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What Languages Are Spoken in Germany?

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Germany is a culturally rich country with a diverse population. While German is the national language spoken by most of its residents, the country is home to various dialects and minority languages.

From the bustling cities to the idyllic countryside, Germany’s linguistic landscape offers a fascinating glimpse into its history and contemporary society.

Standard German is the official language among all of the languages spoken in Germany. Besides their native languages, English and other foreign languages are spoken in different parts of the country. This makes Germany very rich in culture and a very diverse country.

The Official Language of Germany

What Is Germany Known for?

Germany is a very productive nation with a lot of economic advantages. Europeans and other people are relocating here in large numbers. As a result, major German cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, and Hamburg are home to multilingual communities. German is the official language of Germany and is spoken by approximately 95% of the population.

However, due to the high number of immigrants in recent years, a growing number of people in Germany can speak at least one other language. First, we must know that Standard German is the official language and the most widely spoken language in Germany.

The standard German language was developed over a long period. It first started to develop in the 8th century. Moreover, German is spoken by about 95 million local speakers and around 85 million non-native speakers worldwide.

The official language of Germany is Standard German, the third most widespread language on Earth. German is also the third most spoken language in North Dakota. Thanks to online German courses, anyone with internet access may study German online.

German is spoken in neighboring countries such as Austria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg / Belgium / Lichtenstein, each with a separate German-speaking community.

Standard German is almost always used in writing because it is taught at schools and in the German media. But every region of Germany has its dialect – so when people talk, they usually speak their local dialect.

Thus, most people speak German as their mother tongue. But some regions also have other languages or dialects spoken alongside or instead of it.

See Related: German-Speaking Countries Around the World

German Dialects

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The Bavarian language is spoken in Bavaria (southeastern region). A West Germanic language spoken in parts of Bavaria and Austria dates back to the 12th century. Bavaria is a region in southeastern Germany. Inhabited by the Bavarians until 955, it was united with the rest of the Frankish kingdom as a duchy.

During World War II, Bavaria was a refuge from persecution for many artists and scientists, notably for those denounced as non-Aryan because of their Jewish or leftist political views.

Bavarian was formerly spoken in southern Czech Republic and western Hungary. Bavarian is a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants, some of which are mutually unintelligible with Standard German.

Its limited intelligibility with Standard German makes it difficult for most people to code-switch, but many speakers can code-switch to Standard German when necessary.

Currently, there are 14,000,000 native speakers of this dialect. In Baden-Württemberg (southwestern region): Swabian German. Swabian is a dialect cluster of Alemannic German that belongs to the High German linguistic continuum.

It is spoken in Swabia, located in western and central Baden-Württemberg (including Stuttgart) and southeastern Bavaria (Bavarian Swabia).

Swabia was home to many famous poets in the Middle Ages. The Swabian dialect has a more lilting rhythm than standard German, so it sounds especially beautiful when spoken. It is mainly used in informal situations.

About 5 million native speakers are estimated to live in Upper Swabia, and about 6 million native speakers are estimated to live in total. Due to its pronunciation and partly different syntax and lexicon, Swabian might be difficult for speakers of Standard German to comprehend.

In North Rhine-Westphalia (northwestern region), the Westphalian dialect, commonly known as Westfalish, is one of the major dialect groups of West Low German. Westphalia was formerly an independent kingdom, now a region in northwestern Germany. The language is mainly used in rural areas.

There are about 6 million native speakers of Westphalian. It has much in common with Dutch and Afrikaans, as they are all Low German languages. The dialect of the German Westphalian region is now primarily spoken by the elderly.

In Saarland (southwest region), the Saarland dialect is a mixture of Alemannic and Lorraine Franconian dialects. French and German are both official languages in Saarland.

Saarland is a small region between France and Germany. It was formed after World War I from land that had been part of Prussia and Bavaria.

The dialect is mainly used in the family, but it strongly influences the dialects of east Luxembourg and east Belgium. The Saarland dialect sounds melodic to the ears because it contains many French words.

It is spoken by about 330,000 people in the German state of Saarland. While some features make it unique, it is mutually intelligible with the dialects of the surrounding German regions.

In some parts of eastern Germany, notably in Saxony-Anhalt, Sorbian is also recognized as a member of the minority languages. It belongs to the West Slavic Minority language group and is spoken by about 60,000 people.

Saxony is a state in eastern Germany and Saxony-Anhalt is a state in Germany. Together, they’re both located on the border between East and West. Sorbian belongs to the Lechitic group of West Slavic languages.

The language was nearly extinct by 1990 as most children were no longer learning it as a first language. However, there are some efforts to keep it alive—language immersion schools and a few radio stations now broadcast in Sorbian.

As you can see, there are a variety of dialects spoken throughout Germany—some similar to each other and some with unique features. While most people in the country understand Standard German, it’s interesting to note the various dialects that make up the German language landscape.

What languages are taught in German schools?

Most schools in Germany teach Standard German, but many also offer the opportunity to learn one or more of the country’s other languages. These include French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Turkish. In some cases, a school may also offer classes in a local dialect.

At school, German children learn English for five years. Then, at 11 or 12, I began to learn French. At age 16, they start learning Spanish, Italian, or Russian. They can choose between Turkish and Indonesian to learn a fourth language.

English as a second foreign language

do you speak German? written in German

Many people in Germany also speak English due to the large number of Anglophone tourists and business people who visit or do business there. German is the second most popular language for English speakers to learn.

English is taught in most schools from a young age so that people have a basic understanding of the language. There are also a number of English-language schools in Germany that offer more intensive and specialized classes.

And many Germans know at least some English or may be completely fluent. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of the population speaking a number of different languages, with English showing that it’s the vast majority.

Language% of the Population
Speaking the Language
English80%
Turkish1.8%
Russian1.1%
Arabic1.1%
Polish0.9%
Kurdish0.8%
French0.7%
Italian0.7%
Greek0.4%
Dutch0.4%

See RelatedPostage to Germany: Everything You Need to Know

Other foreign languages spoken

LanguageRegion or CommunityNumber of SpeakersStatusAdditional Comments
SorbianLusatia (Brandenburg and Saxony)20,000-30,000Recognized minority languageSupported in education and media
DanishSchleswig-Holstein50,000Recognized minority languageSupported in education and media
FrisianLower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein10,000-20,000Recognized minority languageSupported in education and media
RomaniVarious regions200,000UnofficialLimited support
Low GermanNorthern Germany2,000,000Recognized regional languageSupported in education and media
YiddishVarious regions5,000UnofficialLimited support
TurkishVarious regions1,800,000UnofficialSupported in some schools and media
RussianVarious regions1,100,000UnofficialSupported in some schools and media

Other languages are spoken in different parts of Germany, in addition to German and English. Some of these include Danish (in North Schleswig), which is spoken in this region because of the historical ties between Schleswig and Denmark.

Frisian is also spoken in some areas in the northwest of Germany. Luxembourgish is spoken in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which borders Germany. Yiddish is the Jewish language still spoken by some in Germany and Austria. Romani, a language of the Romani people, is also spoken in Germany.

Flemish is also spoken in the north of Belgium, close to the German border. French is also spoken in some parts of Germany, particularly in the south near the French border.

FAQ

What are the four most spoken languages in Germany?

The four most spoken languages in Germany are Standard German, English, North Rhine Westphalia, and Saarland dialect.

Can a lot of Germans speak English?

Most Germans can speak English to some degree. Several English-language schools in Germany offer more intensive and specialized classes.

What minority languages are spoken in Germany?

Some minority languages spoken in Germany include Sorbian, Yiddish, Romani, and Flemish.

What is the difference between the Standard German and North Rhine-Westphalian dialects?

The main difference between the Standard German and North Rhine-Westphalian dialects is that the North Rhine-Westphalian dialect is spoken in a specific region of Germany. Standard German is the more formal and official language in Germany. However, both dialects are mutually intelligible.

Is it difficult for foreigners to learn German?

For the most part, foreign learners find German relatively easy to learn. The grammar is relatively straightforward, and the vocabulary is not overly complicated. There are also a number of language schools in Germany that offer classes for foreigners who want to learn German.

Why does Germany have a lot of dialects?

Germany has a lot of dialects because it is a federal country, meaning there are states instead of provinces.

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