German Language Data Points (and Fun Facts)

Spoken by more than 120 million people in 38 countries of the world, German— like English and French—is a pluricentric language with Germany, Austria and Switzerland as the three countries with the most native speakers. It is estimated that approximately 90-95 million people speak German as a first language, 10-25 million as a second language and 75-100 million as a foreign language.

Outside of Europe, the largest German-speaking communities are found in the U.S., Brazil and in Argentina where millions of Germans migrated in the last 200 years; but the great majority of their descendants do not speak German.

Here is a collection of other German language data points and tips to help you on your global journey:

  • Record-breaker. Worldwide, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, German accounts for the most written translations into and from a language. It is one of the most-studied languages worldwide.
  • Keeping time. In German, time is counted with respect to the next hour. If a German tells you that it is halb drei (“half three”), you might assume that it’s 3:30. However, since time is counted by the minutes to the next hour, “half three” means that it’s a half-hour until three, or, 2:30.
  • Global rankings. The top 10 countries where native speakers of the German language reside (outside of Germany, Austria and Switzerland), are: United States (5 million), Brazil (3 million), Russia (2 million), Poland (800,000), Argentina (500,000), Canada (450-620,000), Italy (250,000), Hungary (220,000), Australia (110,000) and Mexico (100,000).
  • Top exports. The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machineries, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment, basic metals, food products and plastics.
  • Clinical trial locations. As of March 2017, there were currently 15,585 clinical studies running in For a region-by-region breakdown, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
  • What to translate. Depending on the clinical trial document to be translated and the country where you will submit it, there are certain documents that do not require translation.
  • Medical device industry: The German medical device market is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world. It was valued at $26 billion in 2014 and continues to grow.
  • Translation tip: German words have three genders. In many Romance languages, nouns can either be masculine or feminine, which has historically caused headaches for English-speaking language learners. German further complicates the picture by introducing a neuter gender for words that are neither masculine nor feminine.

And for a few fun facts…

  • Character size: Language has a big impact on the use of Twitter in Germany. Although Twitter is available in Germany, it is not very popular due to the length of the German vocabulary and the 140-character limit.
  • Half-way to fluent. German and English share more than half of their vocabulary — so if you know English, you’re already half-way to speaking German! In comparison, English and French share just 27% of the same vocabulary.
  • Let’s socialize: XING, which is a career-oriented social networking site that enables a small-world networking for professionals, is used by people from over 200 countries. About 76% of its page views come from Germany and 90% from German-speaking countries (Switzerland, Austria and Germany).
  • Protected language. In the Netherlands, Low German is a protected regional language according to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
  • I’m loving it! There are more than 1,470 McDonald’s in Germany. Interested in where the other 30,000+ locations are? Click here to find out.

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