This website focusses on the 'other' original languages of the
Netherlands. Besides Dutch, there are three other languages that are
officially recognized as regional language.
This recognition is according to the European Chapter for Regional or
Minority Languages. The European council took this initiative to protect
the smaller languages within the European Community. The are two levels of
recognition. Frisian has the highest level of recogniton (level III). This
means that the Frisian provincial government is obliged to support the use
of the language. In Friesland, this means that names of towns and villages
are also presented in the native names. Inhabitants of the province of
Friesland can choose Dutch or Frisian as their official first language
(350,000 out of 600,000 chose Frisian).
Low Saxon and Limburgish each have level II of recognition. This means
that the government acknowledges the fact that these are not dialects of
Dutch, but the inhabitants of those areas can't choose their official
first language. There are no clear regulations of how the government
should support the use of these languages. If the provincial governments
wish to actively support the languages, they can always request a level
III recognition, which gives more regulations and opportunities to do so.
Besides those languages, there are a lot of dialects in the Netherlands
(and Flanders). The Foundation Dutch Dialects (Stichting Nederlandse
Dialecten, also active in Belgium) recognizes about 3 dialects per
province. The western provinces (Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Utrecht and
Flevoland) are not included, because those dialect have too much in common
with standard Dutch.