German belongs to the Indo-German languages and within this category it is connected to Germanic languages. It is thus related to Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch and Flemish, but also to English. The emergence of a common High German language (“Hochdeutsch”) is attributed to Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible.

Germany has many dialects. It is usually possible to determine a German’s native region from his or her dialect and pronunciation. When a Friesian from the North ("Ostfriese") and a Bavarian hailing from the South ("Bavaria") meet, they may often have problems understanding each other if they speak in their respective dialect.

Moreover, as the country was once divided into West and East, the two German states developed a different political vocabulary. New words were coined which were not necessarily understood in the other part of the country. Nevertheless, the common language was one of the links that held the divided nation together.

In Bavaria and Baden Württemberg distinct dialects are used. Low German or “Plattdeutsch” is spoken in the more rural areas of the north, especially near the coast and in some parts of Nordrhein Westphalia.

In Eastern Germany, some people speak Russian and few speak English, although many are now learning it and it is taught in the schools. English is the main foreign language in Western Germany and is spoken by a large number of German officials and business people.

As in any country, some knowledge of the country’s language is advantageous and courteous. Germans consider a foreigner’s effort to speak their language, even if not well, as a compliment.

Most Germans will make great effort themselves to understand and to help the speaker. Those who are unable to speak German are advised to engage an interpreter for an important interview. Interpreter services are readily available. Please do not hesitate to ask your Relocation-Service to recommend suitable interpreters.

German is also the native language in Austria, Liechtenstein, most of Switzerland, South Tyrol and in small areas of Belgium, France and Luxembourg along the German border.

The German minorities in Poland, Rumania and the countries of the former Soviet Union have partly retained the German language as well.

German is a native language of more than 100 million people. About one out of ten books published throughout the world has been written in German. As far as translations into foreign languages are concerned, German is the third after English and French and more works have been translated into German than into any other language.

Germans take great pride in an expressive language that is the medium for one of the worlds’ greatest literature. Expatriates will find themselves more warmly welcomed if they have made an attempt to master the elements of the German language.

The language is easier to learn than generally perceived. Although the grammar can be complex, it does not have to be mastered in detail for purposes of basic communication.

A practical approach is to concentrate on the spoken language – learning by hearing and repeating. Progress is often quite rapid, especially for those who constantly hear the language.

While the total number of words amounts to over 500.000, only a few thousand words are commonly used in everyday speech.

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