Hannes Richter

The German Language

Hannes Richter

Currently In Vogue

Johann Wolfgang Goethe; sculpture by Alexander Trippel (1744 - 1793)

A study conducted by the AG International Medium Assistance (IMH) in Switzerland has revealed that the number of German publications published outside German-speaking countries has increased in the last few years. There are about 3,100 newspapers, magazines and newsletters published abroad in German. Among the new German publications is the Polen-Rundschau created by German and Polish journalists in Warsaw. Some new newspapers, such as the Neuseeland News, can be bought at newsstands in railway stations and airports.

According to the study, German is increasingly popular with foreign students. In many of the Eastern states of the European Union (EU), German is the most important second language. In Poland alone, the number of German students has increased by more than one hundred thousand.

German in the Enlarged EU
With EU enlargement, language diversity in Europe grew considerably. Apart from the nine new official languages of Estonian, Latvian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian, Czech and Hungarian, the ten new member countries are also bringing some minority languages into theEU.

According to a survey conducted under the auspices of the European Commission in 2002, 17 percent of those interviewed in the new EU member states stated that they were capable of carrying on a conversation in German. The Slovenians had the best overall command of German (36 percent), followed by then the Czechs (27 percent) and the Slovaks (22 percent). English was spoken by more than one-fifth of all citizens in the new member states. Russian, formerly the required language under Communism, can no longer compete with English.

Although no official statistics are available from the European Commission, it is estimated that some 88 million people within the EU speak German as a first language. About 58 million people in the EU speak English, while French and Italian each claim some 55 million. Polish is spoken by 37 million, Hungarian by 11 million and Czech by 10 million. Among the minorities from all EU member states, the largest language groups are Turkish (2.9 million), Ukrainian and Russian (2 million each), Serbo-Croatian (1 million) and Romanes of the Roma group (695,000).

The IMH reports the following statistics on the (minimum) number of readers of German publications worldwide:

1. Russia 17 million
2. Poland 8 million
3. Holland 6 million
4. USA 6 million A
5. France 4 million
6. Ukraine 4 million
7. Kazakhstan 3 million
8. Uzbekistan 3 million
9. Brazil 2 million
10. Czech Rep. 2 million
11. Hungary 2 million
12. Romania 1.5 million
13. Italy 1 million
14. Canada 1 million
15. Slovakia 1 million

“Whenever a German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.”
From A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain