lang_deuGerman is a West Germanic language related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union.
Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Significant minorities of words are derived from Latin and Greek, with a smaller amount from French and English.
German is written using the Latin alphabet. In addition to the 26 standard letters, German has three vowels with umlauts (Ä/ä, Ö/ö, and Ü/ü) and the letter ß.
German is primarily spoken in Germany (where it is the first language for more than 95% of the population), Austria (89%), Switzerland (65%), the majority of Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein - the latter being the only state with German as the sole official language.
Other European German-speaking communities are found in Northern Italy (in South Tyrol and in some municipalities in other provinces), in the East Cantons of Belgium, in the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine, and in some border villages of the former South Jutland County of Denmark.
Standard German differs regionally, between German-speaking countries, in vocabulary and some instances of pronunciation, and even grammar and orthography. This variation must not be confused with the variation of local dialects . Even though the regional varieties of standard German are only to a certain degree influenced by the local dialects, they are very distinct. German is thus considered a pluricentric language.
In most regions, the speakers use a continuum of mixtures from more dialectal varieties to more standard varieties according to situation.
In the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, mixtures of dialect and standard are very seldom used, and the use of standard German is largely restricted to the written language. Therefore, this situation has been called a medial diglossia. Swiss Standard German is used in the Swiss, Austrian Standard German officially in the Austrian education system.
German is the third-most taught foreign language in the English-speaking world, after French and Spanish.