Translating from English to German can sometimes be tricky, particularly when you have to decide what form of address to use for the German text.
The English language only knows one form of address, “you”. This can be used in any form of text, from children games to legal text, including software or instructions.
In the German language, you have the choice between two forms of address: the formal “Sie” and the more personal “du” that creates a different kind of relationship between text and reader.
Until the spelling reform of 1996, the German language also had a polite form “Du” for correspondence. From 1996 to 2006, “du” could only be used with a small letter. Since the new spelling reform of 2006, you can also use “Du” again as a polite form of address.
So how do you find the correct form of address, if you translate from English to German?
While a lot of texts used to have a formal tone (and thus the formal address “Sie”), today more and more apps, games, and even websites use the more personal address “du”(check for example apple.com/de).
By creating a personal text that speaks to the German audience in a more direct way, companies are able to create personal relationships to German readers, so that “the new sports app” will become your friend. It is easier for German people to identify with products, and bring them into their daily lives as companions.
The formal tone “Sie” is still being used in texts that have an official character, for example legal or medical texts.
Falls Du, du oder Sie sich unsicher sein sollten, ob es Du, du oder Sie sein soll, schau einfach im Duden nach oder frag deinen Klienten!
(If you, you or you are not sure whether it should be Du, du or Sie, just have a look in the Duden or ask your client!)