German is far more widespread than anyone may think possible. With more than 50 million Americans laying claim to German ancestry, there are still 1.06 million people in the country who can speak German. In North Dakota alone it is the second most spoken language. Of course, German-speaking countries in Europe are home to the most German speakers, with Germany topping the list as one of the main German-speaking countries.
With more than 80 million speakers, Germany is followed next by Austria with 8 million, Switzerland with 4.6 million, Luxembourg with 390,000, Belgium 75,000 and finally Liechtenstein with 35,000 speakers. As well as a few other countries in Europe which might have a smattering of German speakers there are pockets of German-speaking areas in Latin America too in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Paraguay, but still, German-speaking Europe still has the most German speakers.
What Are the Major Languages Spoken in Germany?
Today there are several dialects spoken in Germany with a few linguists suggesting that there may be up to two hundred and fifty distinct German dialects.
These dialects relate to the geography of Germany. The southern part of Germany shares a border with both Austria and Switzerland. This is the Alpine region of the country, characterised by high elevations. Northern Germany is close to the Netherlands and borders the North Sea. In the south, the dialects are referred to as High German, while in the north Low German is the dominant dialect.
As well as these two main dialects there are several variations of each. In the north, Platt Deutsch is spoken, which literally means ‘flat’ in German. It is called by this name because the terrain in the north is both flat and low. This Platt Deutsch or Low German has several different dialects as well. In the northern parts of Germany, there are groups present today who are gathering together with the aim of trying to keep alive the Platt Deutsch dialect.
Much of standard German spoken in Germany today has evolved and changed over the last two hundred years, but the dialects haven’t changed much at all.
All the German dialects, whether High or Low, are sometimes called “Kueche Deutsch” or kitchen German. Because of the influence of the Internet, printed material, television, radio and telephone which still use one or another of the local dialects are slowing losing their speakers, as more individuals prefer to opt to speak in the country’s official language. This goes as far as telling German children when they start school for the first time that they should forget their dialect and concentrate on speaking Germany’s official language.
To answer the question what languages are spoken in Germany? is difficult to answer because of the rapid changes occurring which is having a significant effect on the language and its many dialects. 250 was the original estimate of the number of dialects as opposed to distinct languages, but this number drops every year. It is difficult to calculate the languages spoken in Germany as a percentage.
German as an official language in Europe
German is an official language in Europe as far as the European Union (E.U.) is concerned at any rate, but also in certain individual European countries including:
Belgium, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol.
German as a Foreign Language
When refugees come to settle in Germany they may not have a firm grasp of the language so some education providers offer courses in German as a foreign language and German as a second language.
German, is an important language to learn if you want to learn German? visit Learning German