The German-language region in Europe
According to its Bylaws, United Christian Outreach Germany's mission is to support the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God in the German language and to promote the pastoral care of German-speaking believers in the Federal Republic of Germany and in other German-speaking countries in Europe. The German-language region of Europe is obviously our focus of attention.
German is the language most widely spoken as a first language within the European Union. Within Europe as a whole, German is the native language of about 100 million people, making it second only to Russian (Russia is not a member of the European Union). The vast majority of native German speakers live in Austria, Germany and Switzerland (see the maps on the left for population figures).
However, these are not the only countries in Europe where German is spoken. The small country of Liechtenstein, located between Austria and Switzerland, is German-speaking. Nearly all residents of Luxembourg speak high-German, since their own main oral language, Lëtzebuergesch, is originally a German dialect dating back to about the 4th century A.D.
In addition, there is a sizeable German-speaking community of about 100,000 people in eastern Belgium, and approximately two thirds of the people who live in Italy's northern province of Tirol are native German speakers, numbering over 250,000. Special statutes in both countries give German speakers certain language rights, enabling them to conduct legal matters, etc. in their own language. The German language also has regional status in Alsace-Lorraine (in France), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
A study published by the German government at the end of 2001 documents 145 million people in the EU who speak German, including those Europeans who speak German as a second language. Thus, German ranks well ahead of French (105 million speakers) and trails only English in Europe with its estimated 176 million speakers. German is also widely spoken in Eastern Europe, home to the European Union's newest members.
Counting only those books published in Germany, over 60,000 new books are published in German each year, equivalent to 18% of all books published worldwide, making the German-language the third largest published language in books. In addition, German ranks among the ten most frequently spoken languages in today's world.
The German language is also well represented on the internet. The second most widely used language on the internet is German (English is in first place). The search engine Google estimates that 12 percent of all searches made using Google are in the German language. After the domain "com", the national domain for Germany – "de" – is the second most widely used internet domain in the world.