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What are the main German speaking countries?

How many people speak German around the world, and where? Lingoda breaks it down for you.

Which Countries Speak German?

German is not only spoken in Germany. On the contrary, surveys have shown that German is one of the world’s top ten most commonly spoken languages, along with English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, and Russian. It is estimated that worldwide there are 90 million people who are native German speakers. In addition, German is spoken as a second language by an additional 10 to 25 million people, and as a foreign language by 75 to 100 million people.

Officially, there are six German speaking countries in Europe:

  • Germany – more than 80 million speakers
  • Austria – 8 million speakers
  • Switzerland – 4.6 million speakers
  • Belgium – 75.000 speakers
  • Luxembourg – 390.000 speakers
  • Liechtenstein – 35,000 speakers

In addition, German has official status and is a recognised minority language in the following countries:

  • Italy (Bolzano/Südtirol)
  • France (Alsatian)
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Poland (Silesia)
  • Russia
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Vatican City

Approximately 16% of the European Union’s population speak German. Outside of Europe, there are many other countries where German is spoken, such as Kazakhstan, Namibia, and South Africa. There are other parts of the world where German is also spoken by a small percentage of the population. The German diaspora (German communities that emigrated during the first half of the 20th century) has also brought the German language to areas of The United States, Chile, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Facts About the German Language

The German language has had significant influence over other cultures and languages. During the 19th century, German literature enjoyed a prestigious phase, and many German words were exported to other languages. These ‘loan words’ include “kindergarten”, “delicatessen”, “rucksack”, “poltergeist”, and “wanderlust”.

Today, Germany’s leading position in the global economy gives us another important reason to learn German. The German economy is the largest in Europe, and Germany has the world’s fourth largest economy, behind the United States, China, and Japan. This also means that German is a very important language for people working in the automotive, manufacturing, and engineering sectors, as these industries support the German economy and employ large numbers of people. German is also considered “the language of science”, and is the second most spoken language by scientists from all over the world.

German is one of the top three most used languages on the Internet, as approximately 6 per cent of all live websites are in German. There is also a large percentage of books written in German or translated into this European language. It is believed that 10 per cent of all printed books are in German.

The Goethe Institute is considered the world’s most important cultural organization for German speakers and learners. This institution was founded in 1951 and now has more than 150 branches all over the world, and not just in German speaking countries. The Goethe Institute promotes German culture and language and has a varied educational program.

Some interesting facts about the German language:

  • German is known for having a large number of extremely long words. It is not uncommon to find words that have 40 or even 60 letters.
  • Dutch and English are the closest languages to German.
  • During the 18th century, German was very close to becoming the official language of the United States. This went to the polls and English won by only one vote.

An Introduction to Life in Germany

Many people choose to learn German online with the intention of moving to a German-speaking country to live, work, or study. Moving to a country with a different language and culture is not always easy, and getting used to a new way of life requires time, patience, and a good sense of humour. Here you will find some useful information about life in Germany:

  • Germans give importance to titles and make a difference between formal and informal speech, so remember to use the correct pronoun in your interactions with German speakers: Sie (formal “you”; use to a person in authority or to a stranger) or du (informal “you”; use to people you know well).
  • Thousands of people move to Germany every year. If you want to make the transition easier, learn about life in Germany, make friends from other countries and sign up for an integration course.
  • The German authorities require that you register with them within 7 days of moving to Germany. You can do this at your local registry office.
  • Respect for personal space and privacy are very important in Germany. Excessive noise is strictly prohibited between 10pm and 6am, on Sundays, and during official holidays.
  • Germans take their recycling seriously, so do your best to become familiar with those green, yellow, blue, and black containers.
  • Make sure your name is on your mailbox, otherwise the post will not be delivered.
  • You will need to get a license and pay a registration fee if you want to use TV, radio, or Internet at home.
  • To find more information on banking, healthcare, and other important aspects of life in Germany, check our ‘Guide to Moving to Germany’!