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Where Is German Spoken? - Wo spricht man Deutsch?

Who speaks German? With a helpful pronunciation guide


Deutschland - Germany

Germany - Deutschland

Can you name the seven countries where German is the dominant or official language?

German is spoken by an estimated 126 million people1. Most of them are found in Germany (Deutschland), which has about 82 million German-speakers. But that still leaves 44 million others. Where are the rest? (Germany Map)

Austria (Österreich) should quickly come to mind. Germany's neighbor to the south has a population of about eight million. Most Austrians are Roman Catholic (85 percent) and German-speaking. (Arnold's "I'll-be-back" accent is Austrian German.) Austria's beautiful, mostly mountainous landscape is contained in a space about the size of the US state of Maine. Vienna (Wien), the capital, is one of Europe's loveliest and most-livable cities. (Austria Map)

Most of the seven million citizens of Switzerland (die Schweiz), about 65 percent, speak German. The rest speak French, Italian, or Rhaeto-Romansh (one percent). As in Germany, most Swiss who claim a religion are rather evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants. Switzerland's largest city is Zurich (pop. 341,000), but the capital is Bern, with the federal courts headquartered in French-speaking Lausanne. Switzerland has displayed its penchant for independence and neutrality by remaining the only major German-speaking country outside of the European Union and the euro currency zone.

Then there's the "postage stamp" country of Liechtenstein, tucked in between Austria and Switzerland. Its nickname comes from both its diminutive size (62 sq. mi.) and its philatelic activities. Vaduz, the capital and largest city, counts fewer than 5,000 inhabitants and has neither an airport (Flughafen) nor a train station (Bahnhof)! But it does have the German-language newspaper, the Liechtensteiner Vaterland. Remarkable, since Liechtenstein's total population is only about 30,000.

Most people forget Luxembourg (Luxemburg, without the o, in German), situated on Germany's western border. Although French is used for street and place names, and for official business, most of Luxembourg's citizens speak a dialect of German called Lëtztebuergesch in daily life, and Luxembourg is considered a German-speaking country, along with Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Most of Luxembourg's newspapers are published in German, including the Luxemburger Wort ("Luxemburg Word").

NEXT > German as a Minority Language
MORE > Chart: Countries Where German is Spoken

1The 126-million estimate is for all German-speakers, including those who speak it as a second language. The estimate for just native speakers of German is between 99 and 110 million. In a ranking of world languages (spoken by native speakers), German is in tenth place. Chinese (Mandarin) is number one, Hindi ranks second, Spanish third, English fourth. (English ranks second if non-native speakers are included.) The others in the top ten? In order: Bengali (5th), Arabic (6th), Portuguese (7th), Russian (8th), Japanese (9th). French comes in 11th and Italian ranks 15th.

Sources: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, David Crystal, Cambridge University Press, 1987; dtv-Atlas zur deutschen Sprache, Werner König, dtv, 1994; The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1998, World Almanac Books.

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