German Language Data, Tips and Interesting Facts

 Spoken by more than 120 million people in 38 countries of the world, German— like English and French—is a pluricentric language with Germany, Austria and Switzerland as the three countries with the most native speakers. It is estimated that approximately 90-95 million people speak German as a first language, 10-25 million as a second language and 75-100 million as a foreign language.

The German native language speakers and production experts at Welocalize Life Sciences offer these translation and DTP tips and consideration:

  • Prepare for text expansion. The German language is rich in long words and typically expands compared to English text. Matthew Reiner, Senior DTP Specialist at Welocalize Life Sciences, recommends that when designing marketing material or items that need to maintain pagination to account for expansion by leaving an adequate amount of white space when designing the source file. Since marketing material should also appeal to the eye, we recommend to stay away from hyphenating long words in order to break the text at the end of the line and rather allow for overall expansion.
  • Party of three. German words have three genders. In many Romance languages, nouns can either be masculine or feminine. German further complicates the picture by introducing a neuter gender for words that are neither masculine nor feminine.
  • Font selection and usage. The German Language like many other languages uses special characters, “Umlaute” in German. Matthew Reiner, Senior DTP Specialist at Welocalize Life Sciences, recommends trying to choose fonts that cover a wide variety of writing systems when designing source file content. Fonts that support Unicode characters are best, also staying away from very complex, artistic fonts as these font styles typically do not support special characters.
  • Character restrictions. When creating English source content where character restrictions are required, such as in mobile app localization or labels and screens for medical devices, be mindful of languages such as German where, due to text expansion, the same character restrictions may not be as feasible as compared to English. A tightly-designed user interface may present problems later down the line. Welocalize Life Sciences recommends designing the source format with these character restrictions in mind.

Translation tip: When creating English source content where character restrictions are required, such as in mobile app localization or labels and screens for medical devices, be mindful of languages such as German where, due to text expansion, the same character restrictions may not be as feasible as compared to English. A tightly-designed user interface may present problems later down the line. Welocalize Life Sciences recommends designing the source format with these character restrictions in mind.

  • Difference in marketing approach + word choice. In the United States, marketing materials often over exaggerate the benefits or abilities of a product or service. Words and phrases such as ‘amazing’, ‘the best’, or ‘incredible’ do translate into German, however German marketing campaigns typically stay away from exaggerated claims and tend to focus on facts, numbers, and certified information. If a U.S. marketing text is simply just translated into German without adjusting it for certain elements, the German reader might be disinterested as the presented material might seem misleading especially if comparative marketing is used. For guidance, Silvie Peric, Quality and Training Manager at Welocalize Life Sciences, recommends the European Union’s Directive on Misleading and Comparative Advertising.“An in-country German linguist will have knowledge of these laws and will be able to work with you on localizing your marketing content so that it resonates with a German audience,” she adds.

 And for a few fun facts…

  • Half-way to fluent. German and English share more than half of their vocabulary — so if you know English, you’re already half-way to speaking German! In comparison, English and French share just 27% of the same vocabulary.
  • Keeping time. In German, time is counted with respect to the next hour. If a German tells you that it is halb drei (“half three”), you might assume that it’s 3:30. However, since time is counted by the minutes to the next hour, “half three” means that it’s a half-hour until three, or, 2:30.
  • Let’s socialize: XING, which is a career-oriented social networking site that enables small-world networking for professionals, is used by people from over 200 countries. About 76% of its page views come from Germany and 90% from German-speaking countries (Switzerland, Austria and Germany).
  • Protected language. In the Netherlands, Low German is a protected regional language according to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
  • Record-breaker. Worldwide, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, German accounts for the most written translations into and from a language. It is one of the most-studied languages worldwide.

Welocalize Life Sciences is an ISO 9001, ISO 13485, and ISO 17100 certified language services company that specializes in translation for the life sciences industry, including medical device manufacturers.  Contact us if you’re in need of professional German medical translation services. Please also follow us on Twitter: @Welocalize_LS.