Dutch belongs to the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European language group. In Europe, Dutch is spoken as a first language by about 23 million people (mostly in the Netherlands and northern parts of Belgium) and by another 5 million as a second language. Outside of Europe, it is the official language in the former Dutch colonies of Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have evolved into Afrikaans, a daughter language which is spoken mainly in South Africa and Namibia.
Dutch has developed over the course of 15 centuries. Modern Dutch originated in the late 15th century, when the first attempts for standardization were made. Despite the worldwide influence of the Dutch Empire in the past, modern Dutch spread only moderately around the world.
Dutch is one of the closest relatives of both German and English and can be conceived as a bridge between the two languages. In terms of vocabulary, Dutch uses mostly Germanic words. It also incorporates more Romance loanwords than German but fewer than English.
The island of Curacao is also part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands