Dutch and Frisian (spoken mostly in the province Friesland) are the official languages in the Netherlands. For the three special municipalities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, English and Papiamento are official languages as well. The spelling of the Dutch language is laid down in the Spelling Act (Spellingwet).
In 2010, the central government handed in a legislative proposal to include the Dutch language in the constitution. As a result of internationalisation and the diversity of the population, other languages are gaining ground, especially English. The purpose of the proposed amendment to the constitution is to guarantee that the Dutch language will always be the lingua franca in the Netherlands. The provision in the constitution concerning Frisian is to guarantee that the current status of the Frisian language will be maintained. The Dutch language is enshrined in the constitution as Article 23a, and came into force in 2015.
In 1980, the intergovernmental organisation Dutch Language Union (Taalunie) was established by the Flemish and Dutch governments. The Union aims to “support the Dutch language at home and around the world in order to keep the language as dynamic and vigorous as today. Therefore, the Taalunie proactively develops language policies, products and services.” In 2004, the Republic of Suriname became an associate member and the Union cooperates with Curaçao, Saint Martin and Aruba from 2007 onwards. Cooperation also takes place between the Union and the Republic of South Africa (see also chapter 2.5.4).
In 2011, the then Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ronald Plasterk, announced a new law concerning the Frisian language. This law offers everyone in the province Friesland the right to use the Frisian language in their contact with the government. In addition, a council for the Frisian language was to be formed in order to protect and stimulate the use of Frisian.
In 2013, the Administrative Agreement on Frisian Language and Culture 2013-2018 was signed. This document contains a number of agreements that aim to stimulate the Frisian language and culture, especially in the fields of education, media and culture. Those involved are the Ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; Education, Culture and Science; Foreign Affairs; Security and Justice; and Social Affairs and Employment.
This agreement has been renewed in December 2018 with the Administrative Agreement on Frisian Language and Culture 2019-2023. One of the main aims of the agreement is to increase the use of Frisian language in the education system. All Frisian schools need to meet the objectives of the agreement by 2030. An example of an objective is to offer the Frisian language as a course at every Frisian secondary school. Education in the Frisian language at university level is mentioned in the agreement as well. The University of Groningen includes a Frisian language department and the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations provides the university with an annual grant of EUR 110 000.