Friday, October 4, 2013

German Unity Day: The Languages Of Germany, Part 2

On Wednesday, we were looking at the events that led up to the reunification of Germany. Though we didn't get onto the languages of Germany, we did enjoy looking at the rich and interesting landscape of contemporary German history. Today we're straight back into languages as we look at the languages of this fascinating nation.

Of course, German is the principal and official language of Germany with over 95% of the population speaking German as their first language. Statistics for Northern Low Saxon are also included as part of Standard German, though Northern Low Saxon is considered a recognised regional language in Germany.

Recognised Minority Languages


The Romani languages consist of seven distinct varieties: Balkan Romani, Baltic Romani, Carpathian Romani, Finnish Kalo, Sinte Romani, Vlax Romani, and Welsh Romani. In total, Romani languages have around three million speakers.

Sinte Romani is the variety found in Germany, and is spoken by around 80,000 people. There are estimated to be around 320,000 total speakers spread across Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. Interestingly, Sinte Romani is heavily influenced by the German language and is not mutually intelligible with the other varieties of Romani.


The Sorbian languages are spoken by a group of 50,000 Slavic people known as the Sorbs. The two varieties, known as Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian, are spoken in Saxony and Brandenburg respectively. 40,000 of the speakers reside in Saxony and speak Upper Sorbian, whereas the remaining 10,000 are speakers of Lower Sorbian in Brandenburg.

Sand dunes on the island of Sylt, one of the North Frisian
Islands in Germany's state of Schleswig-Holstein. 

The Danish language can be heard in the northern region of Schleswig-Holstein, the German region that unsurprisingly borders with Denmark. Only 0.1% of the population of Germany are speakers of Danish. However, this amounts to around 50,000 people.

North Frisian

The Western Germanic language of North Frisian is spoken by around 10,000 people in Germany, principally in the Schleswig-Holstein region where we encountered Danish. Naturally, North Frisian is related to West Frisian, which is spoken mainly in the Netherlands.

Other Regional Languages

There are several other languages that are native to particular regions in Germany. Languages such as Limburgish, Luxembourgish, Alemannic German, Bavarian, and Low German. Many of these are considered to be dialects of either German or Dutch, or precursors to the modern variant of German spoken in the country today.

Immigrant Languages

Due to immigrant populations, Germany has sizeable populations for whom German is not the main language. This includes speakers of Turkish, Kurdish, Russian, Arabic, Greek, Dutch, Igbo, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish.

Part 1 | Part 2

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