A brief introduction to the importance of the German language
German is the native language of some 80 million Germans, nine million Austrians and 6 million German speaking Swiss in Europe. These three countries are some of the world’s most affluent and internet savvy. These facts mean that if you are a business owner looking to expand your business and sell your products or services to a German speaking customer base, it is a necessity to have a German language website or a German language version of your own business website.
German language and culture
Although there are some 120 million German speakers in both Europe and in places around the world where there are concentrations of German speaking migrants, the language is not quite such an international language in the same way as English or French. However, the language is in the same Germanic language family as Dutch, the Scandinavian languages and English. This makes it relatively easy to find competent translators to help with German website translation.
Germans, Austrians and Swiss are all modern Europeans and have a sophisticated attitude towards life in general. There are some cultural differences between German consumers and say American or English consumers and these can have a large enough influence for website designers to take notice of. This means that to really target German speaking customers, your new website or website version should be thoroughly localized, i.e. adapted for a German speaking market, rather than a straight translation of your own language version, whatever that is. There is a tendency, for instance, for German speakers to be more formal in their language and behaviour than other Europeans or English language speakers.
German website translation basic facts and statistics
The main statistic that business owners thinking about website development should keep in mind is that more than 80% of German speakers use the internet regularly and use it to purchase goods and services. That 80% means that in the three main countries where German is the main spoken language, this translates into around 80 million potential customers. German speakers use German language versions of the major search engines such as Google.de as well as German language search engines like allesklar.de (www.allesklar.de), WEB.DE (www.web.de) and Fireball (www.fireball.de).
It’s important to note that German speaking consumers while quite savvy about shopping on the internet tend to be wary of sites that do not provide clear protection for financial transactions and personal data. Not only should such protection be thoroughly incorporated into a German language website, but the fact that it does provide good protection should be clearly advertised.
Search engine optimisation or SEO is part and parcel of new website development and best left to SEO specialists who are proficient in the German language.
It is not advisable to leave German language website translation to anything other than a professional translation agency with localisation experience, i.e. one with people who have a good grounding in German culture as well as language. The worst you can do is to use a computer generated language translator like Google Translate (there are several examples of these automated translation software programmes) which will tend to translate everything on your web page(s) quite literally and will give a very amateur impression to the very sophisticated market you are intending to target and attract. Like many other things in life, you get what you pay for, which means that although automated translation software appears to be the most economical way of creating a German language website, it will unlikely help you to sell your products.