Classification Of The Germanic Languages Spoken In Europe

The Germanic languages form a linguistic sub-branch of the Indo-European languages. They are divided into three additional sub-groups as follows:

  • West Germanic (English, German, Low German, Dutch, Frisian, Scots, Afrikaans, Yiddish, Luxembourgish)
  • North Germanic (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese, Elfdalian)
  • East Germanic – extinct sub-group (Gothic, Burgundian, Vandalic)

Detailed map depicting the Germanic languages spoken in Europe. Image source:


I) West Germanic languages

1) English

  • Estimated native speakers: 400 million (at most); 360 (at least) – estimation as of 2006
  • Estimated L2 speakers: 400 million (as of 2006)
  • Spoken as a foreign language by 600-700 million (as of 2006)
  • Officially spoken in: The British Isles, North America, Oceania, parts of Africa, India, Hong Kong, etc.

2) German

  • Estimated native speakers: 95 million (as of 2014)
  • Estimated L2 speakers: 15 million (at most); 10 million (at least) – estimation as of 2014
  • Spoken as a foreign language by 75 million up to 100 million
  • Officially spoken in: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Luxembourg
  • Minority recognised language in: Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Kazahstan, Namibia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine

3) Dutch

  • Estimated native speakers: 22 million (as of 2012)
  • Estimated L2 speakers: 6 million (as of 2012)
  • Officially spoken in: Aruba, Belgium, Curacao, The Netherlands, Sint Maarten, Suriname

4) Low German

  • Estimated native speakers: 5 million (uncertain)
  • Officially spoken in: Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Germany
  • Spoken by the Saxons

5) Afrikaans

  • Estimated native speakers: 7 million (2011 South African census)
  • Estimated L2 speakers: 10 million (estimation as of 2002)
  • Officially spoken in: South Africa
  • Recognised minority language in: Namibia, Botswana

II) North Germanic languages/Scandinavian languages

1) Swedish

  • Estimated native speakers: 9.2 million (as of 2012)
  • Officially spoken in: Sweden, Finland

2) Danish

  • Estimated native speakers: 5.5 million (as of 2012)
  • Officially spoken in: Denmark, Faroe Islands
  • Recognised minority language in: Germany, Greenland

3) Norwegian

  • Estimated native speakers: 5 million (as of 2014)
  • Officially spoken in: Norway

4) Icelandic

  • Estimated native speakers: 330,000 (as of 2013)
  • Officially spoken: Iceland

5) Faroese

  • Estimated native speakers: 66,000 (as of 2007)
  • Officially spoken: Faroe Islands
  • Recognised minority language in Denmark

6) Elfdalian

  • Estimated native speakers: 2,000-3,000 (as of 2009)
  • Spoken in the Älvdalen Municipality, northern Dalarna province, Sweden

Documentation sources and external links:

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