Would it surprise you to know that German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union? Approximately 100 million people speak German as their mother tongue. With another 30 million speaking it as a second language. As Germany is considered the economic powerhouse of Europe, many immigrants move here and choose to learn the language. Also among Germans themselves, 67% speak at least one foreign language, with another 27% speaking two. So with Germany being such a multicultural hot spot, what languages do they speak in Germany?
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The four most spoken languages in Germany
Germany, due to its strong economy, is viewed as a quality country to live in. Not only have Europeans but people from Asia, Africa and the Americas have all chosen to move here. Each with the aim of working, living, learning the language and the culture. As a result, Germany’s biggest cities, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg are home to a mix of multilingual residents.
56% of the population speak English. Its growing popularity as the official language of business has resulted in more German businesses officially adopting English as their main language. While English has long been taught as a second language in most schools, its importance as a second language for young people has overtaken french in more recent years. Also a large number of native English speakers and businesses from Ireland, UK, Australia and the US currently reside in Germany.
15% of the population speak French. A popular second language to learn in school, the close connection between Germany and France means a lot of young Germans travel to the French countryside after school. Also many French move to Berlin and the rest of Germany to work and embrace their neighbour’s international culture.
5% of the population speak Russian. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a large influx of Russians to Europe, with many choosing to remain in Germany. To date, Russian is the 3rd largest migrant group in Germany.
1.8% of the population speak Turkish. It is estimated that there are approximately 4 million Turkish people living in Germany. However, the number of people who speak Turkish comes from a more diverse pool of nationalities. Turkey is widely spoken in many communities in Southeastern Europe. From Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania and also Cyprus. Many members or descendants of these communities live in Germany. More recently Germany has welcomed a large number of refugees from Syria and Iraq who also speak Turkish.
What are the other languages spoken in Germany?
While these four languages are growing in popularity, there are several minority languages in Germany that are still in existence. Some of which are starting to die out.
Low German, a West Germanic language spoken in the north of the country, while not very commonly known, has in fact 5 million native speakers. Which is a lot when you compare that figure to the population of some countries.
Upper and Lower Sorbian are spoken in Saxony and Brandenburg respectively. Only 0.09% of the population continue to speak both dialects. In fact, Lower Sorbian, a Slavic minority language, is in great risk of extinction as the majority of its speakers are elderly.
And finally, there’s Frisian, a West Germanic language spoken in the North Frisia region of the country. Currently, approximately 10,000 people speak it.