1. German is spoken not only in Germany
German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union – ahead of Spanish, French and even English. It is the official language in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein and one of the official languages in Switzerland and Luxembourg. German ranks 11th in the list of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
2. The German language has three genders
In many Romance languages, nouns are either male or female, making them difficult enough for native English speakers. German goes even one further: a noun can also be neuter. The gender of a word is determined purely by grammar. For example, “Das Mädchen” (the girl) is neuter, even though it refers to a female person.
3. All nouns are capitalised
In German, nouns are capitalised. Unlike English, this rule applies not only to proper names; there are no exceptions.
4. German has a unique letter
German uses the Latin alphabet. It has, however, an additional consonant: the ß, called “Eszett”. The letter never stands at the beginning of the word and, following a long vowel or diphtong, takes the form of a double-s.
5. The longest German word
German is known for endlessly long words. One of the longest is “Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung” (regulation on the delegation of authority concerning land conveyance permissions). This neologism comes from officialese. But no reason to panic: such tapeworm words can almost always be broken down into their more intelligible parts. For example, “Staubsauger” (vacuum cleaner) consists of the words “dust” and “sucking”.