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. Dutch is an official language of the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Dutch is also an official language of several international organisations, such as the European Union and the Union of South American Nations Dutch is closely related to German and English and is said to be between them. The history of the Dutch language begins around AD 450–500 after Old Frankish, one of the many West Germanic tribal languages, was split by the Second Germanic consonant shift. The vowel inventory of Dutch is large, with 13 simple vowels and four diphthongs. Dutch is grammatically similar to German, such as in syntax and verb morphology. Dutch is written using the Latin script. Dutch uses one additional character beyond the standard alphabet, the digraph IJ.