German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein.
It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland.
The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group.
German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
One of the major languages of the world, German is the first language of almost 100 million people worldwide and the most widely spoken native language in the European Union. Together with French, German is the second most commonly spoken foreign language in the EU after English, making it the second biggest language in the EU in terms of overall speakers. German is also the second most widely taught foreign language in the EU after English at primary school level (but third after English and French at lower secondary level), the fourth most widely taught non-English language in the US (after Spanish, French and American Sign Language), and the second most commonly used scientific language as well as the third most widely used language on websites after English and Russian.
The German-speaking countries are ranked fifth in terms of annual publication of new books, with one tenth of all books (including e-books) in the world being published in the German language. In the United Kingdom, German and French are the most-sought-after foreign languages for businesses (with 49% and 50% of businesses identifying these two languages as the most useful, respectively).