Translation into German

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In our new ‘translation into’ blog series, we’ll be featuring several different languages. We’ll take a look at some of the interesting facts, some issues we face when working into and from these languages, and seeing if there are any surprising celebrity speakers! This week, we take a look at translation into German.


Translation into German


Quick question – how many of the words in the following English sentence are borrowed from German? Brad’s curious wanderlust made him pack his rucksack and set off in search of his doppelgänger, but instead he found a poltergeist. Answer at the bottom of the page!

German is one of the most popular languages we translate to/from English. It has ‘official language’ status in 5 countries outside of Germany. These being Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. In total there are almost 89 million native speakers in the world.


A Creative Language


German is a very creative language. One special feature being the ability to create new words by joining two or more words together, to make a more descriptive (and longer!) word. For example, Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänswitwe (widow of a skipper of the Danube shipping company).


German Translation


It’s this that makes German one of the few languages which employs fewer words in writing than English. Being from a UK based translation agency we’re acutely aware of this when it comes to translation into German! We are accustomed to English word counts being lower than the language the text is being translated into/from, but not with German!

Another thing to bear in mind is that there is one more letter in the German alphabet than the English. This letter is the ß or the ‘double s’. The only diacritical marks used in German are the umlaut marks (ä, ö, ü).




Like many other languages, while the written form of German is standard, there are many variants of dialect. However there are two main divisions. There is High German (Hochdeutsch) which is mainly spoken in the area around Hannover in Lower Saxony. There are strong dialects spoken in the southern regions. Then there is Low German (Plattdeutsch) in the North. Low German bears a closer resemblance to other Germanic languages such as English and Dutch than High German.


Famous Non-Native Speakers


Famous non-native German speakers include Leonardo Di Caprio, Nathalie Portman and Vladimir Putin. Bruce Willis was born in Germany and can speak German, while Sandra Bullock picked the language up from her German mother.


And the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the blog: 4. The borrowed words are: Wanderlust, rucksack, doppelgänger & poltergeist.


As the second most popular language we translate into/from, Atlas Translations are highly experienced at dealing with English/German projects. Get in touch for a quote today!


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