Not only is German the most widely spoken language in the E.U., but it is also the 11th most spoken language in the world. Almost 220 million people speak German today, 100 million of them being native speakers.
As the name suggests, German is a Germanic language within the family of Indo-European languages. So, German is a sister language to English, Frisian and Dutch. The word ‘Nature’ in English is ‘natuur’ in Dutch, and ‘Natur’ in German. Very similar, isn’t it?
The German language
German is not the most complex language to learn, but there are some rules that must be followed:
- All nouns must be written with a capital letter
- There are 4 cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative)
- Words can have one of three possible genders (masculine, feminine, neuter)
- Words can be singular or plural
- Verbs can be strong or weak
One of the more unique parts of the language is the letter ‘ß’. German is the only language that uses this letter and it’s called Eszett. Don’t let this unknown letter scare you, you pronounce it just like [S], but it just looks a bit more fancy!
German is one of the most flexible languages in the world. It has an infinite number of words and you can even make your own! Moreover, an analysis of the Dudenkorpus counted 17.4 million base forms. This makes for very long words at times such as ‘Das Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz’. It means: ‘beef labelling regulation and delegation of supervision law’ and has 63 letters. So, when you play scrabble in German, be sure to have a big enough playing board! This word however is just too much, even for native speakers, and is, at the moment, not an official word.
So, is the German language spoken in Germany only?
As you may have guessed, it is the official language in Germany. But German is spoken in so many more countries and regions. It is also the official language in Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol, Italy and Liechtenstein. It is one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and of the German-speaking community of Belgium and finally, is also the co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. There are even regions in Brazil that have German as their official language!
German that Germans don’t understand
The German language is spoken in so many different places! This makes for different dialects and between themselves, German-speakers communicate in Standard German. If not, this will result in misunderstandings. For example, the dialect in Saarland is completely different from the one in Munich, and this can often cause a lot of confusion. Some words also have a different meanings in certain contexts. Standard German is the German that you hear on the TV or radio, and is the one taught in schools.
When thinking of famous German speakers, we think of classical-music composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven or Johann Sebastian Bach. Or maybe you think of the Grimms Brothers and their famous fairy tales? These are native speakers, but there are a lot of famous non-native speakers too, for example Leonardo Di Caprio, Sandra Bullock, and even Vladimir Putin speaks a fair amount of it.