Languages of Germany
OfficialGerman (95%)
RegionalGerman dialects, Limburgish, Danish, Sorbian, Frisian, Romani, Low German
Immigrant Kurdish, Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic, Albanian, Russian, Polish, Hausa, Serbo-Croatian, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Romanian, Tamil, Hindustani, Spanish, and others
ForeignEnglish (56%)[1]
French (14%)
SignedGerman Sign Language
Keyboard layout
Sourceebs_243_en.pdf (

The official language of Germany is German,[2] with over 95 percent of the country speaking Standard German or a dialect of German as their first language.[3] This figure includes speakers of Northern Low Saxon, a recognized minority or regional language that is not considered separately from Standard German in statistics. Recognized minority languages have official status as well, usually in their respective regions.

Language spoken at home

Neither the 1987 West German census nor the 2011 census inquired about language. Starting with the 2017 microcensus (a survey with a sampling fraction of 1% of the persons and households in Germany that supplies basic sociodemographic data and facilitates ongoing monitoring of the labor market), a question asking, "Which language is spoken predominantly in your household?" was added,[4] nearly eighty years since the 1939 Census asked for the mother tongue of the population.[5]

According to a 2020 Pew Research survey, the most commonly spoken languages at home were:[6]

The questionnaire did not distinguish Standard German from German dialects.[7]

German dialects

German dialect area around 1900, defined as all West Germanic varieties using Standard German as their literary language:[8][9][10][11]

Main article: German dialects

The German language area is characterized by a range of different dialects.[12] There is a written and spoken standard language but there are also large differences in the usage of the standard and the local dialects.[12] The flight and expulsion of Germans broke down the isolation of dialect areas. In 1959, 20% of West Germans were expellees or refugees.[13] The colloquial speech is a compromise between Standard German and the dialect.[13] Northern Germany (the Low German area) is characterized by a loss of dialects: standard German is the vernacular, with very few regional features even in informal situations.[12] In Central Germany (the Middle German area) there is a tendency towards dialect loss.[12] In Southern Germany (the Upper German area) dialects are still in use.[12] Dialects are declining in all regions except for Bavaria.[12] In 2008, 45% of Bavarians claimed to use only Bavarian in everyday communication.[14]

Minority languages

Recognized minority languages include:[3][15]

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

Germany ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 16 September 1998 for the following languages in respect of specific Länder:[16]

Immigrant languages

Immigrant languages spoken by sizable[clarification needed] communities of first and second-generation (dominant origin of the speakers in brackets):

Second languages

At least 81% of the German primary and secondary students were learning English as their first foreign language in 2017.[19] However, German schoolchildren generally do not speak English as proficiently as their Scandinavian counterparts[20] and, in some cases, French or Latin are taught first.[citation needed]

According to a 2020 analysis conducted by Pew Research Center using 2017 data from Eurostat, the most popular non-English foreign languages learned in German primary and secondary schools were French (15%), Spanish (5%) and Russian (1%), with others garnering less than 1% each.[19] During the existence of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, 1949–1990), the most common second language taught there was Russian, while English and French were the preferred second languages taught in schools in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).[21]

Several bilingual kindergartens and schools exist in Germany offering education in German and English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish, and other languages.[22]

See also


  1. ^ "Europeans and their Languages". 2012. Archived from the original on 2016-01-06.
  2. ^ "BBC - Languages - Languages". Retrieved 2021-09-25.
  3. ^ a b c d "BBC - Languages across Europe". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Mikrozensus 2017 Fragebogen" (PDF). Statistisches Bundesamt: 46. 2017.
  5. ^ Adler, Astrid (2018). "Germany's micro census of 2017: The return of the language question" (PDF). Institut für Deutsche Sprache.
  6. ^ "Pew Research- Languages spoken at home". Pew Research. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  7. ^ Topline questionnaire, Pew Research Center, Spring 2019, Global Attitudes Survey, January 6, 2020 Release]
  8. ^ W. Heeringa: Measuring Dialect Pronunciation Differences using Levenshtein Distance. University of Groningen, 2009, pp. 232–234.
  9. ^ Peter Wiesinger: Die Einteilung der deutschen Dialekte. In: Werner Besch, Ulrich Knoop, Wolfgang Putschke, Herbert Ernst Wiegand (Hrsg.): Dialektologie. Ein Handbuch zur deutschen und allgemeinen Dialektforschung, 2. Halbband. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1983, ISBN 3-11-009571-8, pp. 807–900.
  10. ^ Werner König: dtv-Atlas Deutsche Sprache. 19. Auflage. dtv, München 2019, ISBN 978-3-423-03025-0, pp. 230.
  11. ^ C. Giesbers: Dialecten op de grens van twee talen. Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 2008, pp. 233.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Stoeckle, Philipp; Hare Svenstrup, Christoph (2011). "Language variation and (de-)standardisation processes in Germany". In Tore, Kristiansen; Coupland, Nikola (eds.). Standard Languages and Language Standards in a Changing Europe. Novus Press. pp. 83–90. ISBN 978-82-7099-659-9. OCLC 1204794772.
  13. ^ a b Leopold, Werner F. (January 1959). "The Decline of German Dialects". WORD. 15 (1): 130–153. doi:10.1080/00437956.1959.11659689. ISSN 0043-7956.
  14. ^ Rowley, Anthony R. (2011). "Bavarian: Successful Dialect or Failed Language?". Handbook of language and ethnic identity, 2 : the success-failure continuum in language and ethnic identity efforts. Joshua A. Fishman, Ofelia García. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 209–308. ISBN 978-0-19-983799-1. OCLC 721195501.
  15. ^ "National Minorities in Germany" (PDF). BMI. May 2010. p. 44. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-04-21. Retrieved 2014-06-23..
  16. ^ "Chart of signatures and ratifications of Treaty 148". Council of Europe. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Tamil Diaspora - Germany - ஜெர்மனி". Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Wie viele Russischsprachige leben in Deutschland?". Mediendienst Integration. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  19. ^ a b Devlin, Kat (9 April 2020). "Most European students learn English in school". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  20. ^ Hanke, Katja. "Fremdsprachen in deutschen Schulen und Kindergärten" [Foreign languages in German schools and kindergartens]. Goethe Institut. Goethe Institut Online. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  21. ^ Livingston, Robert Gerald (28 January 2009). "East Germany between Moscow and Bonn". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  22. ^ "Informationen zu unserem bilingualen Zweig". Schuele Lammersieth. Retrieved 4 September 2019.