With over 130 million native speakers in the world, German is one of the most widely spoken languages. It is not only the official language of Germany but the single most spoken language within the European Union. In addition, it is the third most popular foreign language after English and French, being taught in thousands of schools all around the globe.
Like English, German is highly influential in the fields of science and medicine; scientists from different fields usually find themselves having to learn German so they can access scientific publications written in this language.
However, more spectacular than the number of people who learn German as a second language is the number of countries where German is spoken as a native tongue. How many exactly? 42 countries. Below, we trace the reasons behind this amazing number.
European Countries Where German is Spoken
Predictably, Europe is the continent where the biggest number of German speakers reside. Germany, of course, has the greatest number, with almost 80 million native speakers. Then comes Austria, where German remains the only official language and is thus spoken by its entire population of almost 9 million people. Switzerland, in turn, has almost 5 million speakers of the Swiss-German variety, and an additional 300,000 users of standard German.
A German Star from Europe You Should Check Out
August Diehl is a German actor who gained international recognition thanks to his role as Gestapo major Dieter Hellstrom in Quentin Tarantino’s celebrated film Inglourious Basterds. He is also famous for his leading roles in the films Salt (2010), The Young Karl Marx (2017), and A Hidden Life (2019).
North American Territories Where German is Spoken
Although the number of German speakers in the United State has dwindled over the last century, 1 million of these speakers are believed to live in the US. Before World War I, German was the second most widespread non-official language in this country but was eventually replaced by Spanish. Back then, German had gained popularity due to the huge number of German immigrants who moved to the country in the 18th and 19th centuries. Throughout that period, thousands of German families appeared all over the North American territory looking for a better life. And though the influence of their culture has been on the decline for a century, traces of it can still be found in some communities like Pennsylvania Dutch and the Texas German speakers.
An American-German Icon Worth Knowing
Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and live-show performer whose career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s. One of the few German actresses to achieve international success, Dietrich became one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood during the 1940s. She was also recognized for her humanitarian work during World War II, as she offered housing and financial support to German and French exiles.
South American Countries Where German Is Spoken
Were you surprised at how many German speakers there are in North America? Well, then it might surprise you even more to learn that there are more of them in South America, with around 2.2 million in total. This is mainly because throughout the 19th-century dozens of German communities came to the Americas to countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Chile. Argentina, for example, is home to about 400,000 native speakers of German.
But it is Brazil that has the most highly condensed population of German speakers, with a sizable 1.5 million in total, most of whom live in the southern region. There, you can even find cities like Blumenau which are faithful reproductions of German culture.
A Great German-Argentinean Film Director
María Luisa Bemberg was a film writer and director widely recognised for creating films that introduced themes of gender and feminism and advocated for women’s rights. Her film Camila was nominated for an Academy Award 1984 in the Best Foreign Language category and has since become a modern classic in Latin America.
In 1986, she directed Julie Christie in Miss Mary, in which the celebrated British actress played a governess who works for an Argentinean family.
African Territories Where German Is Spoken
Throughout the late 19th Century, Germany, along with many other European countries, colonised part of the African continent. Since Germany was one of the latest powers to enter the game, it took over comparatively fewer lands than France and England.
Moreover, the fact that Germany was made to give up its colonies at the end of World War One meant that the German influence on the African continent was not to last. Today, the only country with an important number of German speakers in this continent is Namibia, originally called German Southwest Africa, where 11,200 speakers of the language can still be found.
A Great German-Namibian Painter
Dieter Aschenborn, son of the animal painter Hans Aschenborn, was a Namibian painter, known for his paintings of African wildlife. He first became famous with drawings and sculptures, especially reliefs cut out of wood.
Later, he also created postage stamps for Namibia, which have become iconic since his death in 2002. He is famous for using diverse materials for his paintings, among them parchment and leather.
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