The German eCommerce market was worth 99 billion euros in 2021.
German has more than 130 million native speakers and is the most spoken native language within the European Union. As German is so widely spoken, it has become a prominent language for businesses to localize with. So why should you localize in German and what should you consider in your localization strategy?
German is the 7th most used language on the internet and is massive within the mobile and app market. Germany takes the lead in Europe in terms of app store purchases and brought in around 1.8 billion dollars in 2021 alone. Further, there are more than 82 million high-income earners in Germany who like to shop online and expect content to be delivered to them in German, even if they understand English, meaning localizing in this language is very important if you want to reach the European or German market.
German is the official language of four counties in Europe: Germany, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Even outside of these countries, it is also spoken as a minority language in 42 countries across the world.
The German language, like English, belongs to the Indo-European language family. German began to take shape when the Romans came to the area in the 1st century BCE. As Christianity began to spread, under the influence of Latin and Greek, the first written Germanic language was created in the 4th century by Bishop Ulfilas.
Around 600 CE, there is a shift between different dialects in the Germanic languages. This is called the Second Germanic Consonant Shift and it was what we now call Old High German. This shift was an important one for the German language as it changed its pronunciation, which, still exists today. For example, Deutsch, meaning German, appeared for the first time during this shift.
Around 1250-1550 CE there were a variety of cultural changes, such as Martin Luther’s translation of the bible, which added a variety of new words to the German vocabulary. It was this translation that also set the tone for what would become a unified German language. From the 16th to 18th centuries various dialects from the southern and central part of German formed the New High German version, which is what is generally spoken today.
In 1880 Konrad Duden wrote and published the first edition of the Complete Orthographic Dictionary of the German Language. This book remained in place until the spelling reform of 1996.
While German still exists in many dialects, such as High German or Low German, High German is the official written language.
What is the difference between these dialects? The connotations of these dialects have nothing to do with social class but rather where they are spoken geographically in Germany. It’s somewhat similar to American English vs. British English and the Germans call these dialectal differences Hochdeutsch. Not sure which dialect to choose for your website localization? You can find translation solutions with international translation companies that specialise in the German language.
High German: Spoken in the mountainous and high-altitude regions of Germany that underwent a consonant shift. Spoken in southern Germany and partially in Central Germany.
Low German: Spoken in the lowlands of Germany. This dialect did not go under the same sound changes as its higher counterpart and has a similar sound to Dutch.
Standard German: An effort started by the Holy Roman Empire to create a lingua franca. German dialects at the time were spread apart and made communication difficult. The consolidation was an attempt to make the bible that could be understood by all Germans. As a result of Martin Luther’s translation and efforts, the bible became a base for the Standard German language. Standard German has many High German features and is a variant of High German.
With German, dialects differ depending on how much the High German consonant shift affected them. The main consonants affected by this shift were p, t, and k. For example, p became a pf sound, ik became ich, or t became s or ts. The Low German areas of the country don’t use these pronunciations as they were unaffected by this shift.
Thinking of localising in Switzerland with German? Swiss German is distinctly different from its Standard German counterpart and is referred to as Helvetisms. Helvetisms are vocabulary, pronunciations, and syntax that are specific and unique to Switzerland. You might not think there would be that much variation, but the distinctions are significant, to the point where those in Germany will need subtitling services to understand a TV show or video that is in Swiss German. Here are some relevant points to consider if you are going to localize here:
Having a successful localization strategy comes with having proper business translation services that know the German market and can offer translation solutions that suit your business needs. Translation management can be the difference between a successfully localized platform and one that goes bust. Ensure you get the best possible quality translation by using a marketing translation agency like Into23.
Into23 is a group of translation and marketing professionals that can help you create a localization strategy in German or in any other language you require. Make Into23 your localization partner today and contact us for a free quote.