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German language

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Native toPrimarily German-speaking Europe, also in the worldwide German-speaking diaspora
Native speakers90 million (2010)[1] to 95 million  (2014)[2]
L2 speakers: 10–15 million (2014)[2]
Language family
Early forms:
Standard forms
Writing systemLatin (German alphabet)
German Braille
Official status
Official language in

Several international institutions
Recognised minority language in
Regulated byNo official regulation
(German orthography regulated by the Council for German Orthography[3]).
Language codes
ISO 639-1de
ISO 639-2ger (B)
deu (T)
ISO 639-3Variously:
deu – German
gmh – Middle High German
goh – Old High German
gct – Colonia Tovar German
bar – Bavarian
cim – Cimbrian
geh – Hutterite German
ksh – Kölsch
nds – Low German[a]
sli – Lower Silesian
ltz – Luxembourgish[b]
vmf – Mainfränkisch
mhn – Mócheno
pfl – Palatinate German
pdc – Pennsylvania German
pdt – Plautdietsch[c]
swg – Swabian German
gsw – Swiss German
uln – Unserdeutsch
sxu – Upper Saxon
wae – Walser German
wep – Westphalian
hrx – Riograndenser Hunsrückisch
yec – Yenish
     (Co-)Official and majority language

     Co-official, but not majority language      Statutory minority/cultural language

     Non-statutory minority language

German (German: Deutsch) is a West Germanic language. It is spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg; natively by around 100 million people. It is the most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union. There are some people who speak German in Belgium and in the Netherlands, as well as in France and Northern Italy. There are people who speak German in many countries, including the United States and Canada, where many people emigrated from Germany. German is also spoken in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia.

German is a part of the West Germanic language family (a group of languages that are similar) and is much like English and Dutch. A lot of the vocabulary in German is related to English, but the grammar is more complicated. German has a system of cases, and when helping verbs are used, the main part of the verb must be moved to the end of the sentence. For example, "Someone has stolen my car" is Jemand hat mein Auto gestohlen (Someone has my car stolen) or, "Someone called me last night" is Jemand hat mich letzte Nacht angerufen (Someone has me last night called).

In German writing, every noun must start with a capital letter. English and Danish also did this long ago, but not now. Today, German is the only language that has this rule.

While German is an official language in Switzerland, the Swiss dialect of German is difficult for native speakers from Germany, and even for Swiss who are not native to speaking German, to understand. One reason why the dialects are still so different today is that even though Switzerland adopted Standard German, mostly as a written standard, German Swiss in WWII wanted to separate themselves from the Nazis by choosing to speak the Swiss dialect over the standard dialect.[4] Swiss German also has some differences in writing, for example, the letter ß, which is only seen in German, is always replaced by ss.



  1. Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2010" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2010), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ammon, Ulrich (November 2014). "Die Stellung der deutschen Sprache in der Welt" (in German). Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-019298-8 . Retrieved 24 July 2015. [page needed]
  3. "Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung – Über den Rat". Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  4. "Languages of Switzerland". 


  1. The status of Low German as a German variety or separate language is subject to discussion.
  2. The status of Luxembourgish as a German variety or separate language is subject to discussion.[2]
  3. The status of Plautdietsch as a German variety or separate language is subject to discussion.

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