What Languages do People Speak in Germany?

The official language of Germany is Standard German.

Germany is a multicultural, multilingual society, with a long history of many different languages and dialects being spoken. Many European languages, such as English and French, are considered to be Germanic languages as a result of the heavy influence of the Germanic people on Europe’s language development. It might not be an exaggeration to say that German is the “mother language” for much of Europe. Today, 95% of people in Germany speak Standard German as their native language. Sixty-seven percent can speak at least one foreign language in addition to German, and 27% can speak at least two foreign languages.

The Official Language of Germany

The official language of Germany’s national government is Standard German. It is spoken by 95% of the people who live in Germany and is the most commonly spoken native tongue in the entire European Union. In addition to being the official language of Germany, it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Because of German’s massive influence on other European languages, it bears many similarities to other European languages, such as Dutch, English, Afrikaans (the European language of South Africa), and Norse languages. Speakers of other Germanic languages can commonly figure out what German signs say because there are so many vocabulary cognates. However, German is not considered to be mutually intelligible with other languages.

In addition to Standard German, some minority languages have official status within their own jurisdictions. The land that is now Germany was historically the site of various different kingdoms, such as the Bavarian Kingdom (now the state of Bavaria within Germany) and the Kingdom of Prussia. As a result, many local languages have historically been spoken, such as Northern Low Saxon and the Frisian languages. The vast majority are of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Some are now extinct, and some are in danger of extinction. These languages are not nationally recognized as official languages but are sometimes recognized within their own states as official languages.

Minority Languages Spoken in Germany

Low German

Low German, also known as Low Saxon, is a West Germanic language that is primarily spoken in the northern part of Germany and the Netherlands. It is actually considered to be more closely related to other Germanic languages, such as English and Frisian, than to Standard German. Approximately five million Germans speak Low German as their native language, and a total of 6.7 million people (1.7 million in the Netherlands) express it as their native language. Both the Netherlands and Germany recognize Low German as a regional language, although there is some controversy as to whether it is a distinct language or a dialect of Standard German.

Upper Sorbian

The Sorbs are a Slavic ethnic group that has a significant presence in Germany. They live in a region that is known as Lusatia, which straddles Germany and Poland. Many of them speak the Sorbian language, either Upper Sorbian or Lower Sorbian. Approximately 0.1% of Germany’s population vocalizes the Sorbian language.

In Upper Lusatia, which is today part of Germany’s state of Saxony, Sorbs generally speak Upper Sorbian. Upper Sorbian is a Slavic language that is about 500 years old. There are about 40,000 speakers of Upper Sorbian.

Lower Sorbian

The German region of Lower Lusatia is the state of Brandenberg. There, Sorbs generally speak Lower Sorbian. Today, there are only about 7000 native speakers of Lower Sorbian, so the language is considered to be endangered.


The Frisian languages are a group of West Germanic languages and, together with English, comprise the Anglo-Frisian language group. Despite its many similarities with English, Frisian languages are not considered to be mutually intelligible with English. Many of the Frisian languages, which are native to the Netherlands and Germany, are now extinct. There are approximately 500,000 speakers of Frisian languages today.

Other Minority Languages Spoken in Germany

Romani, the language traditionally spoken by gypsies, is a minority language in Germany. It is spoken by about 0.1% of Germany’s population. Another minority language in Germany is Danish; about 0.06% of Germany’s population speaks it.

Immigrant Languages Spoken in Germany

Germany has a rapidly growing immigrant population. The most common immigrant languages that are spoken in Germany are Russian, Arabic, Polish, Turkish, Kurdish, and Balkan languages.

Foreign Languages Spoken in Germany

Most Germans are bilingual. The most common foreign language in Germany is English, which is commonly taught in schools. Many children also study French and/or Latin as part of their education. Depending on what part of Germany they live in, they may also learn the language of a neighboring country, such as Polish or Spanish.


“Upper Sorbian.” Wikipedia. “Languages of Germany.” Wikipedia. “Germany.” CIA World Factbook. “Lower Sorbian.” Wikipedia. “Frisian Languages.” Wikipedia.

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What Languages do People Speak in Germany?