German 101

German is spoken primarily in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, in two-thirds of Switzerland, in two-thirds of the South Tyrol province of Italy (in German, Südtirol), in the small East Cantons of Belgium, and in some border villages of the South Jutland County (in German, Nordschleswig, in Danish, Sønderjylland) of Denmark.

In Luxembourg (in German, Luxemburg), as well as in the French régions of Alsace (in German, Elsass) and parts of Lorraine (in German, Lothringen), the native populations speak several German dialects, and some people also master standard German (especially in Luxembourg), although in Alsace and Lorraine French has for the most part replaced the local German dialects in the last 40 years.

Some German speaking communities still survive in parts of Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and above all Russia, Kazakhstan and Poland, although massive relocations to Germany in the late 1940s and 1990s have depopulated most of these communities.

Outside of Europe and the former Soviet Union, the largest German speaking communities are to be found in the USA and in Brazil where millions of Germans migrated in the last 200 years; but the great majority of their descendants no longer speak German. Additionally, German speaking communities are to be found in the former German colony of Namibia, as well as in the other countries of German emigration such as Canada, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela (where Alemán Coloneiro developed), Thailand, and Australia. See also Plautdietsch.

In the USA, the largest concentration of German speakers are in Pennsylvania (Amish, Hutterites and some Mennonites speak Pennsylvania German and Hutterite German), Texas (Texas German), North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Indiana also speak dialects of German. In Brazil the largest concentrations of German speakers are in Rio Grande do Sul, where Riograndenser Hunsrückisch was developed, Santa Catarina, Paraná, and Espírito Santo). Generally, German immigrant communities in the USA have lost their mother tongue more quickly than those who moved to South America, possibly due to the fact that for Germans English is easier to learn than Portuguese or Spanish.

German is the main language of about 100 million people in Europe (as of 2004), or 13.3% of all Europeans, being the most spoken language in Europe excluding Russia, above French (66.5 million speakers in Europe in 2004) and English (64.2 million speakers in Europe in 2004). German is the third most taught foreign language worldwide, also in the USA (after Spanish and French); it is the second most known foreign language in the EU (after English) It is one of the official languages of the European Union.

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