9 Fun Facts about the German Language
The German language is wonderfully interesting. There are millions of German-speaking people worldwide, and the German culture is unlike others across the globe. In fact, many unique aspects of the German language only exist in German! This article gives you nine fun German facts so that you can learn more about the fascinating language, culture, and history.
1. 130 Million People are Speaking German
The German language is the 11th most popular language worldwide. Almost 1.5% of the entire population speaks German, accounting for around 130 million German-speaking people across the globe. Approximately 80 million are native speakers, while 50 million have picked up German as a second language. Most of these people are students in school and adult learners.
The heart of the German culture and language is in Germany, where it is the official language. The language also holds official status in Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. This makes German the second most popular language in Europe, spoken by approximately 13.3% of all Europeans—one of the most interesting German facts!
2. German is a Germanic Language
The German language has a complex history, dating back thousands of years and evolving through time. One major change occurred during the Roman era when the Roman soldiers began invading Germany. Roman influences can be found throughout German culture, but there is not enough Roman influence in the German language to classify it as a Romance language.
German is instead a Germanic language. Other Germanic languages include English, Dutch, and Frisian. These languages all have a heavy German influence in their grammar, pronunciation, and culture. Of course, these are distinct languages – speaking German is very different from speaking English – but there are many similarities (more on these in our later German facts!).
3. The Bible Was The First German Translation
Of course, one of our German facts is on translation! The first written translation in German culture was a copy of the Bible, translated in the 4th century by a German bishop. The Bible was written in a single dialect, and German-speaking people had to understand this unique dialect to read the text.
Before this time, there was no official or widely used dialect of German. But eventually, German speakers grew familiar with the version of the language used in the Bible. It became the primary form of the German language spoken throughout the country. From this point forward, the German language and culture grew and expanded throughout Europe.
4. The German Language Capitalises Nouns
One of the most interesting German facts is that the language has specific characteristics unique from any other language worldwide. One of these characteristics is that all nouns in German culture are capitalised, not just specific people, places, and organisations, as in English.
For example, the word “book” is never capitalised in English. The exception is when the word is included in the title of a book, such as The Jungle Book. However, in German, “Buch” (the German word for “book”) is always capitalised, no matter how it is being used. This is less important when speaking German but vital when writing in German.
5. Some German Phrases Have No English Translation
Another of our fun German facts is that some German phrases have no literal translation into English. Many of these are funny to hear when translating directly between the two Germanic languages.
For example, you may hear people speaking German use the phrase, “Das ist nicht dein Bier.” The German-to-English translation is literally, “That is not your beer.” Although this makes grammatical sense, Germans use the phrase differently. It translates more loosely to “None of your business!” I guess the German culture appreciates their beer!
6. Many German Words Have Unique Meanings
There are also words with unique meanings in the German language. One such word is “Schadenfreude.” The German-to-English translation describes the happiness that some people get from somebody else’s misfortune. We lack the word for this in English and can only explain the feeling by stringing words together in a sentence.
Another example is the fear that grows larger as you age and realise that your time on Earth is getting shorter and shorter. The German translation of this is “Torschlusspanik.” Based on these two examples, German culture seems a little dark!
7. The Longest Word is 36 Letters Long
One of the most interesting German facts is that the German language contains many long words. The longest is “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.” The word is 36 letters long and is the German translation of “the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labelling of beef.” Even in English, it is a mouthful!
8. German & English Share 60% of Their Vocabularies
German and English are both classified as West Germanic languages. Therefore, it stands to reason that there are many similarities in terms of vocabulary. Indeed, one of our most surprising German facts is that the two sister languages share over 60% of their vocabularies.
Some common English words used in German culture include baby, computer, and radio. Some common German words used in English include angst, hamster, and kindergarten. Despite this, many words look similar but differ in meaning. For instance, the German language has a word that is spelt “gift.” However, do not be tricked! The German-to-English translation for this word is “poison”—the last gift you’d want to receive!
9. The German Language is Fun!
The last of our German facts is that it is great fun to hear people speaking German. The German language sounds somewhat harsher than English, and many German words and phrases give us an insight into the strong German culture.
It is also an excellent choice for people wanting to learn a language. And with the same roots as English, it is relatively simple for English speakers to pick up. Though some German translations sound a bit funny, remember that not every word that looks the same will mean the same thing. Start learning the German language today to blend in with the German culture.
Trusted German Translations from Renaissance Translations
If you enjoyed our German facts and want to learn more about speaking German, Renaissance Translations can help. As a leading translation agency, we have much information on our website that delves into the language and culture of German and other languages. Your partnership with Renaissance Translations also comes with professional memberships such as ATC, so you can rest assured that you’re in safe hands.
Alternatively, we can help you translate content to and from German. This option is perfect for businesses that aspire to look professional in the eyes of their customers and need high-quality translation services. Contact us today to discuss your German translation project or request a quote online. You’ll be glad you did!