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Facts that will interest you while learning German

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How many people speak German worldwide? What is the concept of “Standard German” all about? How many words are there in the German language? And what do “false friends” have to do with learning German? We have the answers to these and more questions!

1. Dissemination of the German language

German is spoken by more than 120 million people in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, parts of Belgium, northern Italy and eastern France. German is a key language in the European Union and in the economically increasingly important countries of Eastern and Central Europe. The German language also seems to be right on trend abroad. In 2015, according to a study by the ZAF (Center for Education and Training), around 15.4 million people took German lessons at schools, universities or language institutes. According to evaluations, that is around half a million German students more than five years ago.

The German language is also one of the 10 most widely spoken languages ​​worldwide, which is why it was given a place in the 2006 Guinness Book of Records.

2. German was almost spoken in the USA

For 200 years the legend has been held that German almost became the official language of the USA. But is that really true? As with every legend, there is a real core behind this one. In 1794, a group of German immigrants in Virginia submitted a petition to the US House of Representatives demanding a German translation of the legal texts. However, the motion was rejected by 42 to 41 votes. This triggered despair among the immigrants, which formed the basis for the legend that became famous among the next generation as the so-called "Mühlenberg legend". According to rumors, there was then a vote in Pennsylvania in 1828 on whether German should be introduced as a second official language alongside English. Allegedly, only one vote prevented the application from being implemented at the time, and that came from the German-born parliamentary speaker Mühlenberg, of all people.

3. The German vocabulary

The German language consists of around 5.3 million words, and the number is rising. A third of this has only been added in the last 100 years. That's about 8 times as many words as there are in English, but far fewer words are actually used in everyday life. Only about 12,000–16,000 belong to the active vocabulary of a person who speaks German. About 3,500 of these words are foreign words. The Duden, a reference work in which rules of German grammar and spelling have been recorded since 1880, lists 135,000 words.

German is also a particularly rich language. The possibility of combining words such as "conscientious objector" or "World Championship opening game" means that our vocabulary is theoretically infinite. Because of these word combinations, ambiguities such as "wrong-way driver" or "freedom of thought" can also be expressed excellently.

4. False friends in German

German and English have more in common than you might think. For example words like “Kindergarten” or “Strudel”. They mean the same thing in both languages. But there are also words that are spelled the same and have different meanings. These words will "False friends" called. Here some examples:

English meaning (and lower case): nice

German meaning: a young person

English meaning: nevertheless, nevertheless

German meaning: quiet, silent

English meaning: spring

German meaning: hop

So watch out, because so-called "False friends" can quickly lead you on the wrong track and your interlocutor and you could talk about very different things.

5. Standard German is just an invention

Often students ask us what the term “Standard German” is all about. The answer is very easy, because standard German is actually just another name for standard German and that is taught by qualified German teachers at the ActiLingua Academy. High German or Standard German is a mixture of Middle German and Upper German, on which most Austrian dialects are based. Even if many Austrians insist on speaking their own language, the differences between “Austrian” and “German” German are as good as nonexistent. There are a few words on which we have not yet fully agreed, such as tomatoes (in Germany: tomato) or whipped cream (in Germany: cream), but they are understood everywhere.


In the world's largest and strongest economic area, the EU, German is by far the most widely spoken mother tongue. The Austrian capital Vienna is one of the most international cities and a sought-after business location within Europe. In addition, it was named the city with the world's best quality of life for the eighth time in a row and is also an attractive destination for young people. So if you want to gain international experience and hone your German skills, you are in very good hands here in Vienna.

You can find all information about the ActiLingua courses and the varied program of activities here.