German-speaking communities can be found in Namibia, a former German colony, as well as in other destinations of German emigration such as the USA, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela (where the Alemán Coloniero dialect developed), Jordan, South Africa and Australia. In Namibia, German Namibians retain German educational institutions.
The German language is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union, with approximately 100 million native speakers.
German is spoken primarily 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 and spoken language.
German is also one of the three official languages of Belgium, alongside Dutch and French. Speakers are primarily concentrated within the German-speaking Community region in eastern Belgium, and form about 1% of the country's population.
Other German-speaking communities in Europe are found in Northern Italy (in South Tyrol and in some municipalities in other provinces), in the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine, and in some border villages of the former South Jutland County of Denmark.
German-speaking communities can also be found in parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Russia and Kazakhstan. Forced expulsions after World War II and massive emigration to Germany in the 1980s and 1990s have somewhat depopulated these communities.
German as third language is taught in school to varying degree throughout the continent. Although the Scandinavian languages are closely related to German, the languages are not mutually intelligible, in spite of many words being rather similar.
German is spoken by about 25–30,000 people as a native tongue in Namibia. Although it is no longer classified as an official language, it is used in a wide variety of spheres, especially business and tourism, as well as churches (most notably the German-speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (GELK)), schools (e.g., the Deutsche Höhere Privatschule Windhoek), literature (German-Namibian authors include Giselher W. Hoffmann), radio (the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation produces radio programs in German), and music (e.g., artist EES).
There are a number of communities where German is spoken in South Africa, especially in and around Wartburg.
In the United States, the states of North Dakota and South Dakota are the only states where German is the most common language spoken at home after English. German geographical names can also be found throughout the Midwest region of the country, such as New Ulm and many other towns in Minnesota; Bismarck (North Dakota's state capital), Munich, Karlsruhe, and Strasburg in North Dakota; New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Weimar, and Muenster in Texas; Corn (formerly Korn), Kiefer and Berlin in Oklahoma; and Kiel, Berlin, and Germantown in Wisconsin.
Between 1843 and 1910, more than 5 million Germans emigrated overseas, mostly to the United States. German remained an important language in churches, schools, newspapers, and even the administration of the United States Brewers' Association through the early 20th century, but was severely repressed during World War I. Over the course of the 20th century, many of the descendants of 18th century and 19th century immigrants ceased speaking German at home, but small populations of speakers are still found in Pennsylvania (Amish, Hutterites, Dunkards and some Mennonites historically spoke Hutterite German and a West Central German variety of German known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch), Kansas (Mennonites and Volga Germans), North Dakota (Hutterite Germans, Mennonites, Russian Germans, Volga Germans, and Baltic Germans), South Dakota, Montana, Texas (Texas German), Wisconsin, Indiana, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Ohio (72,570). A significant group of German Pietists in Iowa formed the Amana Colonies and continue to practice speaking their heritage language. Early twentieth century immigration was often to St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
German-language newspapers in the U.S. in 1922 The dialects of German which are or were primarily spoken in colonies or communities founded by German-speaking people resemble the dialects of the regions the founders came from. For example, Hutterite German resembles dialects of Carinthia. Texas German is a dialect spoken in the areas of Texas settled by the Adelsverein, such as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. In the Amana Colonies in the state of Iowa, Amana German is spoken. Plautdietsch is a large minority language spoken in Northern Mexico by the Mennonite communities, and is spoken by more than 200,000 people in Mexico. Pennsylvania German is a West Central German dialect spoken by most of the Amish population of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana and resembles Palatinate German dialects.
Hutterite German is an Upper German dialect of the Austro-Bavarian variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States. Hutterite is spoken in the U.S. states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota; and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Its speakers belong to some Schmiedleit, Lehrerleit, and Dariusleit Hutterite groups, but there are also speakers among the older generations of Prairieleit (the descendants of those Hutterites who chose not to settle in colonies). Hutterite children who grow up in the colonies learn to speak Hutterite German before learning English, the standard language of the surrounding areas, in school. Many of these children, though, continue with German Grammar School, in addition to public school, throughout a student's elementary education.
In Canada, there are 622,650 speakers of German according to the most recent census in 2006, while people of German ancestry (German Canadians) are found throughout the country. German-speaking communities are particularly found in British Columbia (118,035) and Ontario (230,330). There is a large and vibrant community in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, which was at one point named Berlin. German immigrants were instrumental in the country's three largest urban areas: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver; while post-Second World War immigrants managed to preserve a fluency in the German language in their respective neighborhoods and sections. In the first half of the 20ᵗʰ century, over a million German-Canadians made the language Canada's third most spoken after French and English.
In Mexico there are also large populations of German ancestry, mainly in the cities of: Mexico City, Puebla, Mazatlán, Tapachula, Ecatepec de Morelos, and larger populations scattered in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Zacatecas.
In Brazil, the largest concentrations of German speakers are in the states of Rio Grande do Sul (where Riograndenser Hunsrückisch developed), Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo and Espírito Santo. There are also important concentrations of German-speaking descendants in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. In the 20th century, over 100,000 German political refugees and invited entrepreneurs settled in Latin America, in countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, to establish German-speaking enclaves, and reportedly there is a small German immigration to Puerto Rico. Nearly all inhabitants of the city of Pomerode, a municipality where this language is co-official in the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil, can speak German.
In most locations where German immigrants settled, the vast majority of their descendents no longer speak German, as they have been largely assimilated into the host language and culture of the specific location of settlement; generally English in North America, and Spanish or Portuguese in Latin America. However, the Brazilian state Espírito Santo has Pomeranian and German as linguistic heritages officially approved statewide, while Rio Grande do Sul has Riograndenser Hunsrückisch German as linguistic heritage officially approved statewide. Moreover, some cities in Brazil have the German or Pomeranian as co-official languages.