Germany - Languages

German is the official language, and although dialectical variations are considerable, High German is standard. Low German, spoken along the North and Baltic Sea coasts and in the offshore islands, is in some respects as close to Dutch as it is to standard German. Sorbian (also known as Wendish or Lusatian) is a Slavic language spoken by the Sorbian minority. Under the GDR it was taught in schools in their settlement area. There was a daily newspaper in Sorbian and a publishing house for Sorbian literature. Many of Germany's sizable foreign-born population still speak their native languages, and there are numerous Turkish-speaking school children.

In 1996, new rules were established reforming German orthography. Designed to eliminate the last vestiges of Gothic spelling, the rules, among other things, eliminated hyphens, restored some umlauts, and replaced the ß character. Confusion ensued when newly published dictionaries differed in their spellings of many words.

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