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Legal framework


Article 23 of the Nederlandse Warenwetbesluit Etikettering van levensmiddelen (1991), which forms part of the Warenwet (law on product quality control) states that “all the indications and notes referred to in this decree must be written in such a way that they are visible, clearly readable and impossible to remove. They must, in all cases except that mentioned in the first paragraph of Article 5, be written in Dutch.”

Before they were incorporated into the Warenwet, all regulations regarding labelling were set by the European Commission. The Voedsel en Waren Autoriteit (consumer product and merchandise authority) has responsibility for ensuring that the law is fairly applied.


The Reclame Code Commissie is a Dutch commission which advises both consumers and advertisers on the criteria with which Dutch advertisements must comply. This commission created the Nederlandse Reclame Code (NRC), which contains all the rules in force in the Netherlands concerning advertising. The commission also handles complaints from consumers regarding products which do not comply with the code.

The code includes the criterion that the advertisement must be comprehensible and “honest”, but it is not specified anywhere that texts containing advertisements must be written in Dutch. It follows therefore that advertisements containing texts in English or other languages are tolerated even if they have not been translated into Dutch.


There are no legal provisions concerning the use of the Dutch language in business in the Netherlands.

The Taalunie (Language Union), an institute which regulates and promotes the Dutch language, regularly carries out surveys on the use of Dutch in different areas of life and publishes information about the progression of English in the world of Dutch business in its bulletins. It specifies that it is mainly at the top of the hierarchy that communication is often carried out in English.

The Taalunie also offers language classes entitled ‘Business Dutch’ (Nederlands op de werkvloer) to encourage professionals to use the Dutch language more in the workplace.


Institutional body
with responsibility for developing, implementing and controlling linguistic legislation


The Nederlandse Taalunieis an institutional body charged with regulating the Dutch language. Since Dutch is spoken not only in the Netherlands but also in Flanders and Surinam, the countries and regions in question work together in the following areas:

  • creating equipment for using the Dutch language: developing dictionaries and grammar textbooks but also digital equipment such as translation programmes
  • developing principles and reference frameworks for teaching Dutch in the Netherlands, Flanders and Surinam (in primary and secondary education, adult learning and teaching Dutch as a Foreign Language)
  • developing principles and reference frameworks for teaching Dutch in the areas which border the Netherlands (Germany, northern France and Wallonia)
  • promoting university studies in Dutch language and literature in foreign universities
  • distributing certificates for Dutch language students
  • ensuring that Dutch citizens have access to information in Dutch about European decisions and laws
  • linguistic policy at national and European level
  • encouraging the reading and translation of Dutch literature and, most notably, developing a digital library of all the literary works written in Dutch
  • word synthesis technology


Legal provisions concerning the linguistic integration of migrants and pu
blic training facilities available to them


Since 1 January 2007, migrants of 16 years or over who wish to obtain Dutch citizenship and who are not refugees or originally from Surinam have been obliged to prove that they can understand, speak, read and write Dutch. If they are not able to prove this, they are refused a residence permit.

In order to prove this, migrants must pass an integration exam which consists of one main three-part exam and one practical:

  • the main exam includes one part designed to test understanding of the Dutch language, one part designed to test understanding of Dutch society and one designed to test the candidate’s ability to respond appropriately to practical situations that might arise in daily life
  • the practical exam requires the candidate to demonstrate that they can use the Dutch language in a variety of day-to-day situations

Integration Abroad Act
(Wet inburgering in het buitenland)

On 15 March 2006, a new law was adopted under the name of Inburgering in het buitenland(integration abroad). This law stipulates that the integration exam must be taken in the migrant’s country of origin.

The act requires foreign nationals wishing to migrate to the Netherlands for marriage (family formation) or to join family members living in the Netherlands (family runification) to pass an integration test before entering the country. The test is in addition to the integration exam that non-EU/EEA nationals seeking long -term residence in the Netherlands are required to take. 

Applicants must demonstrate basic knowledge of the Dutch language and basic concepts of Dutch society. This knowledge is tested by a "compulsory basic civic  integration exam" administered at a Dutch embassy or Consulate General in the applicant's country of residence. It is the responsibility of the applicant to prepare himself or herself for he examination. Costs related to the exam include the examination fee of 350 EUR (each time the test is taken).
Migrants must take responsibility for preparing for the exams themselves. The Dutch Government does make a large number of exercises in Dutch language learning available. However, it costs the migrant €63.90 to access them. ( The Dutch Government does make a large number of exercises in Dutch language learning available. However, it costs the migrant €63.90 to access them. (http://www.nederlands

For (political) refugees who are offered asylum by the Netherlands without being required to take an exam, there is a Dutch body called the COA (Centraal Orgaan opvang asielzoekers)whose purpose is to encourage their integration into Dutch society by, amongst other things, offering them lessons in Dutch.

Training in Modern Native Languages (OALT)

In the 1970s, the Government started to develop ways to teach immigrants and their children their own native language. Later, this type of teaching was known as OALT (Onderwijs in Allochtone Levende Talen): training in modern native languages.  In 2004 OALT was withdrawn because oflack of consensus about its effectivity.


legal provisions in force concerning the use of regional or minority languages


The European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages was ratified by the Dutch Government on 2 May 1996. The following languages have been officially recognised as regional or minority languages: Yiddish, Romani, Frisian, Dutch Low Saxon and Limbourgish.

The Dutch Government distinguishes between recognising the languages in the sense of Article II and recognising them in the sense of Article III of the European Charter.

The second article only requires that the existence of the language is acknowledged, while the third states that measures must be taken to ensure that the language does not die out. The Dutch Government has only applied Article III to the Frisian language, meaning that they are obliged to support, amongst other things, education in Frisian and an association with responsibility for ensuring radio and television programmes are broadcast in Frisian.


Financial support mechanisms aimed at encouraging the use of national and regional or minority languages

De Fryske Academy is the scientific centre for research and education concerning Friesland and its people, language and culture


Teaching foreign languages within the education system


English is taught in primary schools. It is technically compulsory, but not all schools comply with the requirement.

Various different foreign languages are offered at secondary level:

  • ‘Standard’ languages (offered by all schools): English, French and German;
  • Classical languages, offered only by vwo (see below). Ancient Greek and Latin are compulsory for gymnasia.
  • Optional languages (offered by some schools): Spanish, Italian, Russian and regional languages (Frisian, Limbourgish, etc);
  • OALT teaching of native languages (offered by some schools): Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew.

Secondary vocational preparatory school (VMBO) 

Duration : four years.
Age of pupils: 12 – 16 years.

It is compulsory to learn English in the first two years. For those who chose the economic stream there is a second language to be chosen, such as French or GermanIn ceratin circumstances one can also choose Arabic, Turkish, or Spanish as a second language.

In the third and fourth years, students can choose one of four streams: theoretical, mixed, specialised vocational or basic vocational.

English is compulsory in all streams. In the economic stream, pupils must take either Mathematics, French or German. In other sectors of the theoretical stream and the mixed stream of the Voortbereidend Middelbaar Beroeps Onderwijs (VMBO), pupils can choose whether or not they wish to take a second foreign language. In other sectors of the vocational streams of the VMBO, all subjects chosen must be relevant only to the vocational training being followed. A second foreign language can only be taken as an optional extra.

Short secondary school

Duration : five years.
Age of pupils : 12 – 17 years.

Since August 2007 pupils at the Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs (havo) are no longer obliged to take a second foreign language. Only English is compulsory. Other foreign languages may be taken on an optional basis. These can form part of the ‘Culture and Society’ or ‘Economics and Society’ streams or be taken as an optional extra to any other stream.

University prep schools (vwo)   

Duration: six years.
Age of pupils: 12 – 18 years.

During the first, second and third years, it is compulsory to learn English plus one other foreign language:French, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Frisian, Turkish or Arabic . A third or fourth foreign language can be taken on an optional basis. 

Pupils attending  classical vwo schools (gymnasia) must also learn Latin and Greek (at least) as the third and fourth language).In the final three years Greek or Latin are optional.


Projects planned by the authorities in the field of linguistic policy


Up until now, the Dutch Constitution has never explicitly stated in any of its articles that Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands. However, in a governmental accord of 2007, the Dutch Government announced its intention to insert such an article into the Constitution. This anchoring of Dutch in the Constitution will help protect and encourage the use of Dutch in different areas of life. In July 2009 this had not yet been realised.




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