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Low Saxon



Arabic (Marrocan)

15,7 million


Number of speakers









Other languages:

Berber (50.000), Turkish (21.000), etc.




Basic information on the spoken languages and the educational system:



The Dutch language is the official language of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as well as, one of the two official languages of Belgium, where it is also called Flemish. In the Middle Ages, the language was called >Diets=, or >Duuts=, equivalent to German Deutsch. The form Duuts was borrowed into English as >Dutch=. The official name of the language is >Nederlands=, or Netherlandic. In the Netherlands it is also called Hollands (Hollandish), reflecting the fact that the standard language is based largely on the dialect of the provinces of North Holland and South Holland.

The spoken language exists in many varieties ranging from Standard Dutch “Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands”, used for official and public purposes, including instruction in schools and universities‑‑to the dialects that are used among family, friends, and others from the same area. The regional languages Low-Saxon and Limburgian have obtained recognition by the state in the context of the European Charter on regional or minority languages.



The Lower-Saxon languages are spoken in the provinces of Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel, the municipalities Oost- and Weststellingwerf in Friesland and the regions Achterhoek and Veluwe in the province of Gelderland. Lower-Saxon in the Netherlands is linguistically related to Low-German in Germany. The total number of inhabitants of the Lower-Saxon region is about 3.000.000.  An estimate of 60% mother tongue for the whole Lower-Saxon region arrives at about 1.800.000 speakers. Hardly or no education takes place in Lower-Saxon.



The Limburger language is spoken in the province of Limburg, in very many different varieties. It has no overarching standard. It functions mainly as a spoken language of a large proportion of the population.



Frisian or West-Frisian (opposite to East- and North-Frisian in Germany) is spoken in the province of Fryslân/Friesland and in a few border villages in the province of Groningen. Friesland has 620.000 inhabitants, about 450.000 of whom are able to speak Frisian. For about 350.000 this lesser used language is the mother tongue. The number of Frisian speakers in the relevant part of Groningen may be about 3.000. A sociolinguistic study of 1994 revealed that 94% of the whole population of Friesland can understand the language, 74% can speak it, 65% are able to read Frisian and 17% can write Frisian.


A small number of playgroups exist that are entirely conducted in Frisian. Since 1980, Frisian has been taught in all primary schools, both public and private. In about 80% of these schools, Frisian is also used to varying degrees as a teaching medium, alongside Dutch. From 1993 onwards, Frisian is an obligatory subject in the first three years of secondary education. In the second part the subject can be chosen as part of the exam. At secondary level it is also possible to use Frisian as a teaching medium, but this is infrequently done. The two teacher-training centres in Friesland have to offer Frisian to their students. Frisian can be studied at the universities of Amsterdam and Groningen. There is an extensive network of adult language courses in Frisian.


The Netherlands has large groups of speakers of immigrant languages such as Arabic (mainly from Marocco), Turkish, Malay or Bahasa Indonesia, Papiamentu (from the Netherlands Antilles) and Sranan Tonga (from Surinam). But also large groups of mother tongue speakers of German and English live in the Netherlands.


Eurostat surveys showed that 78% of the population of the Netherlands indicates to be able to take part in a conversation in English; 57% in German and 14% in French.


On 02-05-96 the Netherlands has ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, to apply to the Frisian language (part III) and to the Lower-Saxon languages, as well as the Yiddish and Romanes languages; on 19-03-97 the Limburgian language was added.


Romani is spoken by a group of appr. 7.000 mother tongue speakers. Yiddish is no longer a mother tongue but only spoken by a few elderly people as a second language.



Site of the Dutch Government




Fryske Akademy


Ministry of Education, Culture and Science