What Languages Are Spoken in Vienna?

Tourist information in many languages at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.  Editorial credit: Niradj / Shutterstock.com
Tourist information in many languages at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. Editorial credit: Niradj / Shutterstock.com

The population of Vienna, Austria’s capital, was significantly influenced by migration and industrialization. In 2012, more than 39% of the 660,000 Viennese population had a partial or full migrant background. These backgrounds included Hungary, Germany, Romania, Ex-Yugoslavia, and Poland. According to UN-Habitat, Vienna could be the fastest growing city in Europe until 2025. German is the official language of Austria. The German that is spoken in Austria is known as Austrian German, and the Viennese population speaks a dialect known as Wienerisch or Viennese German.

Population History of Vienna

Vienna was the capital of Austria-Hungary in the years between 1867 and 1918. In 1910, Vienna had a population of about two million people. It was the largest city in Europe after Berlin, Paris, and London. Vienna had the second largest Czech population in the world after Prague. The First World War made many Hungarians and Czechs return to their countries. Their return resulted in a massive decline in the population of Vienna.

Viennese German Dialect

Viennese German, which is also known as Wienerisch, is a specific dialect that is spoken in Vienna. Some of the features of this dialect are not even recognized by people in Lower Austria who are their neighbors. There are some differences in pronunciation of some specific words between Austrian German and mainstream German. However, it is not very difficult for a German-speaking foreigner to comprehend what is being said in Viennese German. 

The physical and cultural proximity and the historical developments in Austria have had a significant influence on the languages used in Vienna. Most of the inhabitants in Viennese have Hungarian, Slovak, or Czech origin. Quite a number of them still understand these languages of their ancestors. The Viennese German languages have been influenced to some extent by these native languages. 

People traveling to Vienna have been encouraged time and again to be conversant with the German language. This would enable them to get over the language barrier especially when interacting with the older generation. The younger generation as well as professionals are very cautious and are willing to help those with language challenges.

Other Languages in Vienna

English is the most common foreign language in Vienna. Children learn English in school from an early age. English is the primary language for most of these children. However, many older individuals cannot speak English. Places such as hotels and restaurants use English as their official communication language. Written information and signs are written in two languages; English and German.

Other common languages that you may come across include Italian, French, and Spanish. However, the prevalence of Italian, French, and Spanish languages is quite low as compared to English. The Italian language has not spread much in Vienna, but it is widely spoken in other regions of Austria especially in the southern region.


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