universities are affiliated with the University of Amsterdam, although there are several others located elsewhere in the country. Universities usually offer undergraduate degrees, master’s degrees, doctorates and post-doctoral studies.

Dutch universities are divided into four groups according to size and academic prestige. These are called faculties. Each faculty has its own administration, consisting of professors, associate professors and assistant professors. Students who wish to enter a specific program must apply to the appropriate faculty. Some programs require a bachelor’s degree before entering the program. Others do not.

Most Dutch universities are open to international students. However, some universities only accept domestic applicants. At these universities, foreigners may still receive an admission letter but they will not be allowed to register until after they obtain a visa.

Dutch in International Organizations

Dutch holds a significant position within international organizations, stemming from its historical roots dating back to the 15th century and its widespread presence in regions such as North Rhine-Westphalia and North Brabant. With its legal status affirmed, Dutch serves as a language of communication at both the basic and academic levels, supported by resources from institutions like Amsterdam University Press. Within international contexts, Standard Dutch reflects its diverse linguistic landscape, encompassing northern dialects, urban dialects, and a broader dialect continuum.

Furthermore, Dutch shares linguistic ties with languages such as Frisian and French Flemish, highlighting its role as a sister language and one of the closest relatives within the linguistic spectrum. Its incorporation of Dutch loanwords and its influence on languages like Yiddish underscore its historical and cultural significance. Even in regions beyond its borders, such as Caribbean countries, Dutch maintains a presence, reflecting its global reach. Through initiatives like Statistics South Africa, Dutch continues to play a pivotal role in international discourse, bridging linguistic and cultural divides while maintaining its standard form, known as Standard Dutch.

Dutch is one of the official languages of the Benelux Union and the European Union. This is because Belgium and the Netherlands are member states of these multilateral communities. Dutch is also an official language of the Association of Caribbean States and the Union of South American Nations, because of Suriname’s membership of these international bodies.


Afrikaans, stemming from Dutch colonial presence in South Africa during the 16th century, has evolved into a distinct language with its own standard form. Rooted in Dutch vocabulary and sharing similarities with northern dialects, Afrikaans exhibits a unique blend of English loanwords and Dutch loanwords, reflecting both colonial and academic influences.

Despite its historical ties to Dutch, Afrikaans has gained prominence as a separate language with official status in South Africa, Statistics South Africa indicating its daily speakers and its presence in instruction in schools. This linguistic evolution mirrors the broader dynamics of language contact and development, exemplified by the dialect continuum across Southern Africa. While closely related to Dutch and considered a sister language, Afrikaans has become a vital part of the cultural and literary landscape, with publications like Afrikaans newspapers contributing to its rich linguistic heritage. Its proper pronunciation and status as a standard language within the European Union highlight its significance as a regional and literary language, distinct yet deeply connected to its Dutch roots.

Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch that has evolved from the various Cape Dutch dialects spoken in South Africa and Namibia. However, many Afrikaans speakers are exposed to English therefore Dutch words such as apartment, lift, and the computer would be understood by them. It is estimated that between 90% to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimate of Dutch origin. The constitution of 1983 only listed English and Afrikaans as official languages.


Frisian is the mother tongue of some 350,000 people in the province of Fryslân. It is closely related to Dutch and English.


Dutch is grammatically similar to German, such as in syntax and verb morphology (for verb morphology in English verbs, Dutch and German, see Germanic weak verb and Germanic strong verb). The similarity between the two languages extends to their vocabulary, which includes over 60% cognate words. For example, both languages use the same word for “to go”: gaan. Both languages share the same nouns for “cat”: kat. Both languages have the same adjective for “big”: groot. And so on.

In addition, Dutch uses the same or very similar words for concepts that are expressed differently in German, such as “to leave something behind” (laten): geven.

The influence of German can also be seen in the spelling of certain Dutch words. For example, the Dutch word voorbeeld means “example”, while the German equivalent is Vorbild. Similarly, the Dutch word vrijheid means “freedom”, while the corresponding German word is Freiheit.

Dutch exhibits subject–object–verb word order, but in main clauses the conjugated verb is moved into the second position in what is known as verb second or V2 word order.

dutch speaking countries

Indonesian Language and Dutch

The Indonesian language, enriched by centuries of language contact and Dutch colonial presence starting from the 15th century, has emerged as a standard language with its own distinct characteristics. Rooted in Malay and influenced by Dutch, Indonesian incorporates both English loanwords and Dutch loanwords, reflecting its historical ties and academic development.

While Dutch presence has left a lasting impact on the language, Indonesian has evolved into a standard form, distinct from its original language roots. Despite its regional variations and dialect continuum, Indonesian maintains its status as a literary language, with publications such as Indonesian newspapers contributing to its cultural vibrancy. Its conjugated verbs and weak verbs, alongside proper pronunciation, showcase its linguistic structure and evolution.

Additionally, Indonesian shares linguistic similarities with languages like Frisian and Yiddish, serving as a sister language within the broader linguistic landscape. Amidst urban dialects and regional variations, Indonesian remains a unifying force in a diverse linguistic environment, extending even to French Flemish-speaking areas and Caribbean countries. The presence of publishing companies like John Benjamins Publishing Company underscores the academic depth and international reach of Indonesian language studies, from basic to advanced levels.

The Indonesian language is a member of the Austronesian family, which includes languages spoken in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Wallis & Futuna. Yet the Indonesian language inherited many words from Dutch: words for everyday life as well as scientific and technological terms. Indonesian language is spoken by over 23 million people and is one of the few Asian languages that use the Latin alphabet.

Dutch is probably the easiest foreign language for native English speakers to learn.

For native English speakers, Dutch often emerges as one of the easiest foreign languages to learn, owing to its shared linguistic roots and the prevalence of English loanwords within its vocabulary. With a rich history dating back to the 15th century and a strong Dutch presence across regions like North Brabant and North Rhine-Westphalia, Dutch has evolved into a standard language while preserving its regional variations, including northern dialects and urban dialects.

Despite its status as a regional language, Dutch maintains its legal status and academic rigor, with resources available at both basic and academic levels through institutions like Amsterdam University Press. As the closest relatives of Dutch, languages such as Frisian and French Flemish offer additional linguistic connections, enriching the learning experience. Moreover, Dutch shares a dialect continuum with neighboring languages, including Yiddish, further facilitating comprehension for English speakers. Access to Statistics South Africa data and insights into Dutch presence in Caribbean countries underscore the global reach and relevance of Dutch language learning. Additionally, the availability of Dutch loanwords and English loanwords in everyday usage, even in media like Afrikaans newspapers, further eases the transition for English speakers into mastering Dutch.

It’s a relatively small, easy-to-learn language that has been spoken in the Netherlands since the early Middle Ages and is now one of Europe’s most widely used languages. The Dutch alphabet consists of 26 letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z. The Dutch language uses the Latin script, which means it looks like English does. But unlike English language, Dutch words don’t end in ‘S’. Instead, they end in vowels.

In addition to speaking Dutch, you might want to know how to say “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Thank You”, “Please”, “Yes”, “No”, “I Love You”, ‘Good Morning”, ‘Happy Birthday”, ‘I Hate You”, ”What’s your name?”, “Where are you going?”, ‘Do you speak English?”, ’Can I help you?’, ‘Is this seat free?’, ’How much is this?’, “Who can I ask for?”, ”May I see your ticket please?”, „Please give me your passport”, “My name is…”, “Your bag is too heavy!”, “You have forgotten your luggage!”, ‘Where did you get that hat?’, ”Are you married?”, “When is your birthday?”, ‚What time is it?’, „I am sorry”, “Excuse me”, “Sorry”, “Pardon”.

Dutch shares a common predecessor with Scandinavian languages, German, and English and are all grouped as Germanic languages.Dutch was the dominant language in parts along the Hudson River for many generations.

Over 150,000 Americans speak dutch at home.

The percentage of Dutch speakers in America used to be much higher.  In New York, alongside the Hudson River, Dutch settlers and their descendants spoke Dutch for generations. In fact, Martin Van Buren, the eighth President, spoke Dutch as a child, as his first language. Van Buren was the only US president to speak English as a second language. You might be forgiven for thinking that Amish and Mennonites speak Dutch, but that’s not the case. They speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which isn’t Dutch at all.  It’s a dialect of German.

A lot of Dutch slang comes from Hebrew.

Many Dutch slang terms come from Hebrew words used by the Jewish community living in the Netherlands. Some of these words can be found especially in Amsterdam dialects of Dutch. This makes sense because most Dutch Jews lived in Amsterdam during World War II.

Language Learning – Dutch Today

Language learning, particularly Dutch, presents a fascinating journey through history and cultural diversity. Originating in the 16th and 17th centuries, Dutch emerged as a standard language with distinct characteristics, including its conjugated verb structure and rich vocabulary. While Dutch is spoken as a native language by millions in Dutch-speaking countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, it also holds significance as a minority language in regions such as North Brabant and North America, where Flemish people have settled. With its roots in the North Sea Germanic branch and its close relationship to Frisian, Dutch exhibits mutual intelligibility with languages like Afrikaans, spoken in Southern Africa, and Surinamese Dutch.

Language learning resources, including Dutch courses and publications from renowned presses like Oxford University Press and Amsterdam University Press, cater to learners at both basic and academic levels, facilitating accurate pronunciation and understanding of Dutch vocabulary and verb morphology. Through language contact and historical colonial presence, Dutch has influenced and borrowed from other languages, such as English and Yiddish, enriching its linguistic landscape and urban dialects. Today, as a member of the European Union, Dutch holds legal and academic status, reflecting its enduring relevance and importance in global communication and cultural exchange.

Studying another language helps you expand your mind and opens you up to a new culture. This is especially true for those who want to learn Dutch as it provides access to a number of opportunities that simply aren’t available to those who don’t know how to speak it. If you are looking for an opportunity like that, then take a look at some of the benefits that learning Dutch (the original language) can offer. It just might inspire you to start!


How Many People Speak Dutch?

Dutch is a national language in the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname in South America and the Dutch Antilles. Approximately 23 million people worldwide speak Dutch as their native language.

How Many People Have Learned Dutch?

There are over 200 million people around the world who speak Dutch as their mother tongue.

What is a Dutch accent called?

Limburgs: These accents are spoken in both Belgian and Dutch Limburg regions. Personally, I think the Dutch accent is the most beautiful accent among the Lowlands and many native Dutch people agree. Despite the fact that Limburgs is often mocked for its rather odd pronunciation.

How different are Dutch dialect?

Dutch dialects are quite diverse and are spoken in the Netherlands and northern parts of Belgium. Standard Dutch and the Stads­fries dialect are spoken here along with the West Frisian language. A West Frisia standard language has also been created.

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