Common Questions About German

Whether you’re thinking about learning German or you’re just interested in the language from a linguistic point of view, we want to address some of the common questions asked about the German language.

If you’re just interested in the language generally then the first section of this article is just about the German language. If you’re thinking about learning German then you can skip down to the second part of the article to read common questions about learning German.

Either way, we hope you find our common questions about German useful.

About German

What type of language is German?

The clue is in the name, but German is a Germanic language, which belong to the broader family of Indo-European languages. Other Germanic languages include: English, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Faroese. (Although a lot of people say that the English language has a lot more similarities with the romantic languages, but that’s for a different day. Today is all about German!)

How many people speak German?

By native speakers, German is the 11th most spoken language in the world with approximately 95 million native speakers. However, a lot more people speak German as a second language as it is a very popular language to learn in Europe for business purposes. And many Asian countries are choosing German after English as the language they want to learn to improve their career prospects.

Which countries have German as an official language?

German is an official language in the following countries:

  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Austria
  • Belgium

Meaning if you learn German then you’re opening up large parts of Europe to yourself not just Germany.

How different are types of German?

All written German can be understood in different German countries, however the accents do differ, and can be difficult for other dialects to understand. But the accents don’t just change dramatically when you cross over a border. Within the countries there are great differences among dialects, so try and think of it more as a scale of changing accents rather than one swift change when a border comes into play.

About Learning German

How long does it take to learn German?

Germanic languages tend to take more time for an English speaker to learn than romantic languages even though English is a Germanic language.

If you’re only studying one hour a week, you’re never really going to get to a good level in proficiency, so this answer is based on the assumption that you are able to commit a few hours every single day to studying, or you have the opportunity to live in Germany while you learn. If that’s the case, then you’re probably looking at around eight months to have a basic level of fluency in German.

But of course, everyone is different. There are polyglots like Benny Lewis who are able to learn a language to a decent level of fluency in three months. Other people need a bit more time, but we’re definitely talking months not years, so you should really go for it if you’re considering learning German. A foreign language is always useful and it’s really fun!

Why should I learn German?

German is a fantastic language! And if you were going to learn any Germanic language this is the language that we would recommend you try and learn. Here are our top reasons why:

  • It is an official language of the EU
  • Germany has the largest GDP in Europe making it a great language to learn for business purposes
  • It has the 4th largest GDP in the world
  • It is a gateway language to other German languages
  • It is widely spoken across Europe so learning German doesn’t just open Germany up for you
  • German grammar may be difficult, but the rules are concise. You don’t have all of the irregulars you get in the romantic languages

But if this hasn’t convinced you, then check out our full article on why learn German here.

What is the official German exam?

The two major German examinations you can take to test your proficiency are the GOETHE and the TELC.

The GOETHE is a language exam that tests only German, whereas the TELC tests 10 other languages as well. Both are recognised internationally, however if you’re taking the test for university or work purposes then check what your employer or university prefers before you take the test. The TELC often tends to be a bit cheaper than the GOETHE.

Both exams work on the European framework, meaning you’ll receive a grade from A1 through to C2.

And both examinations test your written, listening, oral and speaking skills.

What resources can I use to learn German?

Try German Pod 101 if you’re looking for German resources online. It’s free to create an account and you have access to over 1000 video and audio lessons. Not only that, but German Pod has a great online community where you can discuss all of your German queries or look for language partners.

What films can I watch to improve my German?

Our top recommendation for a film to improve your German would be the lives of others. Not only is it in German but it is set in East Berlin after the second world war and it gives you an insight into what the world was like for those people that you might not have realised. It is a fascinating story from a historical perspective and a people perspective. I couldn’t recommend a better German film for you.

Another historical film that you might like, although set slightly earlier is Downfall, which takes place in Berlin during the last days of Hitler’s life. It gives you a look into his inner circle and what the last days of the war may have been like.

If you want more recommendations then you can check out our list of best films to watch to improve your German here. We promise not all of them are related to periods around or after the second world war.

What music can I listen to to improve my German?

Our biggest recommendation would have to be Rammstein. They are the most famous band to come out of Germany and even if you don’t like metal music, their showmanship is second to none.

For those of you who aren’t so keen on metal, you can check out our full list of German music to listen to, to improve your German here.


Final thoughts

We hope you’ve found our common questions about the German language useful. If you have any other questions please let us know in the comments below, or if you would have answered some of the questions differently then let us know about that too.

Do you have any experience learning German? Or are you planning to? Then tell us! We always love to hear from you.


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