What writing system(s) does German use? edit

German uses the Latin alphabet just like English, French, and Spanish, with one extra (non-Latin) letter, the eszett, which is pronounced "ss". It also has umlaute, which are not used in English.


eszett — A letter which only found in the German alphabet, it looks like this: ß.


umlauts — Dots, which can be placed above three of the vowels in German, and which change the sound of them. They look like this: Ää, Öö, Üü.

When people don't have a German keyboard, or the software required to use extra symbols on your own keyboard, they can write the umlauts by adding the letter "e" after the basic vowel. These umlauts would then look like this: Ae, ae, Oe, oe, Ue, ue. The pronunciation remains the same. The eszett can also be written ss. In Switzerland, the eszett is never used, it is always replaced by ss.

How many people speak German? edit

There are roughly 110 million people that speak German as a first language; however, there are around 120 million people who speak it as a secondary language.


native speaker — someone who learned to speak a language as a child.


secondary language — any language that a person learns to speak after the first language that they learned at home.

Where is this language spoken? edit

German is spoken widely in Europe and in communities around the world.

German is primarily spoken in the following countries:

German is also spoken by some people in the following countries:

In small communities all over the world, German and variants (Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch) are spoken as the primary or secondary language. German is also the most widely spoken language in Europe, and the tenth most spoken language in the world.

What is the history of this language? edit

The spread of the German language until ca. 1945 in Central Europe. Orange marks Lower German, blue Middle German and green Upper German dialects.

West Germanic was an ancient language that evolved into many different languages including German, English, Frisian, Low German and Dutch. German evolved from West Germanic between AD 400 and AD 1200 when people in southern and middle regions of Germany started pronouncing several consonants differently. This language is now called Standard German ("Hochdeutsch", literally "High German").

West Germanic dialects were still spoken in the northern and western regions of Germany and evolved into the regional language now called Low German or Low Saxon ("Plattdeutsch"). For many years the people of these regions of Germany struggled to understand one another. It wasn't until the 1800s that a common language was developed, called Standard German, that allowed the people of the highlands and the lowlands to be able to speak to one another.


dialect — one form of a language; sometimes different regions of a country develop slightly different forms of a language, called dialects.

Who are some famous authors or poets in this language? edit

Ludwig van Beethoven

Some famous authors and poets in this language include the Grimm brothers, Schiller & Goethe.

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), the leader of the Protestant Reformation, translated the Bible into German. He used a version of middle German that could be understood by speakers of both North and South Germany, and thus was important in laying the foundations for Standard German. His translation is vigorous and vivid, he tried to incorporate the ways in which people of his time really talked. It was admired by many writers and poets, and it is the source of many idioms of German even as it is spoken today.

The Brothers Grimm (Jacob, 1785 – 1863; Wilhelm, 1786 – 1859) were Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, German professors who were best known for publishing collections of authentic folk tales and fairy tales. Their fairy tales are very famous, mostly because Disney made animated movies based on three of them: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Many of the other fairy tales are very famous, and untouched by Disney. These include Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Rapunzel.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (November 10, 1759 – May 9, 1805) was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist. His childhood and youth were spent in relative poverty, although he attended both village and Latin schools. He eventually studied medicine. At school, he wrote his first play, The Robbers, about a group of naïve revolutionaries and their tragic failure. In 1780, he obtained a post as regimental doctor in Stuttgart. Following the performance of Die Räuber (The Robbers) in Mannheim, in 1781 he was arrested and forbidden to publish any further works. He fled Stuttgart in 1783, coming via Leipzig and Dresden to Weimar in 1787. In 1789, he was appointed professor of History and Philosophy in Jena, where he wrote only historical works. He returned to Weimar in 1799, where Goethe convinced him to return to playwriting. He and Goethe founded the Weimar Theater which became the leading theater in Germany, leading to a dramatic renaissance. He remained in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar until his death at 45 from tuberculosis.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German polymath: he was a painter, novelist, dramatist, poet, humanist, scientist, philosopher, and for ten years chief minister of state at Weimar. Goethe was one of the paramount figures of German literature and the movement of German classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, Sensibility ("Empfindsamkeit"), and Romanticism, in all of which he participated to varying degrees. As the author of Faust and Theory of Colours, Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century, his works were a primary source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry, and even philosophy.

German is also the language of classical music, as it was the language of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach just to name a few. Read on for more detail on these artists...

Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a prolific German composer and organist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments drew together almost all of the strands of the Baroque style and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although he introduced no new musical forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust and dazzling contrapuntal technique, a seemingly effortless control of harmonic and motivic organization from the smallest to the largest scales, and the adaptation of rhythms and textures from abroad, particularly Italy and France.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) is among the most significant and enduringly popular composers of European classical music. His enormous output includes works that are widely acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. Many of his works are part of the standard concert repertory and are widely recognized as masterpieces of the classical style.

Ludwig van Beethoven (December 17, 1770 – March 26, 1827) was a German composer of classical music, who lived predominantly in Vienna, Austria. Beethoven is widely regarded as one of history's supreme composers, and he produced notable works even after losing his hearing. He was one of the greatest figures in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in music. His reputation has inspired — and in many cases intimidated — composers, musicians, and audiences who were to come after him.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828), prolific composer of music in about every form, including a vast number of songs, almost all in German.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), composer of a large array of frequently-performed German operas, including his monumental four-opera series known as the Ring of the Nibelung.

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), although from what is now the Czech Republic, was a native speaker of German and did most of his composing in Vienna. He wrote several song cycles and the symphonic cantata Das Lied von der Erde (the Song of the Earth) and nine completed (one unfinished) symphonies, four of which incorporate German text.

What are some basic words in this language that I can learn? edit

Greetings (Die) Begrüßungen
Hi / Hello! Hi / Hallo!
Hey! Grüß dich!
Morning! Morgen!
Good morning. Guten Morgen.
Good day. Guten Tag.
Good evening. Guten Abend.
Good night. Gute Nacht.
Good-byes Abschied
Later! Tschüss!/Tschau!
Goodbye! Auf Wiedersehen!
See you soon! Bis bald!
Basic Phrases Einfache Phrasen
Do you speak English / German / Dutch? Sprechen Sie Englisch / Deutsch / Niederländisch?
Where are the restrooms? Wo ist die Toilette, bitte?
Excuse me. Entschuldigen Sie / Verzeihung.
How are you? Wie gehts? / Wie geht es dir? / Wie geht es Ihnen?
[I feel] good / bad / awful / okay. Mir geht es gut / schlecht / schrecklich / okay.
[I feel] ill. Mir ist übel.
[I'm] sick / sad. Ich bin krank / traurig.
[I'm] happy / glad. Ich bin glücklich / froh.
What happened? Was ist passiert?
What's Up? Was ist los?
I like ... Ich mag ...
I don't like ... Ich mag ... nicht.
I love you. Ich liebe dich.
My name is ... Ich heiße.../Mein Name ist...
I am... Ich bin...
I am a... Ich bin (ein/eine)...
That’s good / bad / not bad. Das ist gut / schlecht / nicht schlecht.
That’s big / huge / small / tiny / wonderful / too bad. Das ist groß / riesig / klein / winzig / wunderbar / schade.
That’s enough / too much. Das ist genug / zu viel.
What’s this/that? Was ist das?
(But) of course! (Aber) natürlich!
(That’s) [entirely] out of the question! (Das) kommt [überhaupt] nicht infrage!
I'd like this (one)! Ich möchte diesen / diese / dieses!

What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language? edit

At Christmas time, you might like to sing Christmas carols about your tree. The Germans do, too. They have a song called "O Tannenbaum" which has also been translated into English. The song was first written by Ernst Anschütz in 1824.

Here is the original German song, O Tannenbaum:

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie grün sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Dein Kleid will mich' was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Trost und Kraft zu jeder Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Das soll dein Kleid mich lehren.

It is known as "O Christmas Tree" in English and is a very famous song. Here is the English version of the song:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

References edit