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Germany

Background

Germany is Europe’s largest economy and second most populous nation (after Russia), it is a key member of the continent’s economic, political, and defence organizations.

Location

Central Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, between the Netherlands and Poland, south of Denmark.

Climate

Temperate and marine; cool, cloudy, wet winters and summers; occasional warm mountain (foehn) wind.

The German language:

German is the official language of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Alsace-Lorraine (France), Northern Italy, East-Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. Its alphabet uses the same letters as English with a few added extras. For example the additional Letter ß is used to represent double S.

Standard German is known today simply as “Hochdeutsch” (High German), and this is used almost always for written German. Books and newspapers are printed in standard German. “Hochdeutsch” is spoken by educated speakers everywhere. However, regional variants exist in the spoken language owing largely to the influence of the old dialects, although the dialects themselves are falling out of use.

“Hochdeutsch” in its purist form can be heard on the classical stage (known as “Bühnendeutsch”). A speaker of “Hochdeutsch” would be understood everywhere and this is used in the Linguaphone courses.

Traditionally German was written in a Gothic style known as Fraktur, which dates from the fourteenth century. However, from 1945 onwards, the Roman characters used throughout the rest of Europe superseded Fraktur.

Pronunciation of the German language is pleasingly simple. For example the word ‘Pflug’ (plough) may first look difficult to pronounce but try sounding every letter and your pronunciation would be correct.

Traditional Gothic script (Fraktur) was revived during the 3rd Reich (1933-45) and this can still be seen on some buildings.

Interesting facts about Germany:

  • After Irish, Germans are the second biggest consumers of beer in the world.
    The average beer consumption of the country is 119 litres per person per year.
  • Berlin is the capital of Germany. Other major cities of the country are Hamburg, Colonge, Munich, Dusseldorf, Stuttgard, Hanover and Bremen.
  • Germany is a member of NATO, G8, G4 Nations and the European Union (EU).
  • Germany is situated in West Central Europe and its official name is ‘The Federal Republic of Germany’.
  • The official currency is the euro.
  • Gummy bears were invented by a German man – Hans Riege.
  • You might know there is a wide selection of beer in Germany, around 5,000 brands; but did you know there are over 500 kinds of mineral water to choose from as well?