List of countries and territories where German is an official language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Legal statuses of German in Europe:
  "German Sprachraum": German is (co-)official language and first language of the majority of the population
  German is a co-official language, but not the first language of the majority of the population
  German (or a German dialect) is a legally recognized minority language (Squares: Geographic distribution too dispersed/small for map scale)
  German (or a variety of German) is spoken by a sizable minority, but has no legal recognition

Approximate distribution of native German speakers (assuming a rounded total of 95 million) worldwide.

  Germany (78.3%)
  Austria (8.4%)
  Switzerland (5.6%)
  Brazil (3.2%)
  Italy (0.4%)
  Others (4.1%)

The following is a list of the countries and territories where German is an official language (also known as the Germanosphere). It includes countries that have German as (one of) their nationwide official language(s), as well as dependent territories with German as a co-official language.

German as an official language[edit]

German is the official language of six countries, all of which lie in central and western Europe. These countries (with the addition of South Tyrol of Italy) also form the Council for German Orthography and are referred to as the German Sprachraum (German language area). Since 2004, Meetings of German-speaking countries have been held annually with six participants: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland:[1]

Country Population
Speakers Notes
Native[3][4][5] Second[3][5]
Germany 84,900,000 75,101,421 (91.8%) 5,600,000 (6.9%) De facto sole nationwide official language[a]
Belgium 11,420,163 73,000 (0.6%) 2,472,746 (22%) De jure official language in the German speaking community
Austria 8,838,171 8,040,960 (93%) 516,000 (6%) De jure sole nationwide official language
Switzerland 8,508,904 5,329,393 (64.6%) 395,000 (5%) Co-official language at federal level; de jure sole official language in 17, co-official in 4 cantons (out of 26)
Luxembourg 626,108 11,000 (2%) 380,000 (67.5%) De jure nationwide co-official language
Liechtenstein 37,370 32,075 (85.8%) 5,200 (13.9%) De jure sole nationwide official language
Total 112,238,899 87,875,432 9,368,946 Total speakers: 97,244,378

Subdivisions of countries[edit]

While not official at the national level, German is a co-official language in subdivisions of the countries listed below. In each of these regions, German is an official language on the administrative level.

Region Country Population
Autonomous Province of South Tyrol Italy 511,750 354,643 (69.3%)[6] Co-official language on province level; equal to Italian
Opole Voivodeship (28 communes)
Silesian Voivodeship (3 communes)
Poland 250,000 ~50,000 (~20%)[7] Auxiliary language in 31 communes;[8]
also national minority language[9]

Other legal statuses[edit]

Legal statuses of German in the world (see preceding image for color descriptions)

There are other political entities (countries as well as dependent entities) which acknowledge other legal statuses for the German language or one of its dialects. While these may cover minority rights, support of certain language facilities (schools, media, etc.), and the promotion of cultural protection/heritage, they do not encompass the establishment of German as an "official" language, i.e., being required in public offices or administrative texts.

These countries include:

Although in France, the High German varieties of Alsatian and Moselle Franconian are identified as "regional languages" according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of 1998, the French government has not yet ratified the treaty, and therefore those varieties have no official legal status.[20]

Due to the German diaspora, other countries with sizable populations of (mostly bilingual) German L1 speakers include Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Paraguay, as well as the United States.[21] However, in none of these countries does German or a German variety have any legal status.

International institutions[edit]

German is an official language of the following international institutions:

Organisation Number of official languages Headquarters
European Patent Organisation 3 (English, French) Munich, Germany
Unified Patent Court 3 (English, French) Paris, France
European Space Agency 3 (English, French) Paris, France
European Union 24 Brussels, Belgium
European Commission 3 (English, French) Brussels, Belgium
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 6 (English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish) Vienna, Austria
International Union of Railways 3 (English, French) Paris, France
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts 3 (English, French) Reading, UK
International Trade Union Confederation 4 (English, French, Spanish) Brussels, Belgium
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers 4 (English, French, Spanish) Frankfurt, Germany
Danube Commission 3 (French, Russian) Budapest, Hungary
European Investment Bank 3 (English, French) Kirchberg, Luxembourg
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 4 (English, French, Russian) London, UK


  1. ^ While several specific laws, e.g., §23 VwVfG or $184 GVG, specify German as the administrative language in Germany, the Grundgesetz does not specifically mention it as federal official language.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ d’Lëtzebuerger Land - Beim Deutschen Bund in Eupen (02. September 2016)
  2. ^ See: List of countries and dependencies by population
  3. ^ a b Eurobarometer 2012 - Annex
  4. ^ "German, Standard". Ethnologue.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ammon, Ulrich (November 2014). Die Stellung der deutschen Sprache in der Welt (in German) (1st ed.). Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-019298-8. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  6. ^ Census of South Tyrol 2011
  7. ^ Polish census 2011 (note that ethnic associations allow only for a very rough estimate of first language distribution)
  8. ^ "Map on page of Polish Commission on Standardization of Geographical Names" (PDF). Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Council of Europe - List of ratifications of the Charter for regional/minority languages
  10. ^ "IPOL realizará formação de recenseadores para o censo linguístico do município de Antônio Carlos-SC".
  11. ^ Lei N.º 14.061, de 23 de julho de 2012
  12. ^ Carolin Zwilling (European Academy Bolzano-Bozen, 2004) - Minority Protection and Language Policy in the Czech Republic
  13. ^ "European Centre for Minority Issues - Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations". Archived from the original on 2016-10-14. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  14. ^ Die deutsche Minderheit in Dänemark - Sprache – Identität und Schlüssel (German). Letzter Zugriff am 3. Mai 2015
  15. ^ "Deutsche Botschaft Budapest - Die deutsche Minderheit in Ungarn". Archived from the original on 5 May 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  16. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Budapest - The national and ethnic minorities in Hungary
  17. ^ "Deutsch in Namibia" (PDF) (in German). Supplement of the Allgemeine Zeitung. 18 August 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 June 2008. Retrieved 23 June 2008.
  18. ^ Ammon, Ulrich (1995). Die deutsche Sprache in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. ISBN 9783110147537.
  20. ^ "Charte européenne des langues régionales : Hollande nourrit la guerre contre le français". Le Figaro.
  21. ^ German L1 speakers outside Europe