About 95 million people around the world speak German as their official language. When secondary and tertiary languages are considered the number increases considerably.
It is one of four extremely popular languages taught in English speaking nations, especially in the United Kingdom and United States. In fact, it is the fourth most popular foreign language taught in the United States and the third most popular across the EU. French and English are the only two more popular across the EU, with French, Spanish, and American sign language taking priority in the United States.
You already know about Germany, but there are many other countries around the world that use it as their official (or first) language. German is the most common first language in the European Union. As well as Germany, you will hear the language spoken in Austria and South Tyrol, Italy. It is also one of the official languages of Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.
The language is part of the Indo-European family. More specifically it is part of the Germanic branch of this family of languages. It is known as a pluricentric language, due to many different variations of the language around the world. All these variations have been adapted from the same source, which takes words from Latin, Greek, English, and French. Versions include the German, Swiss, and Austrian Standard Version.
While there are three versions, there are many more dialects to learn. There are local dialects that are not understandable to anyone not native to the areas or who have specifically learned those dialects.
Middle or Low German was once popular, but by the 18th century became the German for the lower classes. It has gradually dropped out of favour since World War II, but is still spoken in some regions.
The difficulty of the language can depend on your own first language. To get an idea of difficulty to learn all languages, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has complied a list of time it would take to learn a specific language. In the case of German, the FSI believes it would take 30 weeks (covering 750 hours of lessons) to learn. This is in the middle of the majority of European languages, which can take 23-44 weeks of study.