Languages in the Netherlands other than Dutch

languages in the Netherlands

Languages in the Netherlands other than Dutch

Languages in the Netherlands other than Dutch

(Last Updated On: February 16, 2024)

The Netherlands is home to around 17 million people and although Dutch and English are probably the most spoken languages, there are other languages in the Netherlands, some of them being official languages as well (Frisian in the north of the Netherlands and Papiamento in the Caribbean).

When people ask a Dutch person where they come from they tell the Netherlands. Everybody is saying oh yes. But when you say Amsterdam, they all say, oh of course AMSTERDAM. When you tell you come from Holland they do not understand why Holland is the same as the Netherlands. As long as you tell them you are from the Netherlands, they understand and they know from which part.

The Netherlands or Holland?


The Netherlands is listed first in the world, above France and Switzerland, for having the most productive, healthy, nutritious, and affordable food among 125 nations. While Holland is most generally used to talk about the Netherlands, ‘Holland’ is just a part of the Netherlands.

Not all Dutch people are from Holland or Europe: Holland is an area in the Netherlands that is made up of the provinces of North Holland (Noord-Holland) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland). But the Netherlands adds another ten regions. Approximately, 17 million people live in these regions! Historically, Holland was the area that gave the most to the Dutch kingdom’s economy and wealth, thus becoming a common name to designate the entire country, although incorrectly.

The Netherlands may be small in size, but certainly not in power. The Netherlands is recognized for its maritime trading traditions, liberal social policies, battles to hold back the sea, robust multiculturalism and leading technological ideas, making Dutch lifestyle a mosaic of cultural intrigue.

The Netherlands or Holland?

Language spoken in the Netherlands

Dutch is a Low Franconian, West Germanic language that originated in the Early Middle Ages (c.470) and was later standardized in the 16th century. As most of the people use it, Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands. However, about 90 to 93% of its population can converse in English, 71% in German, 29% in French and 5% in Spanish.

what languages are spoken in the Netherlands

What languages are spoken in the Netherlands?


Dutch is the official language in Amsterdam and other places including Belgium, Aruba, Saint Maarten, Curaçao, and Suriname. But there are some other recognized languages in the Netherlands as listed below, therefore the need for translation services:

  • North of the Netherlands: Frisian is another official language in Friesland province. It’s spoken by about 453,000 people.
  • The Caribbean: In Saba and Saint Eustatius, English is their official language. A majority of schools use the English language mainly, with just a few bilingual English-Dutch schools. This is different from the schools in Amsterdam. Amsterdam recognizes English as the second official language after Dutch. People often use English in communicating, but when it comes to official meetings, publications, and administration, Dutch is used. Hence, most of primary and secondary schools use Dutch only. Although, there are bilingual schools also.

More languages in the Netherlands


  • Papiamento is also spoken on the Caribbean islands of the Netherlands, particularly on Saba and Saint Eustatius, and on St. Maarten, by immigrants from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Papiamento is a Creole language containing elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, as well as Arawakan and African languages. It is spoken by about 330,000 people in Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba, which were formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles.
  • According to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, some dialects of the Dutch Low Saxon are used in the Northeastern part of the Netherlands. These places recognize them as part of the country’s regional languages spoken by approximately 1,700,000 speakers.
  • In the Southeastern part of Netherlands, Limburg has another dialect called Limburgish which is also a Low Franconian dialect. It is used by about 800,000 speakers. However, current movements of recognizing Limburgish as their official language have not yet been fully successful. This is because Limburgish is made up of many different dialects which may share common features, but still quite different.
Language spoken in the Netherlands
What language is spoken in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is an international city with all nationalities live and meet each other. The number one language is of course Dutch but everybody also speak English.

Why is the language of the Netherlands or Holland called Dutch?

In Old English, Dutch simply meant “people or nation.” (This is why Germany is called Deutschland in German.) Over time, English-speaking people used the word Dutch to describe people from both the Netherlands and Germany. However, there are certain differences in culture and language but they have similarities.

Is Dutch and German the same language?

NO, they are not. There are similarities but there is a difference in spelling and pronunciation, although Dutch, German and English have the same root; West Germanic languages.

The Netherlands has a wide variety of speaking dialects. A lot of them are closely related to each other. For instance, both Limburgish and Low Saxon fit in the Dutch-German dialect continuum because they spread across the Dutch-German border. Besides these dialects, the Netherlands has a separate Sign Language, too. However, it is yet to be recognized. This language is called Nederlandse Gebarentaal (NGT) with roughly 17,000 users.

Although the Netherlands is mostly known for its flat landscape, its canals, windmills, tulip fields and cycling routes, there is much more to that which makes it a great country to visit, including the languages in the Netherlands. Its diversity of languages, cuisine, its culture and historical sites (Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and many more) make it a lot more interesting and a perfect holiday destination.

From Dutch to Afrikaans

The Dutch language, a prominent member of the Germanic language family, shares its roots with English and the Frisian language, offering an intriguing study for those interested in foreign languages. In South Africa, Dutch has evolved into Afrikaans, which is considered a daughter language and serves as one of the co-official languages, highlighting the global footprint of Dutch influence. For English speakers, learning Dutch presents an accessible bridge to mastering another language, given the similarities between the two.

Meanwhile, the Frisian language, closely related to Dutch and spoken in parts of the Netherlands, further showcases the linguistic diversity within the Dutch-speaking world. This interconnectedness of languages, from native tongues to foreign languages, underscores the rich tapestry of linguistic heritage shared among Dutch speakers, English speakers, and beyond, fostering a deeper understanding of cultural and linguistic bonds that span continents.

At the core of the Netherlands’ linguistic landscape is Dutch, the official and national language that stands as a hallmark of the nation’s identity. Emerging as a standard language in the 12th century, Standard Dutch has since played a pivotal role in shaping Dutch literature and culture.

Its influence extends beyond Europe, impacting various African languages through historical ties. Today, Dutch language courses promote the language’s spread and preservation, ensuring its status as the predominant language in the Netherlands. This enduring legacy underscores the deep-rooted connection between the Dutch language and the cultural fabric of the country.

Dutch Evolution & Education Impact

From the 15th through the 18th centuries, the Dutch language experienced significant evolution, branching into a variety of Dutch dialects, including distinct urban dialects. This period of linguistic diversification laid the groundwork for the rich tapestry of the language we see today. By the 17th century, during the golden age of international trade, Dutch influence expanded globally, contributing to the development of Afrikaans, which now boasts its own newspapers and exhibits mutual intelligibility with Dutch to some extent.

This era underscores the importance of language acquisition in navigating the complex linguistic landscape, highlighting the intricate interplay between language, culture, and commerce that has shaped the Dutch-speaking world.

Instruction in schools, particularly elementary schools, plays a pivotal role in the dissemination and preservation of language. Renowned academic publishers like Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Amsterdam University Press contribute significantly to this educational landscape, offering a wealth of resources that support language learning and literacy. Regions such as North Brabant, with its unique dialects, and areas where North Frisian—a minority language within the North Sea Germanic group—is spoken, benefit from tailored educational materials that cater to their linguistic needs.

This focus on education and instruction in schools ensures that daily speakers, from young learners to adults, gain a comprehensive understanding of the language’s structure, including the nuances of strong and weak verbs. This educational foundation not only preserves linguistic diversity but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the cultural heritage it represents.

Global Dutch & Cultural Exchange

Across various academic levels, from the primary stage to higher education, the influence of the Dutch language and culture extends far beyond its native borders, touching regions as diverse as Southern Africa and the United States. In Southern Africa, the Dutch presence, dating back centuries, has left an indelible mark, granting Dutch and its derivative, Afrikaans, official status and a prominent place in the region’s linguistic landscape. Similarly, in the United States, communities of Dutch heritage continue to celebrate and preserve their linguistic ties, contributing to the rich tapestry of languages spoken across the country.

Institutions like the Holland Language Academy play a crucial role in this preservation, offering structured language acquisition programs that connect learners to the Dutch-speaking world. Even in countries as distant as Afghanistan, the study of language and its role in society can reflect the global impact of linguistic influences, highlighting the interconnectedness of our world.

Language contact, a phenomenon vividly observed in educational settings such as Holland High School and Holland Middle School, especially during breaks when formal education pauses, illustrates the dynamic nature of linguistic exchange. Throughout the 20th century, such contact zones have fostered the blending and evolution of languages, including the merging of northern dialects and influences from regions like North Rhine-Westphalia.

In these schools, located at the heart of communities with rich linguistic heritages, students might encounter and engage with diverse linguistic structures, including the complexities of conjugated verbs, reflecting the broader patterns of language change and adaptation over time. This interaction not only enriches the students’ linguistic repertoire but also mirrors the broader societal shifts in language use and preferences.

Dutch Colonial Legacy Unveiled

From the basic level to the college level, language learning and professional development in linguistics and cultural studies cater to a wide audience, including private individuals and professionals. The exploration of languages and cultures, such as those of the East Indies and Zeeland East, is enriched by resources like the “Atlas van de Nederlandse,” which offers comprehensive insights into linguistic diversity. This academic and professional pursuit extends into areas of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, emphasizing the importance of understanding and valuing linguistic heritage and diversity.

Furthermore, the legal status of languages, a critical aspect of linguistic studies, plays a significant role in preserving and recognizing the rights of speakers, showcasing the intricate relationship between language, law, and society. Through this multifaceted approach, learners and professionals alike delve into the complexities of language and culture, fostering a deeper appreciation and understanding of global linguistic landscapes.

The heavy influence of the Dutch colonial presence from the 16th century onwards has left an indelible mark on the linguistic landscapes of various regions around the world. The Dutch people, through their extensive trade networks and colonial endeavors, propagated the Dutch language far beyond the borders of the Netherlands, embedding it alongside foreign and regional languages in the places they touched. This historical spread contributed to the development of Standard Dutch as well as a multitude of Dutch dialects, reflecting the dynamic interplay between the Dutch language and the indigenous languages it encountered.

The legacy of this influence is still evident today, not only in the Netherlands but also in former colonies, where the Dutch language continues to be a part of the rich linguistic tapestry, showcasing the complex history of language contact and cultural exchange.

The Dutch Influence on Global Languages

Afrikaans newspapers serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of Dutch linguistic influences, showcasing the mutual intelligibility between Afrikaans and Dutch. This relationship underscores the importance of language acquisition, particularly in educational settings such as elementary schools, where instruction plays a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of daily speakers. In regions where languages like North Frisian, part of the North Sea Germanic group, are spoken, the impact of such linguistic influences is profound.

Schools in these areas adapt their instruction to preserve the unique linguistic heritage while facilitating understanding and communication within the broader Dutch-speaking world. Through this educational focus, students gain a deep appreciation for the intricate web of linguistic relationships and the cultural exchanges that shape their linguistic landscape.

The Dutch presence, dating back to the 12th century when Standard Dutch began to emerge, significantly shaped the linguistic landscapes of regions far beyond Europe, notably in South Africa. By the primary stage of colonization in the 17th centuries, Dutch speakers had established a profound influence, embedding the Dutch language into the cultural fabric of South Africa.

This period marked the evolution of Dutch, from its Standard form in the 15th century to a critical component of South Africa’s multilingual society. The enduring legacy of Dutch in South Africa reflects the complex interplay between language, culture, and history, illustrating how linguistic ties formed in the past continue to influence the present linguistic identities and practices.

Cultural Ties for Dutch and Afrikaans

Amsterdam University Press, renowned for its scholarly contributions, plays a vital role in promoting the study of native languages and linguistics, including the diverse languages of Afghanistan and the linguistic heritage of Southern Africa. During breaks from formal education, such as the “Break – No School” periods, private individuals, including Dutch speakers in South Africa, often turn to Afrikaans newspapers as a source of linguistic and cultural connection.

These newspapers not only serve as a bridge between the Dutch language and its Afrikaans derivative but also highlight the intricate relationship between languages in Southern Africa. Through the efforts of publishers like Amsterdam University Press and the daily practices of private people, the rich tapestry of languages in these regions is celebrated and preserved, contributing to a deeper understanding of linguistic diversity and its impact on cultural identity.

What is the official language of the Netherlands?

The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. It is the primary language used in government, education, and media throughout the country.

Are there any recognized regional languages in the Netherlands?

Yes, the Netherlands recognizes several regional languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. These include Frisian (officially recognized and taught in schools in the province of Friesland), Low Saxon, Limburgish, and several others.

What is the status of the Frisian language in the Netherlands?

Frisian is granted official status in the province of Friesland, where it is used in education, administration, and public life alongside Dutch. It is the second officially recognized language of the Netherlands.

How does the Dutch language in the Netherlands differ from Dutch in Belgium?

Dutch spoken in the Netherlands and Dutch spoken in Belgium (often referred to as Flemish) share the same standard language. However, there are differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and some aspects of syntax. Flemish tends to have a softer intonation and uses some different words and expressions that are not commonly used in the Netherlands.

Is English widely spoken in the Netherlands?

Yes, English is widely spoken in the Netherlands. A high proportion of the population speaks English fluently, and it is commonly used in higher education, business, and tourism. This high proficiency is attributed to the Dutch education system, which emphasizes learning English from an early age, as well as the country’s strong orientation towards international trade and culture.

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