The German language (both as an official language and as a minority language) is spoken in a number of countries and territories in West, Central and Eastern Europe(Deutscher Sprachraum). To cover this speech area they are often referred to as theGerman speaking countries, the German speaking area, or equivalently German-speaking Europe (the few overseas territories which speak German are not commonly included in the concept).
German is the main language of about 90–95 million people in Europe (as of 2004), or 13.3% of all Europeans, being the second most spoken native language in Europe afterRussian, above French (66.5 million speakers in 2004) and English (64.2 million speakers in 2004).
The European countries with German-speaking majorities are Germany (95%, 78.3 million),Austria (89%, 7.4 million), Switzerland (65%, 4.6 million) ("D-A-CH"), Luxembourg (0.48 million) and Liechtenstein (0.03 million).
D-A-CH or DACH is an acronym used to represent the dominant states of theGerman language Sprachraum. It is based on the official automobile license plate abbreviations for:
- Germany (D for Deutschland)
- Austria (A for Austria, in German "Österreich")
- Switzerland (CH for Confoederatio Helvetica, in German "(die) Schweiz")
"Dach" is also the German word for "roof", and is used in linguistics in the term Dachsprache, which standard German arguably is in relation to some outlying dialects of German, especially in Switzerland and Austria.
The term is sometimes extended to D-A-CH-Li or DACHL to include Liechtenstein.
DACH is also the name of an Interreg IIIA project, which focuses on crossborder cooperation in planning.
| Official language || Majority language || Partially official |
| Liechtenstein || Germany (besides locally Sorbian, Frisian, and Danish) |
Austria (besides locally Slovene, Croatian, and Hungarian)
Switzerland (besides French, Italian and Rumantsch)
Luxembourg (besides French and Luxembourgish, the latter being a standardised High German dialect)
| Denmark - recognized minority language in the former South Jutland County |
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol inItaly
Hungary (Danube Swabians)
Romania (Transylvania and Banat Swabians)
- German is the country's only official language:
- German is the majority language, and shares official status with other languages:
- Germany (besides locally Sorbian, Frisian, and Danish)
- Austria (besides locally Slovene, Croatian, and Hungarian)
- Luxembourg (besides French and Luxembourgish, the latter being a standardised High German dialect)
- Switzerland (besides French, Italian and Romansh)
- German is a minority language with official status:
- Belgium (besides Dutch and French)
- German language has official status only in part of the country/territory:
- Italy (Alto Adige/Südtirol Province of Autonomous Region Trentino-Alto Adige)
- Poland. Polish part of Silesia, mainly Upper Silesia. See also: German minority in Poland
- German language is recognized as a minority language:
- Czech Republic
- Hungary (Danube Swabians) and the bi-lingual city of Sopron
- Romania (Transylvania and Banat Swabians)
German speaking minorities without official status
Main articles: German as a minority language and German diaspora
- High numbers of German speaking minorities, but no official recognition:
- Poland (particularly in Opole Voivodeship)
- France (Alsace and Lorraine)
- German speaking minorities, but no official status:
Owing to tourism and second-home colonies some areas around the Mediterranean Sea (like the Balearic Islands) have small German-speaking communities.
German as a foreign language
German was once the lingua franca of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe and remains one of the most popular foreign languages in Europe and it is the second most popular after English. Thirty-two percent of citizens of the EU-15 countries say they can converse in German (either as a mother tongue or as a second/foreign language). This is assisted by the widespread availability of German TV by cable or satellite. German competence is highest in the Netherlands, Denmark, Bosnia and Herzegovina (historical connections, more than 400.000 people in the country speak German, as they were refuges during 1992-1995 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and over 300.000 Bosnians that temporarily work in these countries now) and in Slovenia (historical connections). Relatively high German competence is also found in Sweden, Belgium (historical reasons), the Czech Republic (historical connections), Slovakia (historical connections), Hungary(historical connections), Poland (much of northern, southern, and western Poland had previously been German territory) and Croatia(historical connections). German is the third most taught foreign language worldwide, including the United States; it is the second most known foreign language in the EU, due to its wider use in the "new" EU countries. It is one of the official languages of the European Union, and one of the three working languages of the European Commission, along with English and French.
The learning of German as a foreign language is promoted by the Goethe Institute, which works to promote German language and culture worldwide. In association with the Goethe Institute, the German foreign broadcasting service, Deutsche Welle offers a range of online German courses and radio broadcasts produced with non-native German speakers in mind.
Further information: German language literature
German-speaking people include composers (e.g. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Mahler or Schönberg), lyrical poetry and literature(e.g. Walter von der Vogelweide, Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, Schiller, Heine, Brecht or Thomas Mann as well as important works written by authors as the Nibelungenlied or Ludwigslied) and scientific philosophy (e.g. Albertus Magnus, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche,Heidegger, Wittgenstein or Adorno).
These cultures are quite diverse as a result of the varied history of the German-speaking people. The German-speaking world has consisted of independent principalities (e.g., Liechtenstein), of larger confederations (e.g., the German Confederation and the North German Confederation), of empires (e.g., the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire), of political units (e.g., Bohemia), and of political states(e.g., Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg).