The name Holland is more often than not used to refer to the country of the Netherlands. However, the two names should not be used interchangeably as Holland is actually a region within the country of the Netherlands. Within the Netherlands, Dutch is recognized as the official language of the country. Dutch is also the predominant language spoken in the region of Holland, with the term "Hollands" used to describe the Hollandic dialect.
Official Language of the Netherlands
Dutch is recognized as the official language of the Netherlands. With over 90% of the country’s total population being Dutch speakers, the language is also the most popular language in the country. The language is classified as a West Germanic language. The origins of the language are traced back to the Early Middle Ages. The language would be standardized in the 16th century. Dutch is also recognized as an official language in Belgium, Saba, Suriname, and Aruba. The language had widespread use around the globe between the 17th and 19th centuries as it was used in Dutch colonies.
Minority and Regional Languages
Among the minority languages in the country is West Frisian. The language is recognized as the official language in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands. Due to its popularity in the province, West Frisian is also recognized as the second state language by the government of the Netherlands. In 1996, the language was established to be an official minority language by the Dutch government. The recognition was in line with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Some of the dialects of the minority language include Westers, Clay Frisian, Aasters, Hindeloopers, and Wood Frisian.
Another minority language in the country is Dutch Low Saxon. Although it is not officially recognized as a regional language in the Netherlands, the language has a large number of speakers in the north-eastern part of the country. Over 1.798 million people in the country (equivalent to 10.9% of the total population) are Dutch Low Saxon speakers. Some of the dialects of Dutch Low Saxon which are popular in the Netherlands include Stellingwerfs, Gronings-East Frisian, Veluws, Twents, and Zuid-Drents.
The primary sign language with widespread use in the country is the Dutch Sign Language which despite having over 17,500 users is yet to receive official recognition from the government.
The most popular foreign language in the country is English. More than 89% of the people in the Netherlands can communicate using the language. The popularity of English in the country is driven by a growing trend of learning the language in the country. The language is, however, recognized as an official language in Sint Maarten and Curacao, two autonomous states of the Netherlands.
German is another foreign language which is popular in the country with over 71% of the population being able to converse in the language. French and Spanish also have a significant number of speakers in the Netherlands and are spoken by 29% and 5% of the population respectively.
The country has a large population of immigrants who have introduced their languages to the Netherlands. The most popular immigrant language in the country is Indonesian whose speakers are equivalent to 2% of the total population. Other immigrant languages with a significant number of speakers in the Netherlands are Turkish, Arabic, and Berber languages among others.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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