German language

German (Deutsch) belongs to the western group of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is one of the most important languages in the world and it is spoken by some 95 million natives; 28 million people speak it as a second language in more than 40 countries around the world.
German moved away from other Germanic languages because of a phonetic mutation called High German Consonant Shift. The German Consonant Shift, also known as the Second German Consonant Shift, began in the 3rd to 5th centuries, and probably ended in the 9th century AD. We see this when we compare German words with their English counterparts, e.g. pound-Pfund, apple-Apfel, cat-Katze, heart-Herz, make-machen.

The High German Consonant shift divided Germany into a smaller northern area (without phonetic mutation), and a central and a larger southern area (with consonant mutation). The other German-speaking countries are all south of this border. Since the consonantal mutation did not occur in the northern German lowlands, their language is called Low German (Plattdeutsch), to distinguish it from High German (Hochdeutsch) that is spoken in the areas where the phonetic mutation did occur.

German has undergone a number of changes throughout history.

Old High German

It was spoken until the 10th and 11th centuries. Its grammar was similar to that of Latin or the Slavic languages because of its complexity. It is incomprehensible to readers of modern German.

Middle High German

It was spoken until the end of the Middle Ages. It is relatively easy for readers of modern German to understand.

New High German

It developed in the late Middle Ages. It is relatively easy for readers of modern German to understand.

German dialects

There are considerable differences between the dialects of German. All dialects of German belong to the dialectal continuum between High German Languages and the Low German. Only the neighboring dialects understand each other. A speaker of Standard German may have difficulty understanding certain dialects, such as those spoken in Switzerland.

Dialects of Low German are more similar to Dutch than to dialects of High German (Hochdeutsch).

Dialects of High German, spoken in the northern Rhine are divided into Middle and High German.

Standard German is a variant of High German, which started in Saxony. It was finally recognised as a written norm in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Austrian and Swiss German are based on High German.

The dialects of High German spoken by Ashkenazi Jews have some peculiarities, and it is usually considered a separate language, called Yiddish.
German dialects spoken in the colonies founded by German speakers were based on the regional dialects spoken by the colonists, for example, the Pennsylvania German Language (mistakenly called Dutch instead of Deutsch) is based on the Palatinate German Language.

German Speakers

German is the official language of Germany (along with Danish, Frisian and Sorbian as minority languages), where it is spoken by 70 million people as their mother tongue and another 8 million as their second language.

Standard German is the only official language in Liechtenstein . It is also spoken by about 7.5 million people in Austria.

In Switzerland, German shares co-official status with French, Italian and Romansh.

In Belgium, German is the official regional language in the German-speaking areas.

In Luxembourg, German shares official status with French and Luxembourgish.

German is the official language, together with Italian, of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican City.

German is also a minority language in Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Denmark, France and Namibia.

German is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. It is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the European Union and the second most spoken language in Europe after English. It is also one of the three working languages of the European Commission, along with English and French.

For some time, German was also a lingua franca in central, eastern and northern Europe. Today, it is the second most studied language in Europe and Asia after English. The popularity of German comes from the large number of German-language television channels that can be seen in Europe. It is also the third most taught language in the world after Spanish and French.

Translation agency for Spanish-English-German

Now that you know a little more about the German language, you might be interested to know that we offer professional translation services from both English to German and from German into English. We specialise in translation from and into Spanish.

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