Are the past tense and the present perfect used equally in German, just as they are in English? "Du sprachst mit meiner Schwester." conf. "Du hast mit meiner Schwester gesprochen." I'm asking because in Italian the past tense has virtually disappeared, at least in the north, from the vernacular. The present perfect is always used. Of course native speakers know the preterite from literature, but they don't use it.
In English the two tenses cannot be used equally, but have clearly distinct meanings.
In German, however, there is virtually no difference in meaning at all between Präteritum and Perfekt (both close to the English past tense). Which one is used is more a question of style. In written texts you will usually find Präterium, whereas spoken German usually has the Perfekt everywhere, apart from modal verbs which tend to use the Präteritum forms.