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Frisian Language

Fryslân, dêr bin ik hikke en tein (Friesland, where I was born and raised). The people of Friesland have a strong bond with their province’s cultural heritage. One of the main assets is their own language. The Frisian language is spoken and understood by most of the Frisian people.

  • Frisian is one of Friesland’s official languages.
  • Learn a few words of Frisian and surprise the locals.
  • Cities and villages also often have two names: a Frisian one and a Dutch one.

Dutch and Frisian

When you travel to the province of Friesland, it doesn’t mean you can’t get around. Most Frisian people speak and understand Dutch and English. If English is your native language you’re lucky; the Frisian and English language show a great resemblance. All Frisian cities and villages have a Frisian name of their own. Since Friesland is officially bilingual, the town signs bear the name in Frisian and in Dutch. So don’t be surprised if people in Leeuwarden tell you you are in ‘Ljouwert’ or call Sneek by its Frisian name ‘Snits’.

Frisian Words

Just like speakers of any other languages, the people of Friesland will appreciate it when you try to speak some basic Frisian words. It’s not important to get everything right, it’s the thought that counts. You say hello to a Frisian with ‘goeie’ and goodbye with ‘oan’t sjen’ or ‘sjoddy’. If you want to congratulate someone, tell them 'fan herte lokwinske'. ‘Alstublieft’ (please) and ‘dank u wel’ (thank you) are ‘asjebleaft’ and ‘tankewol’.

Bûter, brea en griene tsiis

Bûter, brea en griene tsiis, wat’dat net sizze kin is gjin oprjochte Fries (Butter, bread and green cheese, if you can’t pronounce it you’re not a real Frisian). It is said that the medieval Frisian folk hero Grutte Pier asked people to pronounce this sentence. He fought against the Dutch and Saxons. Only real Frisians can pronounce the sentence correctly, so enemies posing as Frisians were bound to slip up and get caught. Grutte Pier’s gigantic sword is still on display at the Fries Museum.

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