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 (90%) (Recognized in the Dutch Caribbean)
German (71%), French (29%), Spanish (5%)[6]
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. (
Knowledge of the German language in the Netherlands, 2005. According to the Eurobarometer: 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.

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

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)

Central Franconian dialects

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

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. European Union
  6. over Fries
  8. over Nedersaksisch
  9. over Limburgs
  10. Rapport "Meer dan een gebaar" en "actualisatie 1997-2001
  11. European Union
  12. "English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes" p. 316 and onwards
  13. "Gemeente Kerkrade | Kirchröadsj Plat". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  14. "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."


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