Dutch is in eighth place in the European Union by number of native speakers, with around 24 million people.
The two biggest groups of native speakers are the around 17 million people that live in the Netherlands and the 6.5 million in Belgium. But Dutch is an official language in six countries, so apart from the Netherlands and Belgium, it is also an official language in Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Aruba and Suriname.
Dutch speaking countries: where do people speak Dutch?
There are 6 countries with Dutch in it's list of official languages, let's start with the most obvious ones.
Do they speak Dutch in the Netherlands?
Yes, of course! No need to doubt what language they speak in the Netherlands: Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands.
About 17 million people live in the Netherlands. Although the average Dutch persons speaks English very well, the official language of the Netherlands is Dutch.
The Dutch don't call it "Dutch" by the way. It is called Nederlands in The Netherlands. German is called Duits.
Is Flemish Dutch? What language do they speak in Belgium?
You might also have wondered what language they speak in Belgium. Flemish and Dutch have different accents, but they are the same language. You can find around 6.5 million Dutch speakers in Belgium!
Did you know that they also speak French and German in Belgium?
So, where else is Dutch spoken?
Dutch is not only spoken in Holland and Belgium! Dutch language is an official language in six countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Aruba and Suriname. So, The Netherlands is certainly not the only place where they speak Dutch!
How many people speak Dutch?
If you count the Dutch speakers in all the countries where Dutch is an official language, you can conclude that around 24 million people speak the Dutch language.
Who speaks Dutch? You might!
Dutch language is a popular language to study. There are a total of around 15,000 foreign students who study the language. And then there are people in South Africa and Indonesia who learn Dutch at school or as part of another study.
In the Netherlands the interest in their own language is much smaller. Did you know that in 2019 fewer than 200 students have registered for the university study in Dutch? And that figure drops every year! The interest in the Dutch language is stable abroad. And interest is increasing in some places!
Why speak Dutch?
Foreigners study Dutch for a variety of reasons. For example, it is a popular language in Poland because it increases chances on the labor market. And in the United States many people are interested in Dutch art, especially from the 17th century. Some Americans also know that their ancestors once left the Netherlands, sparking interest.
Common reasons for studying Dutch:
The desire to live and work in the Netherlands
Interest in Dutch art and culture
A shared history (colonization)
Interested in learning languages in general
Of course there is often a combination of reasons.
Is Dutch language difficult?
If you have decided to learn Dutch, the question soon arises: is it a difficult language or not? The answer depends on your personal situation. For example, it is a lot easier to learn Dutch if you already speak German or English. Those languages are quite similar to Dutch.
Your motivation is of course very important. Do you learn the Dutch language because you like it or do you have a clear reason and a strong wish? In the latter case, there is a greater chance that you will be successful and continue.
The most important factor for a successful learning process is the degree of exposure to the language. Do you dive into the study books for an hour every weekend or do you learn every day? Do you occasionally go to the Netherlands for a week or do you live there? Do you speak English with your Dutch colleagues or do you speak in their native language? You guessed it: the more exposure to the Dutch language the better! And also: a little better every day than a lot at a time.