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Spread of the Dutch Language

Map No.


Dutch is spoken by roughly 18 million people in at least 12 territories. As well as being the primary language of the Netherlands, it is also one of the primary languages in Belgium, where it is often known as Flemish. There are also large communities in the United States and Canada, Germany, France (mainly in the north) and the UK, and Australia and New Zealand.

The former Dutch Guiana colony has also left a Dutch-speaking population in what is now Suriname. Dutch farmer settlers in South Africa influenced the development of the language that is now Afrikaans, which is to a large extent still mutually intelligible with Dutch, but considered as a separate language here.


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Technical Notes

The map shows the proportion of all people who speak Dutch as a first language that live in that territory in 2005. This  map removes the countries where Dutch is dominant. This map therefore only shows 3.7% of all speakers of Dutch. The territories omitted are The Netherlands and Belgium.

The maps in the 2005 language data series are made from data on the number of people speaking a language as their first-language, that is the language they would use at home.

Data sources
This map uses data several sources, the main one being Ethnologue (15th Edition, 2005). Estimating the number of speakers of a language is fraught with difficulty on several levels (last accessed January 2009). We aim to map as complete data as possible and therefore estimate data for missing values. The language numbers we use and publish are rough estimates, and should not be taken as definitive. In some cases, missing data for very small territories is not used in the cartogram and that area is therefore omitted in the map.

All modifications to the original data source are noted in our data sheets. Data for this map will soon be available as a download.

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