Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of most of the population of the Netherlands, and about sixty percent of the populations of Belgium and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second language for another 5 million people.

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Dutch also holds official status in the Caribbean island nations of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, while Dutch or dialects assigned to it continue to be spoken, in parts of France and Germany, and to a lesser extent, in Indonesia, and up to half a million native Dutch speakers may be living in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have been standardised into Afrikaans, a mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch which today is spoken to some degree by an estimated total of 15 to 23 million people in South Africa and Namibia.

Facts About the Dutch Language and People

  • Dutch is closely related to German and English and is said to be between them.
  • The first inhabitants of New York State and the Hudson Valley were Dutch.

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History of the Dutch Language

Dutch is a West Germanic, Low Franconian language that originated in the Early Middle Ages (c. 470) and was standardized in the 16th century.

While “Dutch” generally refers to the language as a whole, Belgian varieties are sometimes collectively referred to as “Flemish”. In both Belgium and the Netherlands, the native official name for Dutch is Nederlands, and its dialects have their own names, e.g. Hollands “Hollandish”, West-Vlaams “Western Flemish”, Limburgs “Limburgish”, Brabants “Brabantian”