What is Frisian language?

Language is the spine of every surviving culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going. In Friesland, the entire region is bound together by Frisian, the second official language of the Netherlands.

By: Eimantas Zemaitis

Leeuwarden Capital of Water Technology

But what is the Frisian language?
Frisian claims its roots from Old English and Old Frisian, which were mutually common around the 7th century. In fact, even now there are many similarities between the modern versions of these languages. Over the centuries, it experienced many periods of healthy development and stagnation, mostly due to historical forces and influences. In 1992, the Frisian language was recognised as a minority language in European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Since then, it has obtained an official language status because:

  • It has developed during many centuries
  • It has a rich vocabulary
  • It has unique rules of word formation
  • Frisian is politically recognised
  • Contains own combinations of vowels and consonants
  • Includes standardised spelling and grammar
  • Is spoken, sung and written
  • Is used as a cultural expression, at home and in public life.

Nowadays speakers of Frisian are bilingual, and Dutch has a strong influence on it. This is because Dutch is the primary language of the Netherlands. This makes all speakers of Frisian speak Dutch as their second language. Approximately 500.000 people use Frisian, are able to read it and understand it, and most of them live in Friesland. However, only around 30% of the speakers can write it.

How does the Frisian sound?
Well, for me, it kind of resembles the mixture of Dutch and English. But you have to hear it for yourself.

In case you didn’t get the joke, don’t worry, in this case Joke is a Frisian name.

Most similar language to English
Frisian is also the closest language to English with almost 80% lexical similarity. It stems from West Germanic languages and is closely related to Dutch, English and German. Thus, it is often claimed to be the easiest language to learn for the English speakers.

Learn Frisian Online
Currently, there is an ability to attend Frisian language lessons online for free. The course was offered by the University of Groningen at Futurelearn.com. Other advocates of Frisian language are the Fryske Academy and Afuk. You can also listen and learn Frisian by tuning into the official Friesland radio Omrop Fryslan.

Source first picture:  Creative Commons: public domainscreenshot from NASA’s globe software World Wind using a public domain layer
Source second picture: Billingual sign of Leeuwarden. By Baykedevries (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons