German localisation

German localisation

In order to be successful on the German market, it is worth considering localising your translation. Of course, a native German speaker will also understand a simple translation of your products, but localisation can help to ensure that their needs are met and stop them from looking for another provider. 

It is estimated that around 130 million people worldwide speak German as either their native or second language, most of which can be found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In addition, around 15 million people learn German as a foreign language, some of whom will also access the German version of your homepage. Therefore the German-speaking market is one of the larger ones worldwide, which is why localisation is definitely advisable. 

Adaptation of information

Localisation involves the adaptation of explicit information, which is particularly important for most online shops. This includes, among other things, information on clothing sizes. These even differ between France and Germany, despite these countries being direct neighbours. So if you offer clothes, you should definitely use the clothing sizes commonly used in Germany to avoid disappointed customers. For example, in women’s fashion, the international size S is shown as 36, while 38 corresponds to M, 40 to L, etc. 

You should also use the metric system for measurement units. A simple translation from American English can lead to confusion here, as your German customer has no precise understanding of inches, gallons or pounds. The situation is similar with specifying the temperature. In German-speaking countries, temperatures are measured in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, so that such information has to be correctly converted in the localisation process. Please also note that timeframes are given in 24-hour format here. So 2:14 PM translates into “14:14 Uhr” for us.

Many countries around the world use different date formats, which can quickly lead to confusion. In Hungary, for example, the order is year-month-day, in the USA month-day-year and in German-speaking countries day-month-year. Therefore, you should use this country-specific type for writing dates in the German version of your homepage and write, for example, 02.04.2024 if you want to mention the 2nd day in April and not the 4th day  in February. Alternatively, you can write the full name of the month, eg  “2. April 2024”. This form will help you avoid any misunderstandings.

Localise in German

When localising your online shop, it is also worth adjusting the currency. Prices in dollars or pounds will not appeal to German-speaking customers. Instead, convert the prices into euros or Swiss francs. 

If you follow these points, you have already taken the first big step towards localising your homepage. Now your customers have access to the most important information about your products in a way that is understandable and comprehensible, so that they are unlikely to leave the online shop straight away or delete the newsletter without reading it. 

Linguistic adaptation

However, localisation involves so much more than just the clear communication of facts. Some of the texts also have to be linguistically adapted to the German-speaking audience. In English, for example, there is no distinction between a formal and an informal way to address the reader. In many other languages ​​where such a distinction exists, the informal version is often used online. And even if it seems to be slowly changing over time, it is still common practice in German-speaking countries to use the polite “Sie” in business correspondence. Therefore, you should definitely keep this in mind if you want to localise your homepage, newsletter or other text materials. 

However, your German customers not only prefer to be addressed in the formal way, but also place great value on directness and facts. Therefore, you don’t have to write your text in great detail to make it sound particularly appealing, because that would only make it unnecessarily long and may lead to the customer not finishing reading it. Simply make sure you keep your texts short, informative and concise. Depending on the language or cultural area the original text comes from, you should consider shortening it. 

In most cases, the translated German text will still be somewhat longer than the original. This is due to the structure of the German language and the fact that many words are quite long. So be sure to keep this in mind, as it is important for the layout of your homepage – especially when it comes to buttons or very small text windows, things can quickly get very tight here.

German translation localisation

Create interest

Germans place a great deal of value on traditionalism and are initially somewhat sceptical when it comes to new things. This point should also be taken into account when expanding your company into the German market. You are guaranteed to score points with keywords such as “family business”, “tradition”, “quality” or, more recently, “sustainability”, because the quality and the longevity of products are very important to German native speakers. 

Therefore, when designing your homepage, your online shop or your newsletter, make sure that all texts are not only available in all languages, but also that your customers really feel addressed by the respective language version. This means that customers in different countries may value different aspects. So, when writing your German texts, make sure that you place value on your company’s traditions, for example, or highlight the quality and/or sustainability aspects of your products and services. 

Continue to focus on what is particularly important to German-speaking customers. Especially when shipping items, different requirements arise in different countries. It is therefore very important for German-speaking customers to receive a tracking number with which they can track their package, as for them the responsibility lies with the supplier. In other countries, such as Spain, the responsibility is seen more with the retailer, so a tracking number is not necessarily given high priority. 

German customers are also much more cautious when shopping online than customers from other countries and are often distrustful of non-German websites, which is why they are reluctant to reveal too much of their data online. As part of your localisation, you should also make sure that you offer several country-specific payment methods. Credit cards are less common in German-speaking countries and many customers are very reluctant to enter this data. Therefore, you should offer alternatives such as payment on account or use well-known payment service providers such as PayPal, Sofort or Klarna that your customers are familiar with. 

To ensure that your translation is perfectly localised for the German market, you should always use an editor who is a native speaker, who has lived in the German-speaking region for a long time, has a good feeling for the language and is familiar with regional customs. Don’t forget that the German-speaking market is very large. Localisation in so-called standard German is a good option if you want to address the entire German-speaking audience. However, please note the regional peculiarities in Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland and use a regional editor if you want your texts to be tailored to a specific German-speaking market. Please also take a look at our other blog post in which we introduce the special characteristics of the German-speaking regions. 


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