German Auxiliary Languages – Weltdeutsch

German Auxiliary Languages – Weltdeutsch

The 19th and 20th century saw a spike in the development of the so-called constructed languages. Special “Auxiliary Languages” were created, as the different colonial powers aimed to erect empires and the western conquerors felt the need to turn their respective language into a “lingua franca”, particularly among their colonial subjects.

Auxiliary Languages were meant to enable the communication of people from different countries, not speaking the same mother tongue. English and Spanish are basically the most used Auxiliary Languages in Europe and the Americas today, while Greek and Latin would count as ancient Auxiliary Languages.

International Auxiliary Languages

So, an international auxiliary language (IAL), often abbreviated as auxlang, serves as a means of communication between individuals from diverse nations who lack a common native language. It is a foreign language, frequently constructed, designed to facilitate understanding among people with different linguistic backgrounds.

Lingua Franca

The concept of an auxiliary language is distinct from that of a lingua franca, which is a dominant language used for communication. Lingua francas have historically emerged for trade, diplomacy, and scholarly exchanges, with English being a prominent contemporary example.

Constructed Languages

Constructed languages gained attention as a solution to the irregularities and cultural associations inherent in natural languages. The idea of simplifying an existing language for auxiliary purposes can be traced back to the 18th century, where proposals for a “laconic” or regularized grammar were suggested.

During the 19th century, a surge of constructed international auxiliary languages (IALs) was proposed. In 1903, Louis Couturat and Léopold Leau reviewed 38 such projects. Among these, Volapük, introduced in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer, garnered the first widespread international speaker community. However, the language faced competition from other IALs.

In 1903, mathematician Giuseppe Peano presented a novel approach by simplifying an existing international language, Latin, devoid of inflections and declensions. Named Interlingua, the new language with Latin roots aimed to provide a practical auxiliary language. Despite numerous proposals during the 1880s–1900s, none gained significant traction except for Esperanto.


Developed by L. L. Zamenhof from 1873 to 1887, Esperanto featured a schematic structure borrowing word-stems from Romance, West Germanic, and Slavic languages. Its success lay in a highly productive system of derivational word formation, allowing speakers to derive numerous words from a single root. Esperanto became the most widely adopted and successful international auxiliary language, emphasizing ease of learning and effective communication across linguistic barriers.

The Origin of Weltdeutsch

Even though a late bloomer in the colonial game, the German Empire, of course, had to have its own global language. Thus, in 1915, when World War I was still viewed with optimism and the outlook of an Empire spanning vast regions of the world, Weltdeutsch (World German) was invented.

You see that the creation of auxiliary languages was heavily influenced by contemporary politics. Linguists quarreled about the best language to base their product on and linguists in Germany were eager to argue that the early German success in the Great War meant that the German language was the obvious choice, as e.g. English would be somewhat obsolete as the Empire was in decline.

The Development of Wede

In fact, Weltdeutsch was not one specific language, but the name for a number of different projects for the development of an auxiliary language based on German. A simplified version of German, created as “the language of all peoples”, had already been published in 1913.

The language introduced some simplifications in orthography and phonology and , but was never fully developed. Weltdeutsch’s past tense used no auxiliary verb, and had a conjugation based on German’s imperfect construct.

After the Nobel Prize Winner Wilhelm Oswald first proposed Weltdeutsch, a man named Adalbert Baumann published “Wede”, an auxiliary language solely based on German. It was widely simplified and drew from several German dialects.

Baumann created Wede with the intention of making German more accessible to foreigners. He believed that the widespread use of French and English internationally negatively impacted the Central Powers during World War I. Baumann pointed to Turkey’s positive relations with France during the war, attributing it to the use of French in Turkey as an example of the impact of language on international relations.

In 1916, he already published an even simpler version of the Wede. His basic idea was that language users should write exactly as they spoke. The conjugation was limited to the use of “tun” (do) and the new article “de” replaced the former German articles “der”, “die” and “das”.

Wede had its foundation in the deeply nationalistic beliefs of Adalbert Bauman, who was convinced of German superiority. Thus, it is not surprising, that his work stepped into the spotlight once more in the Third Reich. In 1928, Baumann had reworked his Wede into the more internationally labeled “Oiropa Pitshn”. The language received a negative reception and Soviet Esperantist Ernest Drezen even described it as “incomprehensible” and remarked that “for the Germans, it is nothing but a caricature reminiscent of their own mother tongue.”

Auxiliary Languages - Weltdeutsch

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Colonial German and Kitchen German

Also in 1916, another variant of Weltdeutsch was published. Colonial officer Emil Schwörer had developed Kolonialdeutsch (Colonial German) as a Pidgin language (even though a designed Pidgin is an oxymoron) particularly designed to be used in the German colonies, more specifically in German South-West Africa, a colony on the territory today belonging to Namibia.

Schwörer incorporated his knowledge of African contact languages of the region and proposed a specific vocabulary. He thought, that it was necessary to “organize” the German language for it to be used in the bright German future (meaning, that he was quite sure there would be more colonies and more international exchange that would call for a German Auxiliary Language).

He wrote that German was simply too hard for other people and despite its untouchable status should be simplified. His Pidgin language was never more than a proposal and was thus never implemented in the German colonies. Nevertheless, there are still about 15.000 Namibians who speak a kind of pidgin German.

The so-called “Küchendeutsch” (Kitchen German) was developed in the relationships of the African servants and their German masters. But as most of the speakers of Küchendeutsch are past the age of 50, the language will most likely perish.

The Auxiliary Language That Has Been Gaining Popularity on TikTok

Zonal Auxiliary Languages

The development of international auxiliary languages isn’t always intended for global use, with some designed to make communication among speakers of related languages easier. In a special subgroup we have languages created to facilitate communication between speakers of related languages. The oldest known example of such ”zonal auxiliary language” is a Pan-Slavic language written in 1665 by the Croatian priest Juraj Križanić.

Pan-Germanic languages, such as Tutonish, Folkspraak, and others, have been proposed to unite speakers of Germanic languages. These languages aim to simplify communication given the diversity among Germanic dialects, with an emphasis on the most spoken languages like English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian.

Tutonish, initiated in 1901 by Elias Molee, was a pioneering effort with a simplistic approach, establishing key principles. However, various projects in the 20th and 21st centuries, like Folksstem, Folkspraak, and Tcathan/Chathan, have struggled for success. Despite the attempts, none have gained widespread adoption, revealing the challenges in creating effective zonal auxiliary languages for Germanic speakers.

Sign Language As One of the International Auxiliary Languages

A global auxiliary sign language, commonly known as ‘international sign,’ has been crafted by deaf individuals participating in international gatherings, such as sports events or political assemblies. Originally termed Gestuno, it has evolved since its standardization in 1973, gaining widespread adoption.

Unlike spoken IALs, international sign stands out with many iconic signs, often incorporated into the grammar of users’ native sign languages. Emphasizing visually intuitive gestures and mime, it differs substantially from spoken languages. Plains Indian Sign Language, a basic sign language, was historically employed by indigenous peoples in the Americas. Notably, Gestuno should not be confused with the distinct Signuno, an unrelated sign language resembling Signed Exact Esperanto, primarily used within the Esperanto community rather than the broader international Deaf community, and not widely adopted.

Propagation Methods for Constructed Languages

The question of establishing an international language is not merely about selecting a language but also about determining the most effective methods for its widespread adoption. Several approaches aim to facilitate the global expansion and consolidation a universal auxiliary language.

The Laissez-faire Approach

This approach assumes that a single language will naturally prevail as a global and universal language, such as International English, without requiring specific interventions.

Institutional sponsorship and grassroots promotion

This strategy takes diverse forms, ranging from governmental promotion of a particular language to individual encouragement, instructional programs, or marketing initiatives.

National legislation

This method advocates for individual countries or localities to progressively endorse a specific language as an official language or support the concept of international legislation.

International legislation

This approach envisions organizing a binding international convention, possibly under organizations like the United Nations or Inter-Parliamentary Union, to formally agree upon an official international auxiliary language. This language would then be taught worldwide, starting at the primary level. Embraced by the Baháʼí Faith, this method combines international opinion, linguistic expertise, and law to establish a selected language as a comprehensive official world language.

This approach enhances the credibility of a natural language already serving this purpose or provides a significant opportunity for a constructed language to gain widespread acceptance. Advocates view this approach, especially for constructed languages, as holding great promise in overcoming skepticism regarding its practicality among potential learners.

Criticisms of International Auxiliary Languages

Criticism towards international auxiliary languages (IALs) is multifaceted. Common objections include skepticism about the artificiality of constructed auxlangs and disagreements among proponents about selecting a unified language.

A prevalent critique is that constructed languages are unnecessary given the global use of natural languages like English. Concerns also extend to the potential acceleration of minority language extinction, although proponents argue that the benefits could outweigh the costs.

Additionally, the Western European basis of many IALs, exemplified by Esperanto, Interlingua, and Ido, has drawn criticism for being Eurocentric rather than globally inclusive. The term “Euroclone” has been coined to categorize such languages, distinguishing them from “worldlangs” with more diverse and global vocabulary sources.

If you’d like to learn more about interesting language-learning subjects like this, we have just the thing. Come check out our articles over on the SmarterGerman blog today!

FAQs about German and Auxiliary Languages Around the World

Here are some of the questions people ask about the German language and auxiliary languages.

What language is most similar to German?

The language most similar to German is Dutch. Both German and Dutch belong to the West Germanic branch of the Germanic language family and share many linguistic similarities.

What are examples of an auxiliary language?

Examples of auxiliary languages include Esperanto, Interlingua, and Volapük. These languages are constructed to facilitate communication among people from different native language backgrounds.

What are 3 examples of Germanic languages?

Three examples of Germanic languages are English, Dutch, and Swedish. The Germanic language family also includes German, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic, among others.

Is German spoken in Africa?

While German is not widely spoken in Africa, Namibia is an exception. Namibia was a German colony from 1884 to 1915, and German is still spoken by a small community there. However, it is not a dominant or widely used language in the region.

What are the roots of the German language?

The roots of the German language can be traced back to the Germanic languages spoken by ancient Germanic tribes. Over time, these languages evolved, and Old High German emerged around the 5th to 11th centuries. The influence of Latin and other languages also played a role in shaping the modern German language.

What are the auxiliary verbs in German?

In German, common auxiliary verbs include:

Haben (to have): This auxiliary verb is used with the past participle to form the perfect tenses. For example, “Ich habe gearbeitet” (I have worked).

Sein (to be): Also used with the past participle to form the perfect tenses, especially for motion or change of state. For example, “Sie ist gegangen” (She has gone).

These auxiliary verbs play a crucial role in constructing various verb tenses in German. They are irregular, just as in English, and their conjugations need to be memorized.

Summing Up: German Auxiliary Languages – Weltdeutsch

The evolution of German auxiliary languages, from the ambitious Weltdeutsch during World War I to modern zonal projects like Folkspraak, reflects the intricate interplay between linguistics, politics, and historical contexts. As colonial powers sought linguistic dominance, unique languages emerged, attempting to simplify German for global use. The linguistic landscape also witnessed the rise of zonal auxiliary languages, aiming to unite speakers of related Germanic languages.

Despite early efforts like Tutonish and contemporary projects like Folkspraak, creating effective auxiliary languages remains a formidable challenge. The linguistic experiments throughout history, driven by nationalism and global aspirations, illuminate the complex relationship between language, power, and international communication. In exploring these linguistic endeavors, we gain insights into the diverse attempts to bridge linguistic barriers and forge connections among speakers of different tongues. If you’d like to learn more about language like this, come check us out over on SmarterGerman!