Wikipedia:Translating German Wikipedia

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The following guidelines are intended to assist editors in Translating German Wikipedia articles for English Wikipedia.

Before starting a translation, editors should familiarise themselves with the guidance Wikipedia:WikiProject Germany/Conventions which particularly covers the consistent and accurate naming of places, geographical features like mountains, rivers and glaciers, man-made features like bridges, tunnels and castles and much more.

Keep in mind that translation is more an art, than a science. A phrase in one language might not be expressed easily in another. In general, we seek the best equivalent translation (answering the question, "How would we say that in English?"), rather than demand a literal translation.

Format issues[edit]


  • Alphabet: If you don't have a German keyboard, keep a list of the German Sonderzeichen (to copy) and paste: Ä ä Ö ö ß Ü ü or use the Alt key, e.g. pressing "Alt-129" generates "ü".
  • Word lengths: Because German words average about a third longer (by number of letters) than English, the margins of German quotations should be adjusted to allow more words per line (where German text is quoted literally on the English page).


Language links in the left-side sidebar are provided via Wikidata (as by clicking the languages menu sprocket symbol).


  • German nouns are always capitalized (in formal writing). Only the first letter of a compound word is capitalized, unless it has hyphens. Compound words are generally written as one word and are not hyphenated. In hyphenated compound nouns, the first word and each component noun is capitalized: Fluss-Schifffahrt. Most pronouns are not capitalized, except the second-person pronouns "Sie" and "Ihnen" (the "formal you"), while the first-person pronoun "ich", unlike English "I", is not capitalized.
  • In German titles, capitalize only the first word and subsequent nouns, as in "Also sprach Zarathustra" with the verb "sprach" ('spoke') in lowercase.
  • All German words in English text should be set in italics, except those which have entered the English language as loan words (such as "zeitgeist" and "gestalt").

Wikitables or infoboxes[edit]

  • Some tables copied from German Wikipedia may not look the same due to differences in margin alignment or width.
  • CSS classes: German WP may use different class names in its CSS styles.
  • Row format: A row "|-style=" tag might need plain bar "|" text, not auto-bold "!" so boldface by triple-tic text ('''x''') rather than column "!" to allow style="background:#ccFFcc" for green column headers on a whole row.

Translation issues[edit]

Auto-translation help[edit]

  • Word order: Google Translate and Bing Translator can cross-reword paragraphs into another language, but "proper word order often it doesn't". All automatically translated text must be checked before use, as comparing phrases to the original language.
  • Verbs/phrases omitted: Google Translate sometimes drops verbs, or whole phrases (even in 2016) in long sentences, or where a verb could have multiple meanings. So a verb gets dropped, rather than risk showing a wrong equivalent verb.
  • Town names: Google Translate and Bing Translator might translate proper nouns in some town names, but not other instances, even in the same paragraphs.
  • Wikitext form: Google Translate may garble wiki-text markup coding; for example by showing illegal spaces after the slash in closing wp:reftags (as in illegal "</ ref>").
  • Short sentences: By hand-splitting long German sentences into shorter parts, some computer-translation programs might generate better wording than others, but all automatically translated text must be revised before use.
  • Copy as in other pages: Once the first page on a theme is translated, similar pages could copy parts of it, so the translation of idioms can become easier in related articles.
  • Verification rules: Many articles on English Wikipedia have some awkward, broken English, but German Wikipedia is heavily patrolled by editors to alleviate rough or awkward wording.


Common words[edit]

  • German photos use "Datei" for "Image" or "File" (replace "Datei:" with "File:").
  • German images use "|mini" which must be set "|thumb" (or "|hochkant" set as "|upright=0.9") and swap "|links" as "|left". Leaving "|mini" can download a huge megabyte photo onto a page.
  • German templates are not called "Template:" but "Vorlage:".
  • In German, the term for "web page" is "Webseite"; English "website" is "Website" in German.
  • German word "links" means "left" (as in left-hand), but "Weblinks" are hyperlinks.
  • Examples are noted as "Beispiel", also with the abbreviation "Bsp."
  • References are sometimes called "Quellen" (sources), mostly "Einzelnachweise".
  • Wikipedia is feminine: die deutschsprachige Wikipedia; die englische Wikipedia.

Headers for Notes/References/etc.[edit]

The German Wikipedia uses "standard headings" for the See-also, Notes, References and External links sections:
  • Siehe auch   [Bearbeiten]       – "See also"
  • Literatur   [Bearbeiten]           – "Bibliography" or "Literature"
  • Einzelnachweise [Bearbeiten]   – "References" or "Notes"
  • Weblinks   [Bearbeiten]           – "External links"
Each section can be edited separately by clicking on the link "[Bearbeiten]" in the section header. Also, contrary to the English Wikipedia, the section headers named above may appear in any order, so that Einzelnachweise ("Notes") may be the final section of an article.

Proper names[edit]

Wikipedia:WikiProject Germany/Conventions is a valuable guide to the Wikipedia conventions for translating proper names. In particular, beware of compound nouns, some of which need a partial translation e.g. Maintal = "Main Valley" Rappbodetalsperre = "Rappbode Dam".

Template coding[edit]

Several templates are portable to the German Wikipedia, including {{Cite web}} & {{Cite book}} (but NOT {{Citation}} ), and dates should be coded in ISO format as "YYYY-MM-DD", and the extra attribute "language=Englisch" should be added for those sources.
Beware the same-name-but-different templates:
  • {{dts}} is a date template with the parameters reversed. Hence it is not portable.
Because German Wikipedia (DEWIKI) has its own MOS style guides, which are different from those of ENWIKI, many German users might object to the style and formatting of translated articles. It's a whole separate target group to consider.


  • Typos: beware mixing of "and" for "und" (in hundreds of articles).
  • Typos: beware dashes between German words not typical for English; German: "Lewis-und-Clark-Expedition".
  • Typos: beware the German preposition "an" appearing to be the English article "an".
  • Note minor differences, such as "oben" meaning "up" while "ober" means upper, and such.
  • Remember typical use of idioms, such as "an der Strasse" (for "in the street") or "Eingabe/Ausgabe" (for "input/output"), etc.

Content issues[edit]

German Wikipedia stubs[edit]

There are very few German stub articles, because, by early 2009, many articles were often contested before allowing short contents. Articles that are nearly perfect, but only 99% correctly translated, might be hated, because they must pass the verification-step for style & content, which is almost like passing a test as semi-featured articles. There seems to be a compulsion (or obsession) to get German articles verified, as if the non-verified articles would be considered harmful trash. The push or drive to verify articles causes frequent severe mindsets on German Wikipedia. Imagine the horror if a new article were to need 3 volunteer days of source verification: Mein Gott! Whereas a 98%-accurate article might be considered, in the English wiki, as fairly good information (for free), in DEWIKI users would rather it be deleted or hidden.

Unsourced content[edit]

Although the German Wikipedia has been heavily patrolled for "recent changes" to enforce grammar (or translations), many articles lack specific sources or footnote citations. Some of the German articles seem to contain insider knowledge or folksy text, which often gets challenged when translated into an English article. In accordance with policy WP:VERIFY, when text cannot be traced to sources, it must be removed from articles, even though found in German Wikipedia (which has been heavily guarded for accuracy). Local people might be writing what "everyone knows in Germanic culture", but perhaps it cannot be used in the English Wikipedia for lack of published sources.

Use of sources[edit]

However, most articles in the German Wikipedia do have sources, though sometimes fewer than would be considered ideal in the English Wikipedia. The articles will naturally emphasise German language sources, but articles here are expected to emphasize English language sources. It is very highly advisable to find equivalent English language sources for at least the basic material. For points where only a German source is available, it should be retained, and where the best sources are in German (like town data), they should also be included, especially for topics relating to German history or culture. It is not appropriate to eliminate sources merely because they are in German or some other language without replacing them with English sources. If German books have an English translation available, that translation should be added.
Even for the roughest translation, never eliminate the sources totally. If you cannot find equivalents, or do not have the time to look, leave them as is for someone to improve subsequently.

Other concerns[edit]

There are many other common issues to consider.

See also[edit]