The Languages of Holland

The national language of Holland is Dutch, or as referred to by the people of the Netherlands as “Netherlandic,” “Hollands” or “Nederlands.” The name of the language is derived from the words “neder” meaning “low” in English and “land” which refers to the geographical areas of the Dutch homelands.   Aside from the Netherlands, it is the official language of countries such as Belgium, Aruba, Curacao, Suriname and spoken in parts of Brazil, France,Australia, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom to name a few.  This West Germanic language originated from Proto-Germanic which is the mother of all Germanic languages and has evolved from a number of Frankish dialects spoken during the 11th-13th centuries (also known as the High Middle Times), and the early modern period of 14th to 17th centuries. It is also the basis of the Afrikaans, a language spoken in South Africa. 

Today, Dutch is spoken by about 96% of the Netherlands, of which Holland is a region situated in the western areas. However, there is a difference between the Dutch spoken around the Netherlands and other countries and the Dutch spoken in Holland. Standard Dutch is the standard language taught in schools and used for formal communication, while the Dutch dialects are the dialects that have evolved and have been used and spoken in areas around the Netherlands and even Northern Belgium. Despite Holland having the largest influence on the development of the Dutch language that is used and spoken largely today, it is the region where the original language is least used. In the major cities of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and the Hague the Dutch used is quite different from the dialects used in the other parts of the country, especially in the provinces. There are several variations of the Dutch language used within Holland, depending on the geographic area. Here are some of the local Dutch dialects spoken in Holland.

Hollandic. This is the original dialect of the county of Holland and is still spoken in the areas of northern Amsterdam as well as in the south-eastern fringes bordering on the provinces of North Brabant and Utrecht. The influences of the language came from a combination of the Old Frisian (a language used in the 8th to 16th centuries) and the language of Low Franconian brought in by Flemish settlers. In modern times, however, the original forms of Hollandic is rarely used especially in urban areas of Rotterdam, the Hague, Amsterdam or Utrecht.

Frisian. This is the second official language in The Netherlands and in the province of Frysland (formerly known as Friesland), this dialect is the second language spoken by about 70% of the local population. Frisian (also known as “Frysk” or “Westfries” in West Frisian, “Fraisk” in South Frisian, and “Friisk” in North Frisian) is said to be the language that can be considered most closely related to English and Scots.

Zaans. One of the oldest Dutch dialects in the country, Zaans is spoken in most parts of the Zaan district, which is located in the province of North Holland. It is one of the few that does not bear a lot of Frisian influence and may not be as comprehensible to people who do not come from the North Holland region.

Waterlands. The area of small and traditional fishing villages in North Holland consisiting of Volendam, Edam, Broek and Ransdorp speak this Dutch dialect that bears plenty of  similarities to Zaans, so much so that people from the Zaans district are said to be able to converse with people from Waterlands very well because they are able to understand each other’s dialects.

Other dialects that are still spoken in parts of Holland include:

West Flemish: especially used in parts of South Holland such as the province island of Goeree-Overflakke.

Zeelandic: spoken in the province of Zeeland located southwest of Holland as well as in Goeree-Overflakke.

Utrechts-Alblasserwaards: another subdialect of Hollandic, it is spoken in areas found in the east of the coastal districts of Holland. 

As well, there are the other substratum dialects of both Hollandic and West Frisian languages: Huizers, Westlands, Westhoeks, Kennemerlands, Amsterdams, Stadsfries, Bildts, Amelands, South Hollandic and Midslands used in various areas of the country – a testament to the diversity and the evolution of the language.

With the influx of immigrants into Holland, other foreign languages which can be found, but not frequently used (especially by the locals) include Turkish, Arabic, Indonesian, Spanish, Papiamento, Sranan, English and French. In schools, languages such as French, English and German are being taught.