[German locale]: A new style guide

Recently I switched my phone back to German locale after having used French for a longer time. Changing the language made some issues reoccur to me that I had already noticed when starting to use Sailfish OS in German.
As far as I can evaluate this as a non-native speaker: The French translation is quite well done in terms of two aspects: Natural style* and Consistency.

Both of the above to lack in many places within the German locale. The old style guide from the SFOS Wiki is a bit dusty and e.g. contains erroneous example phrases. Also my impression is that nobody follows it (check for presence of the formal address „Sie” in actively used strings, for example).
This is why I would like to list the issues I noticed and suggest some ideas for a ‘canon’ as well as general improvements of the current translations.

Maybe some translators are willing to chime in and expand on my issues, correct mistakes or false assumptions and help in creating a good reference for new and old translators alike?

Well, here we go.

*despite the general tendency of the French to forcefully translate anglicisms

1 Language Style

Passive voice

There’s lots (loads!) of passive constructions using the Verb ‘werden’ in strings. Even though it might not be grammatically wrong, it does lead to a generally passive tone which contradicts the advised engaging one from the official style guide. This can mean to deviate from the English original but that is justifiable, I think - if not exaggerated.
Exceptions would be translations of the Loading string.


  1. Die E-Mail, die um %1 am %2 an %3 gesendet wurde, wurde gelesen
    Better: %3 hat deine E-mail vom %2, %1 Uhr gelesen
  2. MMS Nachricht wurde von %1 gelesen
    Better: %1 hat MMS-Nachricht gelesen (analogously for SMS and E-Mails)
  3. Kontakt wurde gespeichert
    Better: Kontakt gespeichert
  4. Du kannst E-Mail-Dienste für dieses Konto aktivieren, nachdem die E-Mail-App aus dem Store installiert wurde
    Better: Du kannst E-Mail-Dienste für dieses Konto aktivieren, sobald die E-Mail-App aus dem Store installiert ist
  5. Datei kann nicht gefunden werden
    Better: Datei nicht gefunden
  6. X kann nicht angezeigt werden
    Better: X nicht anzeigbar

Literal translations & unnecessary anglicisms

  1. einloggen => anmelden
  2. Voicemail => Sprachnachricht (it’s even listed in terminology)
  3. Passwort => Kennwort (debatable, may actually be straw splitting)
  4. Rückgängig-Banner => Abbruch-Timer (difficult, mabye not good but the current translation is bad)
  5. Keys (in Settings) => Schlüssel or Schlüsselverwaltung
  6. Historie => Verlauf (current translation is ok but maybe this is more natural?)

Engaging instructions

This one’s bit hard to describe. A recent example is the new string for remorse timers: Tippen für Abbruch. It’s not strictly wrong but feels a bit off. Plus, the official guide mentions verbs as preferred over nouns. So a nominalized verb would be better => Tippe zum Abbrechen

other examples

  1. Tippen um zurückzusetzen => Tippe zum Zurücksetzen
  2. Zum Abhören tippen => Tippe zum Abhören (avoiding infinitive form ’tippen’ to make it a more imperative prompt)

Natural translation

As the point above, hard to formalize. It needs practice and a good sense of language.
But reading out the sentence aloud already helps identify bumpy parts in a translation. Might work for simpler strings as well.

Regarding literal translations: A thesaurus can help immensely finding better synonyms. And using good dictionaries, too (e.g Leo.org and dict.cc are good sources that usually list many synonyms and translation variants).

2. Grammar

  • Missing article in english text: Sender gets notified when you have opened the MMS is translated as Der Absender wird benachrichtigt […]


    1. MMS is ready to download: Eine MMS-Nachricht ist bereit zum Herunterladen

3. UI Space

There are a few cases I noticed where the translations don’t fit their view within the UI.
Examples are the shortcuts from the Top Menu (Flugzeugmodus ) or the labels of thumbnail remorse timers and missing previews in Gallery. There are more strings but you get the idea.

Here it may be legitimate to use a more nominal and abbreviated style instead of the verbal and thus also more elaborate one.
I’d suggest using a shortened style, leaving out articles. The mentioned strings from the top menu might be edge cases but still it would be useful specifying a consistent style.


Top Menu


  • Der Anmeldevorgang wurde abgebrochen => Anmeldevorgang abgebrochen

  • XXX kann nicht angezeigt werden => Keine Vorschau möglich or Miniaturansicht nicht verfügbar

Orthography, terminology & common phrases

1. Denotation, orthography

Simple but important: Use a spell checker and take care of correct cases.

MMS Nachrichten => MMS-Nachrichten

2. Variations to canonize

Candidates for a canon (does anybody still maintain Pootle’s translation memory?).

  • user data = Benutzerdaten / Nutzerdaten
  • tap = Tippe(n) / Antippen
  • Oops = Ups / Hoppla (or insert ’leider’ into the phrase?)
  • Got it= Verstanden

3. Missing pootle terminology

  • user data = (Be-)Nutzerdaten
  • authorize/authorized = berechtigen/berechtigt
  • secret storage (Sailfish Secrets) = Schlüssel? / ??
  • undo banner = Abbruch-Timer?
  • credentials = Anmeldedaten
  • device manager = Geräteverwaltung

4. Recurring phrases

Phrases prone to be translated in passive voice and others

  • Failed to X => X fehlgeschlagen.

  • Could not do [X] : Should we translate this with A) ’Konnte [X] nicht ausführen’ or B) ’[X] nicht machbar?’ Right now there are many strings using ’[X] konnte nicht … werden’ (see passive voice for why this should be avoided) and also the variant A.


    1. Could not determine package name for %1. Aborting installation. Currently translated as ’Der Paketname für %1 kann nicht ermittelt werden. Installation abgebrochen.
      Could be ‘Der Paketname für %1 ist nicht ermittelbar’ or ‘Konnte Paketname für %1 nicht ermitteln
    2. Could not fetch your keys => Abrufen deiner Schlüssel fehlgeschlagen / Konnte deine Schlüssel nicht abrufen

This is also some sort of application as language coordinator :wink:


Imo, just take the job :wink:
All above changes make sense and the reason for some parts of the german translation being clunky is obvious.
Nobody thought as deep about them as you did or took the effort to change them!
Great initiative of yours, thanks for elaborating.
I advise to not ask too much for permission and wait for discussion but make changes as you go and then wait for (very unlikely) complaints.


rozgwi is obviosly very talented in this. I am a native german speaking (well, allmost, Austrian) dude and all the suggestions above do make perfect sense.


@mosen, @apozaf Thanks for your encouragement!
I was hoping to ping @ejjoman for his opinion but it seems he’s not yet on the forum.

So @jahonen, @sledges : I’m applying as coordinator for German. I can pm you my Pootle username if you agree


Your work is so much welcome, your suggestions will make a big difference! I may even switch my device to German if it doesn’t hurt so much any longer. (Says someone who contributes to translations, but doesn’t use them himself …)


Hello @rozgwi, very nice to see this effort!
More love for German l10n has been very much awaited for a while. We were planning to call for help, and your hard work has been timed perfectly.

Feel free to message me your Pootle username.
Any patches to the Style Guide are also welcome as always.


This! Very balanced, detailed and thought out post. As a german I can fully agree…


Thank you all for the encouragement!

I have started reviewing the translations after completing what was still missing for the upcoming release. So you will hopefully see some improvements with the coming 3.4.x. There won’t yet be all errors fixed yet or consistent translations in every place. Feel free to post here if you notice anything.

There’s a few common strings for which I haven’t yet found a good standard ‘memory’ translation to unify the various forms that currently show up. I’m considering a poll for a few of them. So stay tuned :wink:


This could be misunderstood as: %3 has read your email message (from %1) on %2.


Right, better would be
%3 hat deine E-mail vom %2, %1 Uhr gelesen


Exactly! Thought about this too, putting the date first is more natural.

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@rozgwi I highly appreciate your approach - I only read now and like it a lot! Thank you for raising my awareness


On disconnecting the charger, instead of “Zieh das Ladegerät aus der Steckdose heraus, um Energie zu sparen”, better “Akkubetrieb”

Regarding to Literal translations & unnecessary anglicisms,
in my opinion, at least “einloggen” and “Passwort” are necessary anglicisms and looks and sounds much better in “denglisch” than in German.

Does someone know and can tell me, in what folder and file these translations and language versions are stored?

I saw your topic about the possibility to switch off the system notification as a whole. Changing the translation like that would be, in my opinion, too much of a deviation and not properly addressing the issue of configurability.

As for the location of a string in the file structure, take a look at translate.sailfishos.org. each string has a relative path for source files given (to the left )

‘Passwort’ probably is older than the IT vocabulary itself so not that much of an anglicism, at least not a direct one. I’d have to look it up though to be sure . Anyways it’s not really much of a gain to replace it.

‘einloggen’ to the contrary is just a lazy translation. The proper verb is ‘anmelden’ as it conveys the equivalent meaning.

Personally I think Denglish should be avoided as much as possible in any project that aims at a professional technical editing


Rozgwi, I agree with the most suggestions you made. Many thanks for your effort!
Please let me add a few comments and ideas.

Regarding to the Examples:

#3, Kontakt wurde gespeichert -> Kontakt gespeichert…, also
#5, Datei kann nicht gefunden werden, Better: Datei nicht gefunden

For my feeling, it is a much more friendly and stressless style to read complete sentences than short, keyword-like messages. Therefore I suggest this always, if there is enough space on the display without horizontal scrolling. In some cases it may be more important to avoid unneccessary horizontal scrolling of a message text and then using the shorter text is OK.

So I suggest
#3: Leave it as it is,
#4: Datei wurde nicht gefunden

Regarding to 3. UI Space:

Nicht vertrauenswürdige Software erlauben => Fremdpakete (or as below Fremd-Software)
I vote for “Software”, not for “Pakete”. In other cases “Pakete” may be the better translation (see below)
Back-translated to English, a “Paket” can be a parcel, package, packet, pack or bundle.

Regarding to Orthography, terminology & common phrases / 2. Variations to canonize /

#3 Oops = Ups / Hoppla (or insert ’leider’ into the phrase?)

Such formulations should please generally be avoided!
If something does not work, then the user wants to know

  1. what (exactly as possible) did not work,
  2. why did it not work, and
  3. what can the user do to fix it.

Ups / Hoppla is kindergarten or small child level.

The word “leider” is derived from the German word “Leid”, that means back-translated suffering. It is a commonly used phrase in German as a more or less honest expression of regret. It is imho not appropriate for a telephone to express or pretend such feelings. In a native german speaking user it arouses unpleasant feelings, if he or she has to read “leider” on the display.

Regarding to #4 Recurring Phrases:

Could not do [X] : Should we translate this with A) ’Konnte [X] nicht ausführen’ or B) ’[X] nicht machbar?’ Right now there are many strings using ’[X] konnte nicht … werden’ (see passive voice for why this should be avoided) and also the variant A.

I vote for A) ’Konnte [X] nicht ausführen’, because this is a statement about the situation now, and that it will work after fixing it, while B appears like it will never work.


Could not determine package name for %1. Aborting installation. Currently translated as ’Der Paketname für %1 kann nicht ermittelt werden. Installation abgebrochen.’
Could be ‘Der Paketname für %1 ist nicht ermittelbar’ or ‘Konnte Paketname für %1 nicht ermitteln’

In this example “Paketname” is better than Software, because a software package is like a bundle


That’s a good point. This section also needs more weighed examples. I have a tendency to ‘weed out’ everything with passive use of werden.

Sorry, I’m not getting the reason for back translating the word.
Personally, I find „Pakete” to be more precise from a technical view (since every software basically comes with RPM packages). But for and end user „Software” probably is better.

Agreed. But my job as a translator is not to change the content. It is translating it, finding a natural sounding form in the target language while retaining the original sense. So let’s follow Jolla’s style here.

That’s a tad too categorical (Although I’d probably say the same thing about ‘Denglisch’). Oops is just informal, more vocal style. That’s due to the style Jolla generally sets for Sailfish. This is something more natural in the English language though. In German it can seem forced. So I’d tend to look for something else as well.

Yes. But that’s not the only sense of the word. Regret is the one used in this case.

That’s a very subjective view. Why would it be a pretension and why express feelings in the first place? It’s just a formalized way of politeness (even if mostly bureaucratic).
Well, probably something we could poll. It’s a suggestion anyways. Maybe someone has an idea for a good alternative to „Ups/Hoppla”?

Yeah, seems the best way. Haven’t gotten around to sort these strings yet though.

I think now you’re confusing things a bit (or I am?). As said above, this is about RPM packages. These can be bundles as well. That is if you understand ‘bundle’ as a software bundle that comes with ‘batteries included’ - having all the necessary assets, programms and libraries included in one package.
Again, this is technical but for the case of the error messages in question, that’s wished-for.


Sometimes the one or other translation sounds a little bit not so clever, then I often translate it back to English to better understand what was the reasoning of the developer or translator. I thought a few nights over it… Paket is OK…

There’s another thing, I want to write quick before I forget!
Regarding to the clock app (german Uhr)
If a daily alarm appears and sounds, to confirm the alarm and stop it by wiping upwards, on the bottom appears “verwerfen”.
I suggest here “OK”, because the user confirms the alarm, or “Stop”, because the alarm will then sound no more.

verwerfen is improper use in the alarm clock context. Verwerfen is more suitable for e.g. a plan or project that will not succeed, if you give up the project or have a better idea.


Thanks for bringing it up.
In fact, the original ‘dismiss’ can better be translated as ‘ausblenden’ in this context. I think ‘anhalten’ is another good alternative. Have changed it to this for now.
The same translation was used for carrier service messages in the dialer (e.g. checking your balance). Here I replaced verwerfen with ‘ausblenden’


anhalten is IMHO very good for the alarm clock context, ausblenden less good but better than verwerfen.

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