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German Translation: What to Know Before Localizing Your Content

Before beginning a German translation project, you may wonder what types of challenges you could encounter. Below, I will cover some common issues that we have faced when translating into German.

Germany has the largest population in the European Union and one of the most important economies in the region. German is the official language in six countries: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland. It is also one of the official languages of the EU. It is the native language of 95 million people worldwide and there are millions who speak German as second or third language.

Third Gender

The German language has three genders. In many Romance languages, nouns can be masculine or feminine. Nevertheless, the German language goes further introducing a neutral gender for words that are not masculine nor feminine.

Long Words

The German language is famous for long compound words. This results from the fact that instead of creating new terms, Germans take a description of a concept and turn it into a word. With 63 characters, the longest word is ā€œRindfleischetikettierungsĆ¼berwachungsaufgabenĆ¼bertragungsgesetzā€, which means “a legislative law for the monitoring of pork-meat labeling”.

However, as of 2013, the word was outdated because the European Union regulations have changed and that particular law became obsolete. So, German lost its longest word.

What does this mean for German translation? You can expect a lot of text expansion. When working with text in German, compound words need to be hyphenated in the correct place.

User Interface

For translation of websites, apps and software, it is important to keep expansion in mind, since tightly designed UI, might present inconveniences. These problems can be avoided by developing a flexible UI that can be expanded and contracted.

Editorial Design

For translation of books, magazines and brochures, it is suitable to leave plenty of blank spaces for German translations. The Desktop Publishing (DTP) team will ensure that the text reads properly. This is critical in cases where maintaining pagination is required.

Typography Selection

Another attribute of the German language is the use of special characters. For example, an umlaut, which is German for ā€œsound alterationā€. Therefore, it is advisable to select font families which cover a wide range of glyphs and Unicode support.

Character Restriction

When creating English content that will require character restriction, due to text expansion, it might not be possible to apply the same limits to the German language.

Marketing and Advertising

English marketing materials sometimes exaggerate characteristics of products using adjectives like ā€œamazingā€, ā€œthe bestā€, or ā€œincredibleā€. However, for German translation of marketing campaigns, it is preferable to focus on certified information, numbers and facts, which is what the German reader might be more interested in.


These are a few of the common issues you may encounter when conducting a German translation project. Your professional translation team will be able to advise you on how to best address these situations, but it’s good to be aware of what to expect before you begin your project.