Despite being spoken as a first or second language by roughly 130 million people worldwide, German has a reputation for being somewhat tricky to master. This can pose a problem for those who wish to do business in the country, considering its status as the largest economy in Europe, and means that German translation is in high demand for businesses across a wide swathe of sectors around the world.
But despite there being so many complexities to the German language, many companies still resort to free online translation services to get the job done. The likes of Google Translate, and other automated language tools, may have improved since they first hit the market, but they are still extremely prone to mistakes—especially when it comes to the nuances of languages. And with German being one of the more technical Western languages, there is a lot of room for error.
Challenges of translating German into English
German nouns require gendered pronouns
As with many European languages, German nouns are gendered. Unlike English, which simply uses “the” and “a” as the definite and indefinite articles to accompany nouns, German requires masculine, feminine or neutral pronouns — “der”, “die” and “das”, respectively— to accompany nouns. The gender of these nouns also determines the way in which any adjectives are modified. These are grammatical issues which Google Translate is getting better at handling, but it arguably remains too unreliable a tool to be trusted with long texts which have many gendered nouns.
German sentences are strictly structured
One of the interesting things about the English language is that it allows for relatively free-flowing grammatical structures, with verbs and nouns not tied to appearing in any part of a sentence. However, the German language requires every part of a sentence to be in its right place, which can make inaccurate translations that much easier to spot, if a sentence’s subject and object are not where they should be. This focus on structure can also determine which words are emphasised, depending on how close they are to the start of a sentence. There are also formal and informal forms of the word “you” — “du” for informal use, and “sie” for formal use — and it is unlikely that language tools which run on AI will be able to discern which to use, even when given the context of a formal document to translate.
Online translators may not be up to date with new terms
German is a language which evolves quickly and there is no better example of this than its usage of compound nouns. These generally express complex concepts by mashing together existing nouns into a catch-all term with a very specific meaning, which often lacks an English equivalent. The most common example of this is the term “schadenfreude”, which lacks a single-word English equivalent but literally translates as “harm-joy”. However, it is taken to refer to the joy that a person takes at another’s bad luck.
What is the best English to German translator app?
Ultimately, even as the artificial intelligence behind most online translation tools improves, it is extremely unlikely that the likes of Google Translate will be able to reliably translate any documentation being used for professional purposes. Instead, the best English to German translator (or vice versa) will be an experienced, human linguist, who understands the nuances and subtleties of both languages, and is able to provide expert translations for any required documentation.
The team of translators at Global Voices are also experts in a range of industries and we will match each translation project to a linguist with experience in not only the appropriate language, but the appropriate sector. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our team of the best German to English translators in the business.