German around the world

People speak German as their mother tongue in 42 countries around the world. Why is that? We trace the reasons for you.

Raluca Nelepcu
Raluca Nelepcu privat

Around 130 million people worldwide speak German as their mother tongue. German is the most widely spoken mother language and an official language in five countries in the European Union: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. German is also an official language in Switzerland. Moreover, around 7.5 million people in 42 countries worldwide belong to a German-speaking minority.

A few examples:

  • In the immigration country USA, more than 45 million people give “German” as their heritage of origin. German is the mother tongue of around 1.4 million of them.
  • 800,000 people with German roots live in Russia, some of whom still speak German. In the eighteenth century, their ancestors accepted an invitation from Russian Tsarina Catherine the Great, who came from Germany.
  • 20,000 German Namibians, who speak German as their mother tongue, live in Namibia in southwest Africa. They are descendants of German colonists (the colony of German Southwest Africa existed from 1884 to 1915).
  • The Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians settled in Romania in the twelfth century and in the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. In 2011, 36,000 Romanian Germans lived in the country.

One of them is the thirty-five- year-old journalist Raluca Nelepcu:

“I was born in Banat, a multicultural region in western Romania where Germans, Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians, Romanians and many other ethnic groups live together peacefully. My paternal grandmother was a Banat Swabian. She raised me and taught me German from an early age on. That was to have an impact on my professional career. Today I write articles in German for the Allgemeinen Deutschen Zeitung für Rumänien and do radio features for the German programme on Radio Temeswar. My family and friends also often speak German. I’d like to pass on the German language to my son so that he too can benefit throughout his life from speaking two languages.”

Contest

Deutschland.de is organizing a competition for International Mother Language Day. From 17 to 28 February 2020 you can register here and win a handy digital translation device and attractive German learning packages!

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