The province of Friesland is one of the twelve provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. More than 650,000 people live in Friesland, and the capital city is Leeuwarden.
What particularly distinguishes this area from the rest of the Netherlands is the Frisian language (Frysk). The majority of residents are used to using two or more languages at the same time. Alongside Dutch, Frisian is used to a limited extent as the administrative language.
Most (97%) inhabitants of Friesland understand the language, almost 75% speak Frisian, and Frisian is the first language for more than 50%. Around two-thirds of the population can read Frisian, but only a quarter say they can also write in Frisian.
Apart from Frisian and Dutch, various Dutch dialects influenced by Frisian exist in Friesland: Stadsfries (Liwwadders), Bildts and Stellingwerfs. Literature is written in all these languages in Friesland.
People from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds live in Leeuwarden, where various Arabic, Asian and South American languages are spoken.
Frisian is a Germanic language, just like German, English and the Scandinavian languages. In its oldest form it is considered West Germanic, putting it in the same group as Old High German, Old Saxon, Old Dutch and Old English. Within the Germanic languages, Frisian shares the most similarities with English. Frisian can be recognised as an independent language from the eighth century onwards, and is divided into three periods: Oud Frisian, Middle Frisian, and Modern Frisian.
Although Frisian is closely related to English historically, it has developed in a completely different way: the language has remained small, and many speakers of it are now trilingual: Dutch, Frisian and English. Frisians do, however, have an age-old written language tradition in which the Frisian language has constantly reinvented itself and gradually built up a collection of its own literature. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Frisian language finally broke through as the primary carrier of the Frisian identity, and literature boomed in the twentieth century.