This article has first been published on Fair Languages
Last time I talked about some general numbers, precisely how many people in the world speak German and where it is an official language.
Today I would like to go into more detail and talk about some countries where speaking German might be particularly helpful either to live or to do business with.
Germans abroad – Auslandsdeutsche
The German term for all German citizens living abroad is Auslandsdeutsche. I’m not speaking of German emigrants from previous generations, but people with a German passport who permanently or temporarily decided to live abroad, like myself.
In general, but not always, they like to form German communities to help each other getting along in their new home country. So, if you are interested in getting in touch with these groups or even do business with them, then speaking German will grant you way easier access and opportunities.
Large groups of Germans also live in Australia (106,000 in 2006) and the Russian Federation (almost 600,000 in 2002), the UK (92,000 in 2008) and France (75,000 in 1999) and of course the United States although it is hard to give their exact numbers as they’re not required to register with the German Embassy which is also true for the EU as we have the right to move anywhere we want within the member states without registration.
German in Europe
German is the second most known foreign language in the EU, due to its wider use in the “new” EU countries. It is the third most popular foreign language to learn, after English and Russian. If you travel Europe you’ll find that about 70% of the Dutch population speak German, it’s also strong in Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary and Croatia. In these countries between 20 and 55% of the population have learnt German as a foreign language. In France about 4 million people master German as a foreign language. This sums up to roughly 14% or every seventh European who speaks German.
Source: Goethe Institut
German outside of Europe
German is the third most taught foreign language worldwide. Outside of Europe, German is popular in Japan and the US, in the latter numbers are that around 7.5 million or 10% of Americans spoke German in 2001. There is however the trend that German is losing ground as Spanish is getting more relevant and more popular.
German on the Internet
German is an important language on the Internet. Of course, English is the dominant language (and I’m writing this article in English, too) but depending on the study you take German lands between 2nd and 4th. Some studies see Japanese and Chinese now stronger, but it is estimated that websites in German make between 4% and 5.9% of all websites.
Looking at people using the Internet, between the year 2000 and 2011 the number of German speaking users on the World Wide Web grew from 43 million to 75 million.
German in International Organisations
German is one of the 23 official languages in the European Union. It is also a so called working language together with English and French. It is still the most spoken mother tongue in the EU and the second most spoken language (mother tongue and foreign language together).
Picture by EmiRvolucionario, via Wikimedia Commons