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German Speaking Countries

German is spoken as a first language by over 130 million people worldwide. Yet, which are the German speaking countries? German is an Indo-European language which has influenced many other dialects around the world. Its history dates made to the early middle ages, referred to as Old High German and was in use from as early as 500AD through to 1050. It has many different incarnations since then with Standardised German coming into common use during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The German language is the official language of 6 countries. Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are the 6 German speaking countries. It is also the co-official language of the Province of South Tyrol in Italy and two Voivodeship’s in Poland.

It is interesting to note that the language has influenced even the English language. Words such as friend, which is derived from the German word ‘freund’, angst, arm and hand, are all German in their origins. In fact, 80 of the most 100 used English words have their roots in German. Find out below what are the German speaking Countries.

German Speaking Countries:

Germany – 75.1 million Native German Speakers

Home to over 83 million people, Germany is considered to be the economic powerhouse of Europe. With the largest economy in Europe and third largest business travel market in the world, it is also home to 75.1 million native German speakers.

German is the only official language of the country. On top of the 75.1 million native speakers, an additional 5.6 million consider German to be their second language.

Austria – 8 million Native German Speakers

Home to around 8 million native German speakers, Austria classes German as its official language. This link with German dates back hundreds of years and its close alliance with Germany. One benefit of speaking German in Austria is the use of the standardised version of the language. Austria has a standardised version of the language used throughout the country. Unlike Germany itself, where you may find many differing dialects depending on the region you are visiting,

Austria does not have its own official language. You will also find that a vast percentage of the population also speak a multitude of other languages. The most prominent of these are: English, Croatian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian. However, all official and governmental documentation will only appear in German.

Switzerland – 5.3 million Native German Speakers

Due to its location in Europe it is little surprise to learn that Switzerland has four different official languages. German, French, Italian and Romansh are all classed as official languages of this small country. German, yet, is the most prominently used with an estimated 62% of the population using German on a day-to-day basis.

The distribution of the languages used can also be attributed to their origin country. For example, German is predominately spoken through the north and centre of the country – closer to Germany. Italian is spoken the south, French in the west and Romansh in small concentrated areas to the east.

Belgium – 73,000 Native German Speakers

As with Switzerland, Belgium has more than one official language. Dutch, French and German are all considered official languages of Belgium. In Belgium however, German is far less prevalent than in Switzerland. Less than 1% of the Belgian population considering it their first language. Despite this, it is still considered an official language. There are small areas to the east of the country where it is spoken regularly.

This small area was ceded by the German Empire as part of the Treaty of Versailles. It was then re-annexed during World War 2 by Germany and then returned at the end of the war.

German is used within the education and political systems in these areas. Also, all official, governmental correspondence is provided in the official language of the region or community in question.

Liechtenstein – 32,000 Native German Speakers

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a microstate located between Austria and Switzerland. Despite being the sixth smallest nation in the world, it is one of only six countries where German is an official language. 92% of the population of the country consider German as their first language. Liechtenstein also has one of the highest percentage of German speakers per-capita.

As well as standardised German, 73% of Liechtenstein’s also speak an Alemannic dialect of German in informal situations. This version is highly divergent from the Standardised German. Dialects spoken in neighbouring countries are also understood and spoken by a vast percentage of the population.

Luxembourg – 11,000 Native German Speakers

While Luxembourg does not consider German an official language, it does consider it as an administrative language. This clause means that should a citizen ask a question in German, then the administration must reply to them in the same language.

The multilingual nature of Luxembourg is best noted by recent census reports. These list 52% of its citizens classing Luxembourgish as their native language, 16% Portuguese, 16% French, 2% German and 13% as other.

While German is not considered by many to be their first language, it is classed by many as their second. This can be linked to the similarities between German and Luxembourgish and the ease of which it can be learned.

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Next Steps to Learn German

Now that you know that there are 6 German speaking countries, it is the perfect opportunity to start learning German or prepare a trip abroad. And what better way to improve your vacation than immerse yourself in the culture of these countries?

Cactus offer a range of German courses suitable for all levels, from beginners to advanced. Not only can you study in one of our language centres, but you can also study at home! With weekly lessons, you can soon build up your skills to be able to converse in one of these countries that speak German.

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