Dutch (Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language , under Aryan languages, spoken by around 24 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands (where it is the sole official language countrywide and Belgium (as one of three official languages). It is the third-most-widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.
Outside the Low Countries, it is the native language of the majority of the population of Suriname where it also holds an official status, as it does in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, which are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean. Historical linguistic minorities on the verge of extinction remain in parts of France and Germany, and in Indonesia, while up to half a million native speakers may reside in the United States, Canada and Australia combined. The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have evolved into Afrikaans, a mutually intelligible daughter language which is spoken to some degree by at least 16 million people, mainly in South Africa and Namibia.
Dutch is one of the closest relatives of both German and English and is colloquially said to be “roughly in between” them. Dutch, like English, has not undergone the High German consonant shift, does not use Germanic umlaut as a grammatical marker, has largely abandoned the use of the subjunctive, and has levelled much of its morphology, including most of its case system. Features shared with German include the survival of two to three grammatical genders—albeit with few grammatical consequences—as well as the use of modal particles, final-obstruent devoicing, and a similar word order. Dutch vocabulary is mostly Germanic and incorporates slightly more Romance loans than German but far fewer than English. As with German, the vocabulary of Dutch also has strong similarities with the continental Scandinavian languages, but is not mutually intelligible in text or speech with any of them.