Dutch Language Blog

Fries – a language for itself! Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in Culture, Dutch Language

Fryslân – it will probably not tell you a lot. It is a word not from the Dutch, but the Frysian language, het FriesFryslân is the name of the Dutch province in which Fries is spoken: Friesland. Now, yes, there are many different dialects, and versions of Fries. But in this post, I mean Westerlauers Fries, or Standaardfries when I mention Fries. This is the officially recognized language in Fryslân.

Friesland is bordered by Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, and Noord-Holland. The Afsluitdijk is also connected to Friesland, in the town Zurich. Furthermore, all Dutch islands, apart from Texel, lie in Friesland: VlielandTerschellingAmeland, and Schiermonninkoog.

Friesland (Image by Janwillemvanaalst at Commons.wikipedia.org under CC BY-SA 4.0)


The language Fries is so widely spoken and important in the province, that it is even recognized as an official language, next to Dutch. The official name of the province was also changed in 1997 from Friesland to Fryslân. In the rest of the Netherlands, it is still just called Friesland, also in written form. On official documents, however, it should now read Fryslân instead!

Thus, the Netherlands has also recognized Fries as an official language, a so-called autochtone minderheidstaal (native minority language). Fries is therefore also protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Here is a fragment of Fries:

Very different than Dutch! For me, as a native speaker, it is pretty much impossible to understand, just like some well-spoken dialects from other regions in the Netherlands.

Fries is spoken in the blue part of Friesland in the graphic below. As you can see, dialects of Frysian are also spoken on the islands Schiermonninkoog and TerschellingFries is spoken by about 480.000 people in Friesland.

Image by Wutsje at nl.wikipedia.org under CC BY-SA 3.0

What is nice as well: if you move to Friesland, which around 10.000 people a year do, they receive a welcome package. It contains a guide to the Frisian language, some motivational stuff why you should choose a multilingual life!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Ann McCloskey:

    Do Fries speakers also learn to speak algemeen Nederlandse? Do they learn regular Dutch in school?

    • Sten:

      @Ann McCloskey Yes! Next to Fries, Nederlands is the other official language of the province, and thus it is mandatory that they learn Nederlands as well, which indeed, they learn in school too. The only special thing is that they will also have classes to learn Fries!

  2. Israel:

    I’m actually jealous that you guys can take a speech and call it a language. Rightfully, I might say. If this were China, everything from English to Icelandic and Friesian would just be called German 🙁