German vs Russian: Which Language Has a Brighter Future?

Which Language Has a Brighter Future - German vs Russian
By Kristina Temelkova
I'm from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and I'm currently pursuing an English degree at the University of Vienna. My lifelong passions are languages and writing. I speak English, Bulgarian, German and Russian.
May 18, 2021

In today’s increasingly global economy one of the greatest assets is knowing a foreign language. Some fastest-growing languages like German and Russian can be very hard to learn. Here we compare German vs Russsian, which language has a brighter future?

According to statistics in 2014, nearly half a billion job offers in the US requested language proficiency in languages other than English. Recent studies have found that bilingual brains process information faster and more efficiently compared to monolinguals.

This could be a good reason why many companies opt for multilingual candidates.

Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic – these are among the fastest-growing languages in the world.

In this blog, we are going to turn our attention to Russian and German. Both of them are not only among the fastest-growing languages but are also considered some of the hardest to learn.

We’re closely examining each language in regard to the number of speakers and learners, distribution, economic factors, and language-specific characteristics.

Based on this analysis we will be able to decide which language – German vs Russian – has a brighter future.

1. German vs Russian: Number and distribution of speakers

We will begin with a general overview of each language in terms of numbers of speakers and learners as well as distribution of the language.

The following table presents detailed information:

German vs Russian - Number and distribution of speakers

Russian is the most widely spoken Slavic language as well as the 7th most spoken language in the world.

Also Read: Slavic languages – Definition, List, Origin, History, Similarities

In comparison, German is the most spoken native language in the European Union and is taught in many schools around Europe.



German and Russian: L2 Speakers

The rather large number of L2 speakers is a characteristic which both Russian and German share.

The great number of Russian L2 speakers can be explained by the fact that in many former USSR republics such as Ukraine, Tajikistan, Belarus, etc, the language has maintained its official status.

Moreover, as an official language, Russian is taught at state schools and is used by most institutions.

Countries where German is an officially recognized minority language


The German language has a significantly lower number of L2 speakers, nevertheless, this number is expected to continue to grow due to migration to German-speaking countries such as Germany and Austria.

There are huge Turkish, Eastern, and Southern European communities in which people, especially the younger generations, use their first language at home while they speak German at school, university, or at work.

[bctt tweet=”There are huge Turkish, Eastern, and Southern European communities in which people, especially the younger generations, use their first language at home while they speak German at school, university, or at work.”]

It is important to mention that Russian is among the few languages that are spoken outside planet Earth since one of the requirements for astronauts is to know Russian.

Moreover, Russian is an official language of the UN and a number of other international organizations such as WHO and UNESCO– an honour which German, for now, has not yet received.

Also read: 7 Common Russian Translation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Overall, in terms of distribution Russian is considerably more popular than German, however, a recent study has shown that the number of Russian language learners has dropped drastically while German learners are on the rise.

This trend can be explained by the fact that the German government invests in schools outside of their territory in which German is taught (in some cases by native German speakers).

Most of these students then enrol in universities in Germany and Austria. These countries also offer free university education which is a reason good enough to learn German!

2. Germany vs Russia- Economy and Size

Germany vs Russia- Economy and Size

Both Russian and German are among the fastest-growing languages, however, their popularity to a great extent is fueled by the economic power of the countries in which these languages are spoken.

Generally speaking, all German-speaking countries are leading economic powers of Europe, Germany being the top one.

Due to their constantly growing science, technology, and industry sectors, the German language has established itself as the language of European and international trade.

Moreover, Germany is the 4th largest economy in the world. From the statistics above one could deduce that people in Germany have a rather high living standard. In regard to the low Gini Index, this clearly shows that there is relatively little class segregation in society.

Also read: 10 Untranslatable German Words

Austria is the 26th largest economy in the world with $50,380 GDP per capita.

Russia has established itself as an economical power decade, if not centuries, ago. Its vast lands are rich in oil and gas.

As a consequence, the petroleum and gas industries are the most profitable sectors in the country.

Yet, Russia is in the 58th position in the world regarding its GDP per capita – significantly lower than Germany (15th). What’s more, the average income is much lower compared to Germany.

Also Read: Russian eCommerce: a Guide to Translation and Localization

However, it should be pointed out that this comparison can be rather unrealistic. Since both countries use different currencies, their living standards are rather hard to compare.

Germany remains the most open economy in Europe and among G7. Moreover, the country is  the biggest exporters in the world after China and the USA.

The main export products for decades are motor vehicles as well as machinery and chemical products. The most imported products are gas and petroleum. Germany’s main trade partners include the US, China, the EU, and Russia.

Also read: German eCommerce: A Guide to Translation and Localization

Russia is fairly open to foreign trade. However, strict laws and policies tend to hinder trading procedures.

The most exported goods are petroleum and gas, while the most imported – medicaments, motor vehicles, and electrical appliances. China is the biggest customer and supplier of Russia. The country has strong trade relations with Turkey, South Korea, and Germany.

Top Russian and Chinese Trading Partners Compared


When it comes to the future of both the Russian vs German economies, experts have mixed opinions due to the current COVID-19 crisis.

Germany remained under lockdown for over half a year which inevitably affected its economy.

According to the latest statistics, the German economy has shrunk by 1.7% compared to the previous three months.

On the other hand, Russia is currently showing a stable improvement and is expected to reach its pre-corona economic power until 2022.


3. German vs Russian: Language characteristics

Both German and Russian are notorious for being among the hardest languages to learn. The following table presents a general overview of each of these languages and their peculiarities:

German vs Russian - Language characteristics

As a German language learner myself I would say that the hardest part of this language is definitely not the grammar. Although the German language has excessively long words, illogically gendered nouns, and complex syntax, the greatest obstacle for me (and most German learners) remains its linguistic diversity.

There are possibly hundreds of German dialects. Some of them sound nothing like German!

Russian, on the other hand, has a much simpler tense system, the gender of the nouns is easily discernible and its syntax is as flexible as it can be.

Generally, most non-Slavic speakers who decide to learn Russian struggle the most with the Cyrillic script, which is a bit different than the Latin alphabet, as well as the pronunciation.

 Also Read: 10 Facts You Never Knew About the Russian Language

The Russian language is very melodic, yet its intonation and its overall sound inventory differ significantly from these of Romance and Germanic languages.

4. Which language has a brighter future?

Russian and German will maintain their popularity for the years to come – there is no doubt about it!

German and Russian: Which language is better?

Still, it seems like despite its smaller number of speakers German will have a brighter future.

Germany’s strong economy will continue to grow despite the inevitable economic crisis due to the lengthy lockdowns.

Moreover, the overall economic prosperity of all German-speaking countries is unlikely to cease in the upcoming years.

The well-performing industries, their open trade markets, and last, but not least their strong economic centers (Munich, Frankfurt, Vienna, Berlin) continue to develop.

Also Read: Things to Consider When Localizing for the German Market

What’s more, Germany’s willingness to engage in import-export trade with various markets makes the German language even more attractive to learners.

This boils down to the fact that translators and interpreters for business meetings are an essential part of a successful trading process. In this way Germany’s flourishing economy and trade offer opportunities for everyone fluent in German!

[bctt tweet=”This boils down to the fact that translators and interpreters for business meetings are an essential part of a successful trading process. In this way Germany’s flourishing economy and trade offer opportunities for everyone fluent in German!”]

What makes the biggest difference, however, is the fact that German-speaking countries invest in language learning institutions abroad.

Language schools in Turkey, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria are just a few examples of the educational institutions which allow young people to study the language of Goethe from teachers who are native speakers (and for free!).

Also Read: 10 Facts You Never Knew About the Russian Language

This on its own is an extraordinary opportunity for every language learner.

The free education policy attracts thousands of students every year.

Indeed, free education coupled with excellent chances for professional development in fast-developing countries makes German an attractive language for learners.


To Conclude:

Both Russian and German are attractive for foreign language learners. Learning a new languages opens up a realm of  economic opportunities and expands your mind.

Which language you choose can depend on your mother tongue, your country’s trade relations, your future plans and accessibility to language education.

If you’re a business looking to expand to a Russian or German speaking area, get in touch and we can help you with your language strategy.


German vs Russian: Which Language Has a Brighter Future?

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