German as a foreign language

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German language skills of European Union citizens (plus Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Turkey). Shown in black are territories where native speakers are in the majority. In dark red are territories where a majority speaks German either natively or as a second language: Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Slovenia.
Knowledge of German as a foreign language (second language in Luxembourg) in the EU member states (+Croatia and Turkey), in per cent of the adult population (+15), 2005.

The German language is one of the most widely-spoken of the languages of Europe. German is one of the official languages of the European Union, and one of the three working languages of the European Commission, along with English and French.

In the Early Modern period, German was the lingua franca of much of Central and Northern Europe (Hanseatic League). Today, it is widely spoken as a second language in the European Union; according to a 2005 study, 12% of EU population speaks German as a second language (second to English at 34%, and just alongside French at 11%).[1] 32% percent of citizens of the EU-15 countries say they can converse in German (either as a mother tongue or as a second/foreign language).[2]

German competence in countries where it is not an official language is highest in the countries immediately adjacent to Germany and Austria (Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg and Slovenia, to a lesser extent Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Belgium) and in the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia).

German as a foreign language is promoted by the Goethe Institute, which works to promote German language and culture worldwide. In association with the Goethe Institute, the German foreign broadcasting service, Deutsche Welle offers a range of online German courses and radio broadcasts produced with non-native German speakers in mind.


  1. ^ Eurobarometer: Europeans and Languages from September 2005 (counting both native and non-native speakers, the figures are: 47% English, 30% German, 23% French)
  2. ^ "EUROPA — Redirection". Retrieved 2009-10-27. 

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