The Netherlands is only a small country on the world map, having an area of about 41,500 square kilometres and among the lowest on the list of countries compared by size. But while the Netherlands makes up only 0.008 per cent of the world’s area, Dutch is spoken by almost 400 times that percentage, making it one of the forty most spoken languages of the world. With millions of people speaking Dutch all over the world, Dutch is for sure a language with potential for companies looking for business opportunities.
A great Dutch heritage
People often speak somewhat slightingly about the Netherlands, it being only a small country with a relatively small footstep in the world. Especially when the Dutch themselves seem to be great at downplaying their country and habits. Yet the country has a strong heritage, having been a world leader in the Golden Age with merchant vessels sailing to all points of the compass and continually discovering new lands. Who knows that New York, now the famous financial capital of the United States, was first discovered by the Dutch and called “New Amsterdam”, or that in fact Australia was discovered accidentally by a Dutch expedition? The influence of the Dutch even reached so far that they developed the first version of a world map, a common tool we still use today.
Although the influence of the Netherlands has steadily declined since the 17th century, the country still boasts great visionaries, modern merchants and discoveries that change our lives. In fact with the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie we started the first multinational ever, while we also invented the highly innovative submarine and – believe it or not – the first doughnuts.
Dutch: a worldwide spoken language
Given the fact that all over the world around 7,000 languages are spoken, it is an impressive fact that the Dutch language is one of the forty most spoken languages of the world. Worldwide there are around 24 million Dutch speakers, and some research shows that in countries where Dutch is not the everyday language, people express an interest in it. The Dutch language is taught at 175 universities in 40 countries. And even if people do not learn the Dutch language actively, they will sometimes use Dutch words unconsciously: so far more than 18,000 Dutch loanwords have been discovered in 138 languages. Did you know that the English word “boss” is derived from the Dutch word “baas”?
The influence of Dutch is even greater on the Internet. Thanks to the highly developed language technology for Dutch, the language is the twelfth most used on websites and social media.
Of the 24 million people speaking Dutch, most (17 million) live in the Netherlands itself. In Belgium another 6 million people speak Dutch every day. The other parts of the Dutch-speaking community live in Suriname (a former colony) and Aruba, Curacao and St. Martin. Furthermore, the Dutch language is an official language of the Union of South American Nations, while it has also left its traces in numerous other languages, of which Afrikaans is the most striking example.
The Netherlands as an important market
So Dutch is still a language to consider among all other spoken languages . A look at the Netherlands economy makes it even more evident that the country and its citizens should not be ignored. According to these figures, in 2016 The Netherlands imported goods with a total value of $393 billion, making it the 10th largest importer in the world. Consumer electronics made up the largest part of this amount with an estimated value of $100 billion, while the import of cars, medical instruments and food also played a major role. English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia were the origin of 55.5% of the imports, about 14%. It shows that companies can benefit from the Dutch economy and that there are reasons enough to localize content into Dutch. The numbers even underestimate the value of the translation market, given the fact that most business communication is in English. So non-English speaking countries offer value for Dutch translations as well.
And while the Dutch economy is growing, consumers are spending more and more money for goods and products that increase their comfort, making the Dutch consumer an attractive target audience for new products and other innovations.
Why translating into Dutch is important
In 2017 some research revealed that of all European citizens the Dutch speak English the best. There are various explanations for this, with the flexibility and eagerness of the Dutch merchant nature given as the most important. Yet this does not mean that Dutch people should be overlooked when localizing product texts, manuals and help information. Although Dutch people speak 3.2 languages on average (the highest number of languages in all European countries) they still want to read important information in their own language. Indeed their native language is the language of their hearts, appealing to their deepest feelings. And because they have mastered that language, having grown up with it, it offers a sense of security when they can read the information clearly without needing help from a translator.
It might therefore not be a surprise that companies become most successful if they appeal to the Dutch audience in their marketing. While having your content translated into Dutch by a native Dutch translator might seem to be expensive, it really can pay off, delivering a continuous return of investment for each product sold. Companies would be better off taking the plunge and diving into the Dutch market (a typical Dutch approach) rather than ignoring it and risk missing a great opportunity to grow their bottom line.