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Is Dutch A Dying Language?

Currently around 2,900 of the world’s 7,000 languages are at risk of dying out. Is Dutch one of them?

This post will cover if Dutch is a dying language and how many people currently speak it.

Is Dutch A Dying Language?

No, Dutch is not a dying language.

UNESCO regularly publishes a list of endangered languages – Dutch does not feature on the list.

An endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use because there is little transmission of the language to younger generations. If a language loses all of its native speakers, it becomes an extinct language.

Languages can be considered endangered or dying out for many different reasons. I’ve summarised the main characteristics of a dying language below.

  • The language is not widely spoken
  • Other more dominant languages are being spoken instead
  • Children are not learning the language

Dutch doesn’t fit any of the above criteria of a dying language.

How Widely Spoken Is Dutch?

There are currently roughly 23 million native speakers of Dutch, most of which live in the Netherlands and the Flanders region of Belgium. 

Dutch is actually an official language in 5 different places – the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles.

Most Dutch speakers reside in the Netherlands where the vast majority (96%) of the population speak Dutch as their native tongue. 

Additionally in Belgium, 59% of the population speak Dutch. 

Dutch is the main language used in the Netherlands for all purposes – at home, at school and at work and is spoken by almost everyone in the country. 

Are There Any Other Dominant Languages In the Netherlands?

This is a common reason why languages tend to die out. 

Often another language may be spoken within a country and over time people start using it more and more and stop learning their mother tongue e.g. in Hawaii, very few Hawaiians speak Hawaiian, instead they speak English.

Whilst most people in the Netherlands do also speak English to a good level, English isn’t used for many official purposes and is far from becoming the main language.

English and German are taught in schools however the vast majority of people continue to speak Dutch on a day to day basis. 

English is not replacing Dutch and is only really used for tourism purposes especially in the big cities like Amsterdam. English is also used for some higher level education like university courses. 

Are Children Learning The Language?

Another reason why languages often die out is that children grow up speaking another language and don’t learn their mother tongue. Languages die out when they’re not passed to the next generation.

Children do grow up speaking Dutch, it’s not just the older generation that speak it. 

They are taught in Dutch at school and grow up speaking Dutch at home. This means there’s no risk that the language will not be passed on to the next generation. 

As Dutch is very widely spoken, especially in the Netherlands and Belgium, and is continuing to be passed on future generations, it is currently not at risk of dying out. 

The Future Of The Dutch Language

The Dutch language is not declining and the numbers of speakers is actually increasing. 

As the population of the Netherlands continues to rise, the number of Dutch speakers also rises. The population has grown from 15.9 million to 17.4 million in the last 20 years and is projected to continue.

Dutch is incredibly important to the culture of the Netherlands. In fact, learning Dutch is a requirement if you want to become a citizen of the Netherlands.

How Can I Learn Dutch?

Dutch is not a dead language so it’s worth learning as there’s millions of people out there to practice with.

By learning Dutch you would be able to communicate with 23 million people and enjoy their vibrant and interesting culture. This can range from movies, TV shows, music, books and much more. 

My top recommendation for learning Dutch is the Pimsleur Dutch course. This fantastic audio course will get you speaking from day 1 and is great for absolute beginners. 

This course is perfect for anyone who wants to focus on being able to speak the language (rather than just reading and writing). You can try Pimsleur Dutch for free to see if you like it. 

Another recommendation is Glossika which is a great resource for building up vocabulary and learning to speak the language fluently. 

The best thing about Glossika is that they help you to acquire the language (rather than memorizing). It’s a fun, easy and effective way to learn Dutch.

If you’re looking for a standard textbook to help you with Dutch then the Essential Dutch Grammar book is one of the best out there. 

If you also want to be able to read and write in Dutch then you’ll need a textbook like this one. It’s a great reference point and explains the language in clear, easy to understand terms. 

You can also get an introduction to the language by doing the Duolingo Dutch course.

Related: Is It Hard To Learn Dutch As An English Speaker?

How Many People Speak Dutch?

Dutch currently has about 23 million native speakers around the world and a further 5 million people who speak it as a second language.

How Many People Speak Dutch In Europe?

Around 98% of Dutch speakers live in Europe, primarily in the Netherlands and the Flanders region of Belgium.

Around 17 million Dutch speakers live in the Netherlands and a further 6.5 million speakers live in Flanders, Belgium.

There are also a small handful of speakers living in northern France and Germany. 

How Many People Speak Dutch In The Americas?

Whilst the majority of Dutch speakers live in Europe there are still sizeable numbers in the Americas. 

Canada is home to around 140,000 Dutch speakers. This is due to a wave of immigration that occurred just after World War II.

A further 140,000 Dutch speakers can be found in the United States.

The Caribbean contains many Dutch speakers due its colonial past. The island of Aruba and the islands of the Netherlands Antilles contain around 40,000 Dutch speakers.

In South America, the country of Suriname has around 400,000 Dutch speakers.

Around 60% of the population speak Dutch as their native language in Suriname due to the fact that Suriname was a Dutch colony between 1667 and 1975. In fact, Suriname used to be known as Dutch Guiana. 

How Many People Speak Dutch In Asia?

Indonesia also used to be a Dutch colony until 1949. 

Today, there are still a few thousand speakers, most of which are of the older generation.

Dutch is no longer an official language in Indonesia and most people no longer learn it. 

Thanks for reading this post on if Dutch is a dying language. 

If you’re interested in learning Dutch then check out our Dutch posts here

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