German is the official language of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg, and is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union. It is also spoken by a significant minority in parts of Italy, Poland, Russia, and Romania. German is a West Germanic language related to and classified alongside English, Dutch, and the Frisian languages.
With an estimated 90 – 95 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union. Worldwide, German ranks fourth in terms of the number of speakers (after English, Mandarin, and Hindi/Urdu).
German has a long and rich literary tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, with works such as the Nibelungenlied, Faust, and Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten. In the modern era, German authors such as Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Günter Grass have won international acclaim.
The German language is also known for its scientific and technological vocabulary. Indeed, German has been called "the language of science" due to the large number of scientific terms that are loanwords from German.
German is a relatively easy language to learn for English speakers, with grammar rules that are mostly consistent and pronunciation that is not too difficult. For learners of other languages, German can be classified as a "Level II" language on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.