The Dutch language

There are around 23 million native speakers of Dutch worldwide. Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands, Belgium (Flanders) and Suriname. Dutch is also an official language of Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten.

The Dutch Language Union

The Dutch Language Union was established by a treaty between the Netherlands and Belgium, as a platform for cooperation on issues concerning the Dutch language. Suriname is an associate member. The Dutch Language Union has standardised the spelling of Dutch. It also ensures a common language policy is pursued for the Dutch language in the European Union (EU).

Education in Dutch as a foreign language

Around 5 million people in the EU speak Dutch as a second language. Outside Dutch-speaking regions, Dutch is taught at more than 220 universities in 40 countries (information in Dutch), but especially in Germany, the United States and France.

Dutch in international organisations

Dutch is one of the official languages of the Benelux Union and the European Union. This is because Belgium and the Netherlands are member states of these multilateral communities. Dutch is also an official language of the Association of Caribbean States and the Union of South American Nations, because of Suriname’s membership of these international bodies.


Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch that has evolved from the various Cape Dutch dialects spoken in South Africa and Namibia.


Frisian is the mother tongue of some 350,000 people in the province of Fryslân. It is closely related to Dutch and English.