Posted on: Oct 28, 2013

Friesland: the bilingual province of the Netherlands


Friesland is a province in the North of the Netherlands. It is a largely agricultural province and it is not a densely populated as the rest of the country. Friesland has around 650,000 inhabitants, constituting about the 4% of the total population of the Netherlands. The most interesting thing about Friesland is that it is the only officially bilingual province of the Netherlands: Frisian is the official language of the province next to the Dutch.

Frisian, as an official language

Frisian is a west Germanic language and the most Frisian speakers live in the Netherlands. Next to the Dutch, Frisian enjoys the status of being a co-official language of the Netherlands. More than the half of the population of Friesland has Frisian as their mother tongue, while three quarters of the population are able to speak and understand Frisian at a reasonable high level.

In 2011, the government proposed a new bill on the use of the Frisian Language. The aim of that bill is to guarantee everybody the right to use their own language. Frisian speakers can use their own language in contacts with public authorities. Also, there are daily papers, magazines and broadcasting in Frisian. There is a Frisian version of Google and of the web browser Opera.

Finally, despite the fact that the language of instruction in secondary schools and colleges is Dutch, parents speak to their children in Frisian and young people are keen on learning the language. There are textbooks for the language and other subjects, like history or biology and also, the Frisian Broadcasting Company produces and transmits educational radio and TV programs.

The crisis of Frisian

Nowadays, Frisian is in decline and much of the threat is coming from the pressure from both Dutch and English. The number of Frisian speakers drops by about 8 percent every generation. The biggest problem is that in the rest of the Netherlands they tend to forget the other spoken languages in the country. For example, Frisians are not able to express their nationality in the form of an official document, as documents published in Frisian only are not considered as legal.

See in the Netherlands and Belgium we easily tend to forget the other official language spoken in the Northern section of the Netherlands!

The neglecting attitude towards Frisian by the rest of the Netherlands in combination with the globalism had led even the Frisians to have a simplistic view of what needed for their children to climb the economic ladder. So, they tend to encourage their children forget their own language and learn only English, because they don't need the Frisian!

However, the fact that English is becoming so strong, in some ways is an advantage. As it becomes the global language, people will still want to use their local language as well.

We can be global, but we can also be local. It helps express a feeling of belonging.

Photos by: bertknot, annemarievanl., Bert Kaufmann, Michiel2005, Paul van Eijdenâ„¢, Maik Meid, ines saraiva


Designer, marketer & a social media karate kid (No 4). When she grows up, she wants to feed the world with Greek food & Frappe. Admires the yellow angry bird because it strikes its targets with power and precision.