World Facts

Dutch Speaking Countries

Outside of the Netherlands, there are a number of other countries and territories around the world where Dutch is also spoken.

Dutch is a European language whose native speakers number around 22 million as of 2018. The language has a large number of speakers and is used in six countries as well as four regional bodies as its official language. Dutch is similar to both English and German and shares some grammatical structures from the two languages. It is the third most spoken language in Europe after English and German languages.

The History of the Language

Dutch started out as a set of Franconian dialects in the early fifth century and evolved to its modern recognizable form over a period of 15 centuries. Dutch shares a common predecessor with Scandinavian languages, German, and English and are all grouped as Germanic languages. The oldest identified Dutch sentence was written probably in the year 510 CE and was used to free from servitude a serf. The most famous old Dutch sentence, a line of poetry, was written by a Flemish monk who lived in England at the time and was dated to around 1100 CE. Old Dutch transformed into Middle Dutch, and by around 1150 CE there was an increase in Dutch writing and literature. Middle Dutch was a collection of dialects instead of one standard language which was heavily influenced by political boundaries. Modern Dutch arose due to standardization of the language, and in 1980 Belgium and the Netherlands signed the Language Union Treaty whereby they agreed to many principles one of which was to establish a standard spelling system. Dutch mainly spread through the colonial conquest of the Netherlands with most of the countries where it is an official language and having been former colony of the Netherlands.

Major Dutch-Speaking Regions

Netherlands

Most of the people who speak Dutch are from the Netherlands as it is the country’s only official language. The Netherlands has a population of about 16 million people all of whom speak Dutch as their first language.

Belgium

Dutch is also the official language of the northern part of Belgium, Flanders, with over 6 million people speaking the language.

Suriname

In the Republic of Suriname partly due to the country’s colonial heritage, Dutch is the official language. Suriname still maintains close ties with the Netherlands both culturally and economically.

Curacao

The small island nation of Curacao has Dutch as one of the three official languages where the language is spoken by the country’s population of about 180,000 people.

Indonesia

In Indonesia, Dutch used to be the official language, but this changed after the country gained independence from the Netherlands. The older generation mainly speaks the language.

South Africa

An offshoot of Dutch, Afrikaans, is spoken in South Africa where it has approximately 7 million native speakers and around 10 million people who use as a second language.

How Dutch Connects People

With more than 28 million speakers spread over three continents Dutch is one of the most widely spoken languages. The language allows people from different backgrounds to communicate, exchange ideas and form friendships. The Dutch language is also the official language of the Union of South American Nations, the European Union, and the Caribbean Community. The language is also used in academics, and more the 175 universities in more than 40 countries teach the language. There are approximately 15,000 students around the world studying the Dutch language at the university level.

Dutch Speaking Countries

RankCountry or TerritoryDutch Speakers (Estimated)
1The Netherlands16,000,000
2Belgium6,780,000
3Suriname475,000
4Canada140,000
5Curacao14,425
6Aruba6,149
7Bonaire1,663

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