How Many People Speak Dutch, And Where Is It Spoken?

Did you know that Dutch is an official language in five countries? Read on to learn more about how many people speak Dutch and other interesting facts about the language.
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How Many People Speak Dutch, And Where Is It Spoken?

A Brief History Of The Dutch Language

Dutch is a Germanic language, along with German and English, and it has a relatively complex history. Dutch broke off from the other Germanic languages around 700 CE. It was affected by Low Franconian, the language spoken by the Western Franks in the Roman Empire. The Western Franks came into contact with coastal North Sea Germanic speakers, and what’s now known as Old Dutch developed from their commingling. The first known documents in Dutch weren’t written until the late 1100s, which is when Middle Dutch became the common form of the language.

Modern Standard Dutch took shape in the 16th and 17th centuries, when grammatical case endings were dropped from nouns. Although language is always changing, Dutch has retained many of the characteristics added during the standardization process.

Where In The World Is Dutch Spoken?

Dutch is an official language of The Netherlands and of Flanders, the northern region of Belgium. It’s also a national language in Suriname, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, a chain of islands in the Caribbean.

There are significant numbers of Dutch speakers in France, Germany, Canada, the United States and Indonesia. Additionally, one of the official languages of South Africa is Afrikaans — an offshoot of Dutch.

How Many People Speak Dutch In The World?

Approximately 23 million people worldwide speak Dutch as their native language. An additional 4 million speak it as a second language. The majority of native speakers live in Europe, primarily in the Netherlands and northern Belgium.

How Many People Speak Dutch In Europe?

Europe is home to the vast majority of Dutch speakers. About 16 million live in the Netherlands, nearly 7 million live in Flanders (in northern Belgium), and a small handful live in northern France and Germany.

How Many People Speak Dutch In The Americas?

There are far fewer Dutch speakers in North and South America than there are in Europe, but it’s still worth mentioning which parts of the Americas have pockets of Dutch speakers. Canada is home to about 140,000 Dutch speakers, many of whom are elderly. This is probably due to a wave of immigration that occurred after World War II.

There are also about 140,000 Dutch speakers living in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. Fun fact: Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, spoke Dutch as his first language.

In the Caribbean, there are approximately 40,000 Dutch speakers, concentrated in Aruba and the islands of the Netherlands Antilles.

Moving down to South America, Dutch is the official language of Suriname, where about 60 percent of the population speaks it as their mother tongue. That amounts to about 475,000 Dutch speakers. Suriname, formerly known as Dutch Guiana, was a colony of the Netherlands from 1667-1975.

How Many People Speak Dutch In Asia?

Indonesia was also a Dutch colony, but Dutch hasn’t been an official language in the country since it gained independence in 1949. While some older Indonesians still speak Dutch, as well as students and researchers who want to read old official documents, but overall, the number of speakers has dwindled to a few thousand.

Why Learn Dutch?

For starters, Dutch is relatively simple for English speakers to learn, coming in fourth on our list of easiest languages. In fact, many Dutch words are spelled exactly the same as English words. Dutch is also a good choice because of its similarities to German, which is more challenging to pick up. If you want to learn German later on, Dutch can be a good leg-up! Finally, learning Dutch could be useful if you’re planning to visit Amsterdam anytime soon.

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