List of territorial entities where German is an official language

Legal statuses of German in Europe:
  "German Sprachraum": German is (co-)official language and first language of the majority of the population
  German is a co-official language, but not the first language of the majority of the population
  German (or a German dialect) is a legally recognized minority language (Squares: Geographic distribution too dispersed/small for map scale)
  German (or a variety of German) is spoken by a sizable minority, but has no legal recognition

Approximate distribution of native German speakers (assuming a rounded total of 95 million) worldwide.

  Germany (78.3%)
  Austria (8.4%)
  Switzerland (5.6%)
  Italy (0.4%)
  Other (7.3%)

The following is a list of the territorial entities where German is an official language. It includes countries, which have German as (one of) their nationwide official language(s), as well as dependent territories with German as a co-official language.

German as an official language

German is the official language of six countries, all of which lie in central Europe. These countries (with the addition of South Tyrol) also form the Council for German Orthography and are referred to as the German Sprachraum (German language area).

Country Population
Speakers Notes
(native)[2][3][4] (second)[2][4]
 Germany 81,083,600 74,430,000 (91.8%) 5,600,000 (6.9%) Sole nationwide official language[lower-alpha 1]
 Belgium 11,245,629 73,000 (0.6%) 2,472,746 (22%) De jure nationwide co-official language (majority language only in German speaking community)
 Austria 8,602,112 7,999,964 (93%) 516,000 (6%) De jure sole nationwide official language
  Switzerland 8,256,000 5,329,393 (64.6%) 395,000 (5%) Co-official language at federal level; de jure sole official language in 17, co-official in 4 cantons (out of 26)
 Luxembourg 562,958 11,000 (2%) 380,000 (67.5%) De jure nationwide co-official language
 Liechtenstein 37,370 32,075 (85.8%) 5,200 (13.9%) De jure sole nationwide official language
Total 109,787,669 87,875,432 9,368,946 Total speakers: 97,244,378

Dependent entities

German, or one of its dialects, is a co-official language in several dependent entities. In each of these regions, German, along with the official language of the host nation, is an official language on the administrative level.

Region Country Population
Autonomous Province of South Tyrol  Italy 511,750 354,643 (69.3%)[5] Co-official language on province level; equal to Italian
Opole Voivodeship (28 communes)
Silesian Voivodeship (3 communes)
 Poland 250,000 ~50,000 (~20%)[6] Auxiliary language in 31 communes;[7]
also national minority language[8]
Espírito Santo (5 municipalities)
Santa Catarina (2 municipalities)
Rio Grande do Sul (2 municipalities)
 Brazil 205,000 N/A Co-official language in 9 municipalities[9] (as "German", "Pomeranian", and "Hunsrückisch");
also statewide cultural language in Espírito Santo[10]

In the two Slovak villages of Krahule/Blaufuss and Kunešov/Kuneschhau (total population 530) the percentage of ethnic Germans exceeds 20%,[11] therefore making German a co-official language according to Slovak law.[12][13][14] However, due to the size of the villages and the approximate number of native German speakers (~100), the administrative impact is negligible.

Other legal statuses

Legal statuses of German in the world (see preceding image for color descriptions)

There are other political entities (countries as well as dependent entities) which acknowledge other legal statuses for the German language or one of its dialects. While these may cover minority rights, support of certain language facilities (schools, media, etc.), and the promotion of cultural protection/heritage, they do not encompass the establishment of German as an "official" language, i.e., being required in public offices or administrative texts.

Although in  France, the High German varieties Alsatian and Moselle Franconian are identified as "regional languages" according to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages of 1998, the French government has not yet ratified the treaty, and those varieties have no official legal status.[29]

The constitution of  South Africa identifies German as a "commonly used" language and the Pan South African Language Board is obligated to "promote and ensure respect" for it.[30]

Due to the German diaspora, other countries with sizable populations of (mostly bilingual) German L1 speakers include  Argentina,  Australia,  Canada,  Costa Rica,  Paraguay, as well as the  United States.[31] However, in none of these countries does German or a German variety have any legal status.

In the  Netherlands, the Limburgish, Frisian, and Low German languages are protected regional languages according to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages,[8] however they are widely considered separate languages and neither German nor Dutch dialects.

International institutions

German is an official language of the following international institutions:


  1. While several specific laws, e.g., §23 VwVfG or $184 GVG, specify German as the administrative language in Germany, the Grundgesetz does not specifically mention it as federal official language.


  1. See: List of countries and dependencies by population
  2. 1 2 Eurobarometer 2012 - Annex
  3. "German, Standard". Ethnologue.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Ammon, Ulrich (November 2014). "Die Stellung der deutschen Sprache in der Welt" (in German) (1st ed.). Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-019298-8. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  5. Census of South Tyrol 2011
  6. Polish census 2011 (note that ethnic associations allow only for a very rough estimate of first language distribution)
  7. "Map on page of Polish Commission on Standardization of Geographical Names" (PDF). Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Council of Europe - List of ratifications of the Charter for regional/minority languages
  9. "IPOL realizará formação de recenseadores para o censo linguístico do município de Antônio Carlos-SC".
  10. 1 2 Legislative Assembly of the state of Espírito Santo (Commissioner for Culture and Social Communication - Addition to the constitutional amendment number 11/2009 establishing the Pomeranian dialect as well as German as cultural heritage of the state (February 2011)
  11. Úrad splnomocnenca vlády SR pre národnostné menšiny (The Government Council of the Slovak Republic for National Minorities and Ethnic Groups) - List of Slovakian municipalities with >20% minority population (2011)
  12. National Geographic Collegiate Atlas of the World. Willard, Ohio: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company. April 2006. pp. 257–299. ISBN 978-0-7922-3662-7.
  13. Annual of Language & Politics and Politics of Identity - Language Policy of Slovak Republic (Zdeněk Škrobák)
  14. "National Council of the Slovak Republic - 184 Act (dated 10 July 1999) on the use of languages of national minorities".
  15. Carolin Zwilling (European Academy Bolzano-Bozen, 2004) - Minority Protection and Language Policy in the Czech Republic
  16. "European Centre for Minority Issues - Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations".
  17. Die deutsche Minderheit in Dänemark - Sprache – Identität und Schlüssel (German). Letzter Zugriff am 3. Mai 2015
  18. "Deutsche Botschaft Budapest - Die deutsche Minderheit in Ungarn". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  19. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Budapest - The national and ethnic minorities in Hungary
  20. "Tutela delle comunità linguistiche storiche – Provincia Autonoma di Trento – Minoranze Linguistiche".
  21. Sprachminderheiten in Italien - Autonome Region Trentino-Südtirol
  22. L.R. n. 26 del 10 aprile 1990 - Tutela, valorizzazione e promozione della conoscenza dell'originale patrimonio linguistico del Piemonte - B.U. n. 16 del 18 aprile 1990
  23. Loi constitutionnelle n° 4 du 26 février 1948 STATUT SPECIAL POUR LA VALLEE D'AOSTE
  24. Sprachminderheiten in Italien - Friuli Venezia Giulia
  25. "German as recognized language in Kazakhstan according to Language Law, No. 151-1, 11 July, Articles 4,6,7 (1997)". Ethnologue.
  26. "Deutsch in Namibia" (PDF) (in German). Supplement of the Allgemeine Zeitung. 18 August 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2008.
  27. "Die deutsche Sprache in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz".
  29. "Charte européenne des langues régionales : Hollande nourrit la guerre contre le français". Le Figaro.
  30. "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 - Chapter 1: Founding Provisions".
  31. German L1 speakers outside Europe
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