Sprichst du Deutsch? Do you speak German? An estimated 95 million people around the globe do. And that number only covers native speakers. The language is spoken by another 80 million people as a second language. Business or pleasure, German translation is required to help break down communication barriers in a large region of Europe.

Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.” That translates to say “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Thinking big in the business world sets the ambition for expanding to the far ends of Europe. This makes German translation a need when tapping into such new markets. But when does Google Translate suffice, and when do you cross over the line to hiring a professional translator? In this article, we’ll help you topple over that tower of Babel. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about German translation, including tips on how to pick a good translator.

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This post was updated in August 2021.

Why German Translation?

As the official language of six countries, the German language is the bridge that binds European communication. The six include Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. The age-old tongue is also mostly understood by the Dutch as well because German is a very similar language.

In Business

If you have steel ambitions and resources to expand, Europe is no doubt a great region to invest in. At the peak of Europe’s economy is Germany. It holds the fourth largest in nominal GDP in the world. Polled in 23 countries to have the best reputation for quality products, Germany holds the largest national economy in Europe. In addition, the country supports entrepreneurial growth and global commerce. Businesses are built atop the foundations of sound regulations as well as business and investment freedom. With such a steadfast economy holding strong in the turbulent seas of global economic turmoil, penetrating German markets might bring your brand worldwide recognition. With that comes the need for accurate and professional German translation in the blueprint of a successful localization.

In Entertainment

Translation in the form of German voice over, dubbing and subtitles have swung the doorway to the global media wide open. While subtitle translation is preferred in most of Europe, Germany seems to enjoy riding the dubbing wave. The entire award-winning series such as “Game of Thrones” have been screened with dubbing. If you’re looking to market your brand through audio ads on media such as the radio or TV, you might consider hiring a German voice actor. That or simply outsourcing your entire audio ad to a professional. Such means can sometimes prove more time and cost-effective than in-house production.


Go Local to Go Global

German translation is elemental to the localization process. There is no lack of bi-lingual skills among German most native speakers. However, marketing strategies have been proven to be more effective in driving traffic and conversion when marketed in the consumer’s native language.

Localization is the key to building brand credibility and trust in new markets. Aside from translation, successful localization requires the adaptation of content for specific markets. That includes integrating local culture, demographics, and nuances. Such include the modification of your German advertising content to suit the local mindset and needs.

As such, sometimes translation requires a little touch of human creativity. There is no lack of online translators such as translate.com and Collin’s dictionary. However, their literal word-for-word translation sometimes just doesn’t quite capture the brand message. This applies especially to brand slogans, idioms, and taglines. Such that may require a new language structure or phrasing to make any sense. In contrast, only a professional translator has the ability to replace appropriate words to bring forth concepts and rephrase expressions by deciphering meanings. To weigh out the pros and cons with the use of online translators check out this article for more information.

Types of German Translation

The localization of a brand in new territories requires not just translation on marketing content, but also submission of documents in accordance with legal regulations. While many can speak English, the official language that one will be required to submit all legal and business documentation would be in German. Hence it is important to understand the type of translation you require based on the context of your document.

1. Certified / Sworn Translations

This is required by law for business transactions, applications, and judicial proceedings. Such translations are usually employed for legal or governmental regulatory paperwork. You will need to hire a qualified professional translator instead of just someone who is a native speaker. The translator needs to state-certified and publicly sworn. He or she must possess qualifications recognized by the regional court. You will receive a certified translation along with a corresponding stamp, signature, and his or her name. Such translations are recognized by all governmental bodies such as in courts, and by the police and the authorities.

 Document Examples Requiring Certified / Sworn Translation:

  • Official documents such as marriage or birth certificates
  • Contracts
  • Complaint documents to the authorities
  • Educational certificates such as a bachelor’s degree or employment certificate
  • Licenses and identification documents
  • Any judicial letters

2. Notary Translations

This is when your official document is first translated by a certified or sworn translator. He or she then is required to sign in the presence of a notary. This is to certify the authenticity of the document in order to deter fraud. You will receive the translation with a note from the notary along with a round seal.

Document Examples Requiring Notary Translation:

  • Bank documents
  • Mortgages and land registrations
  • Commercial registrations
  • Affidavits
  • Power of attorney
  • Certificates depending on governmental requirements 

3. Professional Translations

German professional translation is especially suitable for translating content that reaches the masses. Only native speakers are cut up for the job. This is because they are aware of cultural differences and have the skills set to rephrase in order to maintain the tone and conceptual message where required.

Although such translations can be done by online machines such as Google Translate, there are many obvious advantages of hiring a professional translator. Free machine translators have a tendency to butcher poetry, idioms, catchphrases, and taglines. As such, professional translators are a must-have especially for brand localization where the human touch of perception and creativity is necessary.

Where literal translations are not possible,  suitable alternative words or phrases will be substituted. Professional translators do not have to be certified by any governmental bodies. Therefore, finding a good accurate translator can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Businesses tend to be comfortable with sticking to the same translators once they discover one who is competent.

Document Examples Requiring Professional Translation:

  • Websites
  • Presentations such as those on Powerpoint
  • Guidebooks and instructions
  • Product information
  • Pharmaceutical and medical documents
  • Advertising and marketing materials
  • Technical documents in engineering, architecture, and telecommunications

4. Online / Machine Translations

The best thing since sliced bread, everybody knows of online translators and their perks. They are highly accessible, convenient, and free of charge. Most online translators first transcribe your input into English, then into your chosen designated language. This leaves room for some error when it comes to accuracy in grammar and sentence structure. Sometimes literal translations can also change the meaning of your original message.

Although so, they are a great tool for quick results. Best used in the context where accuracy is not a requirement and when the general meaning is enough, online translators can be applied for the below.

Document Examples Requiring Online Translation:

  • Internal or personal communication
  • Documents requiring bulk translation with a tight deadline reviewed later by a professional translator.


Finding a Good Professional German Translator

Outsourcing translation can be both cost-effective and time-saving. But finding a good translator can sometimes prove challenging. You never really know one’s quality of work until you actually use them. There are many cases of fraud where translators simply hand over results from online translators.

One of the problems in most cases is that we usually don’t know if the outcome is accurate in grammar, content, and tone. This is because we ourselves don’t speak the language. That can be risky business for your brand reputation. That is especially if you are publishing that content to the masses. Here are some tips that can help you to identify good German translators.

Positive Client Reviews

Choose wisely! Hiring freelance German translators from platforms such as freelancer.com can sometimes be cheap, but they cannot really vouch for the quality of work. Ensuring your translator is a native speaker is the very first step and sometimes its hard to even authenticate the fact.

Choosing to go with online translation platforms that can ensure the quality of work is one way to go. Platforms like this come backed with an abundance of client reviews. It also has a fast turnover time, ensures you own the full rights to your content and is quality controlled.

English as a Second Language

Your translator should be a foremost native German speaker, but one who can speak perfectly good English interchangeably. You might want to ensure that he or she also at least possess a Degree qualification. This makes communication between you and the translator ever so much more efficient, and the outcome accurate.

He or she will be able to understand the tone and concept of your content. Being able to clarify the tone can help you avoid any misinterpretations or misunderstandings. By being able to accurately perceive the intent behind your content, your translator will be able to make suitable word substitutions and sentence restructuring when required. All this while still preserving the authenticity of your content.

Knowing Reasonable Rates

On the worldwide web, translation rates vary as far as the sky is from the earth. For 100 words, rates can range from about $5 to $25. It’s hard to know if you get your dollar’s worth when it comes to quality. But the cost might be able to give you some indication of such. The magic median number has however been deemed to be ‎€15 for German translations across all markets. Reliable outsourcing platforms like this one starts at a cost of $12 per hundred words. You can even pick from Swiss-German or Germany-German depending on your audience.

Proofread Work

Legit professional translators ask questions when the context of your content is not clear. It is also in their standard process to review, edit and check their work.  Always get another native speaker to check on the final work done. This is especially if you are using a new translator for the first time. Do this at least for the initial round of projects. Such should help you gain peace of mind that your translation is in good hands, should you be considering the future possibility of rehiring him or her.

Dialects Vs Language

There are about 250 German dialects spoken throughout Europe. If you’re not sure where to start, fret not. Dialects are simply a subset form of language. They are often spoken but not used as an official language by governments. All Germans are taught Standarddeutsch or standard German. So you shouldn’t have a problem when it comes to visual translation.

If you are however looking to reach other German-speaking countries in Europe, you might want to aim for a more geographically specific native speaker. For example, Schwiizerdütsch of Swiss German tends to shorten a lot of words and use different words. “The e-mail” in standard German holds a neutral “das e-mail”. It adapts, however, a feminine “die e-mail” in Swiss German.

Audio translations might require a bit more specificity as it contains accents and pronunciation that differ greatly with each dialect. As such, you might want to pick a voice actor more specifically. Based on location, you might pick one that speaks Österreichisches Deutsch (Austrian German), Berlinerisch (Berlin Dialect), or Plattdüütsch (Low German). To find out more about regional dialects and German voice overs, you can refer to this article.

All in a Day’s Work

Anthony Burgess said, “Translation is not a matter of words. It is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture”. German is known to have been developed at about 2,000 B.C. Since then it has evolved into many dialects, although standard German is now the official language understood by many. With the right idea on where and how to find great translators, you’re all set to conquer the European market!

Start your own German translation today with Bunny Studio!