Estimated native speakers: 23 million
Estimated total speakers: 28 million
Official/de facto official language in: Aruba, Belgium, Curaçao, Netherlands, Sint Maarten, Suriname
Language family: Indo-European - West-Germanic
A brief history:
Dutch developed from one of the larger western Germanic tribal languages (West Frankish), starting at around the end of the 5th century AD. The next five centuries saw many changes for the various Germanic languages which helped to shape the languages of today. Like English, Dutch didn't undergo the second consonant shift that helped to shape the sound of modern German.
The Middle Ages saw a process of standardisation based on the dialects of Flanders and Brabant. By the 16th century, Antwerp had become one of Europe's richest and most important cities. When the Spanish invaded in 1585, many locals fled to Holland and brought their version of the Dutch language with them. The first Dutch translation of the Bible in 1618 was a large step towards creating a unified language, based on the Dutch of Holland with heavy influences from the new immigrants. This period also saw the growth of the Dutch Empire, which carried the language around the world.
Language learners often joke that English + German = Dutch. The language certainly lies somewhere between the two most-spoken Germanic languages, but it has a sound and charm all of its own. It's also generally seen as easier for English speakers to learn than German is: like English, Dutch has a straightforward case system and less of a focus on grammatical gender.