Ich habe meinen Computer zu Deutsch gewechselt

This weekend, I changed my computer’s user interface language from Swedish (where it had been since November 2003) to German. Germany is the country I’m most likely to vacation to next, and I figured I should start pseudo-immersing myself. Of course, all it really means is that I’m going to be learning a lot of computer-related German words like Einstellungen and Speicher.

The change will also take additional adjustment because I learned German under the old spelling rules, before the controversial spelling reform of 1996 was promulgated. Perhaps the most prominent change is the new rules for the ß character, but for me personally, that change is barely noticeable because I learned German from a textbook that uses Swiss spelling! (The Swiss do not use the ß character; they use double-s instead.) Learning from a Swiss textbook also means that I learned phrases like “Tschüss” and “Bilder knipsen”, my use of which amuses Germans to no end. One of the lesser rules that affects me more is the regularization of rules surrounding noun capitalization, as in “zu Deutsch” above.

This completes the switch to German that began in January when I changed my Microsoft Office language to German. For the past few months I had been running a mix of Swedish and German. That sounds confusing, but it wasn’t that bad, really. I barely even realized that half of my dialog boxes were in one language and half were in another. (Well, okay, and the third half was in English. The programs that are neither part of Windows nor part of Office remain in English.) The real hard part is learning all the new keyboard shortcuts.

(In marginally related news, the Swedish Academy recently released its latest official Swedish word list, and it changed its longstanding policy and now lists the words beginning with “W” separately from words beginning with “V”. Up until now, “W” and “V” had been considered merely typographical variants of one another and had been treated as identical for alphabetization purposes.)

Comments (49)
  1. Moi says:

    Don’t worry, Raymond. Just to confuse you (and everyone else who reads and writes German) some of the spelling reforms have been reformed. http://german.about.com/library/blreform.htm

    Incidentally, "Tschüss" is also used in Southern Germany as well as Switzerland, so you’ll be accepted there as well.

  2. Chip H says:

    Did you notice that Duden is selling an OpenOffice bundle?  It would be like MS-Office selling a bundle with Webster’s or the OED.



  3. Joe says:

    well if you vacation in Bavaria (Bayern, to the locals), if you say "Tschüss", you will fit right in with the rest of the Southern Germans. I’ve been in Munich for the past year, and Tschüss and "Gruß Got" are very common, every day expressions (or dozens of times a day, depending on how many people you talk to). In fact, "Gruß" is the defacto email closer for my German colleagues, where as all the English speakers generally use "Regards,".

    It should also be noted that the s-zet, ß, is also still very much alive and used in Bavaria.

  4. michaele says:

    We used Tschüss in Baden-Württemberg and Saarland when I was growing up, so it’s not just Bavaria.

  5. Marcel says:

    Actually, since the spelling reform spelling became a lot easier. Not just because of the reformed spelling, but simply because hardly anybody knows now what’s correct and what’s wrong, so in most usages (i.e. not in school) anything goes now…

  6. felixk says:

    Um, shouldn’t that title read, "Ich habe mein Windows (meinen Computer, …) auf Deutsch umgestellt"?

    Even this limps badly, in German; one would probably replace "auf Deutsch" with a separate clause: "Ich habe meinen Computer umgestellt — er spricht jetzt Deutsch." Much more mellifluous.

    As an aside, "zu Deutsch" generally means "in the German language", that is, "translated into German" or "in plain language": "Der Finanzminister sprach von der ‘finanziellen Herausforderung’. Zu Deutsch, die nächste Steuererhöhung ist im Anzug." Even in this context, "zu Deutsch" seems obsolescent to me.



  7. rich says:

    Actually Tschüß is not (just) a southern germany thing. Check out the rocking number "In Hamburg Sagt Man Tschüß" (…das heißt Auf Wiedersehen).

  8. strik says:

    "Tschüß" and "Bilder knipsen" is used in Cologne, too, where I have grown up. Even here, near Magdeburg, where I live now, no one looks at me if I use the one or the other phrase.

    This does not seem to be specific to the Swiss, does it?

  9. Andy says:

    Indeed, Tschüss is very common in Bayern.

    By the way Raymond, why do some languages get translated keyboard shortcuts (such as German) while the others keep the English shortcuts (such as Dutch, where you get "Vet" in Word by pressing ctrl+b, just like the English Office)?

  10. Frankfurter says:

    Tschüss is also the normal thing to say here in Hessen…

  11. Ulli Mueller says:


    "Tschuess" is widely used all over Germany, I grew up in "Nordrhein-Westfalen" (Rheinland) where its use is very common as well.

    Thanks for your writing,


    P.S.: I like the fact that you linked to both http://www.dict.cc and dict.leo.org, two sites that I used heavily throughout the last 10 years. Just FYI, a great client-site solution is Babylon (www.babylon.com).

    P.S.S.: Soon Groove will be available in German and 20+ more languages, very exciting! Tschuess!

  12. rolfhub says:

    I think, both "Tschüß" and "Bilder knipsen" would sound colloquial (but correct) everywhere in germany.

    "Gruß Got" on the other hand is wrong, it would be "Grüß Gott" (with a u-umlaut – the pronunciation between u and ü(u-umlaut) is quite different).

    It’s also noteworthy that "Grüß Gott" is very seldomly used outside of bavaria.

    … but when singing an email, one would write:


    [email text]

    Gruß, Rolf


    (with a simple "u", not a "ü").

    (quite common is also


    [email text]

    MfG, Rolf


    with the meaning MfG = Mit freundlichen Grüßen [with friendly regards])

    And for the ß (sz-ligature): Well, it’s still alive and used everywhere in germany (and also austria i think), but not in switzerland, don’t ask me why. But it still is a valid, official letter, and wasn’t deprecated (some people claim that but -as far as i know- that’s rubbish).

    P.S.: The reformed spelling reform is a major headache for most of us, hardly anybody knows what is correct -right now- because the reform went so chaotic, so don’t be surprised when meeting native speakers that don’t know what’s correct!

  13. Daniel says:

    You should try to change your computer UI into Japanese. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot of kanji, hiragana and katakana symbols. ;-)

  14. Mike Dunn says:

    If you can read katakana, running with the UI in Japanese is doable. Most of the technical terms are just the English words written in katakana.

  15. Since I currently live in Thailand it’s good that I read your blog so that I may know what happens to my own language (Swedish). The scary thing is that yesterday I was just thinking about a program I’m making which involves the Swedish language (among others) if I should let W be a part of the alphabet or not. Now I know! Thanks!

  16. Mats Gefvert says:

    Hmm.. I wonder how long it’ll take database vendors to update their collation sets. Then again, I’m sure most software already sort it as V before W… according to the ASCII table, the way God meant it ;)

  17. A Finn from Finland says:

    To make things a bit more difficult for anybody doing sorting, Finns have always sorted "V"s and "W"s together, too, even though "W" is included the official Finnish alphabet as a separate letter. Interestingly, "Å" (or the "Swedish "O"" as we call it) is also a part of the alphabet, even though there isn’t a single word with that letter (or "grapheme") in the Finnish language (unless you count words such as ångström).

    On German spelling: I believe "ß" should be incorporated into other languages as well. However, that would actually complicate the spelling of words such as the Swedish equivalent of "bus strike": are we supposed to spell it "bußtrejk", "bußstrejk" or perhaps "busßtrejk"?

  18. Stefan Kanthak says:

    Hi Raymond,

    I’d be amused if a chinese looking guy would start talking "switzerdütsch" to me; it’s just unexpected.

    And in fact it took quite some time for me to understand when an engineer from Hongkong whom I met at a University in Shanghai started with "Gruezi". It turned out that he lived for years in Switzerland and knew that the european people at that University were almost all from


    MfG, Stefan

    PS: Have you already learned what "Kellerspeicher" means?

  19. Sven Groot says:

    You should try a Dutch version of Windows. The actual translation for tools in Dutch (gereedschappen) is so long that they named the menu "Extra" instead (which in Dutch is still extra).

    Also, whoever did the Dutch translation of Windows Mobile 5 should be fired, pronto. That product is just full of bad grammar, spelling mistakes, weird abbreviations and even a few translations that are downright wrong, and a fair few give the impression the resource file was translated without looking at the actual program. A nice example is Solitaire. In the English version, the button on the lower rights is labelled "draw" because it draws cards from the stack. In the Dutch version, it’s labelled "tekenen", which indeed means draw but only in the sense of drawing on a piece of paper, it does not have the intended meaning ("trekken" or "omdraaien" would’ve been needed here).

    This kind of thing is all too common, unfortunately. Windows Mobile notwithstanding, MS is usually pretty good at it, programs by others are usually much worse. Which is why with software, just like books, or movies, or anything, I’ll always use the original language (unless I don’t know it). The exception is Office; I do use a Dutch version of Office, because it comes with the Dutch proofing tools. :)

  20. Ray says:

    I lived in Thuringia for a year, and Tschüss or Tschüssi was very common there as well.

  21. Your story reminded me of something very similar I did. Five years ago I bought in Paris, France my first iBook. I stumbled over some fine discount and it turned much cheaper than its price in Croatia, my home country. It came with French OS and I kept it “comme ça “ until my next iBook two years later. Working with it felt perfectly natural even though people kept asking me when will I wipe it and reinstall Croatian or at least English version of Mac OS.

    At my web site, I have a QuickTime that was supposed to promote my application back then, but in reality it shows what grown-up kids like to do when they discover screen capture.

    Anyway, since you seem to have a "thing" for "less popular" languages, maybe you can have a look at Croatian application that has “Aide” menu, “Ouvrir” dialog and French desk accessories under the “Pomme” menu: http://www.delovski.hr/movie01.html

  22. peterchen says:

    >> We used Tschüss in Baden-Württemberg and Saarland when I was growing up, so it’s not just Bavaria.

    Saxony too :)

  23. sasa says:


  24. Henry Boehlert says:


    das Windows- und Office-Deutsch ist nicht besonders gut.

    Ich benutze daher die englischen Windows-Versionen, denn viele Programme richten sich nur nach der System Language und es reicht nicht, die Sprache für den Benutzer auf Deutsch umzustellen.

    Meines Erachtens ist es ohnehin fragwürdig, ob man wirklich alle Programme übersetzen sollte, z.B. Visual Studio. Wenn man kein Englisch kann, ist man damit ohnehin schnell aufgeschmissen.

    Schon allein aus technischen Gründen werden viele Resourcen, insbesondere Status- oder Fehlermeldungen out-of-context und ohne technisches Verständnis übersetzt und daher sind die Texte oft unpassend oder wenigstens umständlich, z.B. "Ordner archivieren" in alten Outlook-Versionen (für "Archive Folders" – Archivordner).

    Auch die Rechtschreib- und Grammatikprüfung in Office ist "unter aller Sau", egal, ob man sich entscheidet, die neue oder die alte Rechtschreibung zu verwenden.

    Die für Knowledge-Base-Artikel teilweise eingesetzte maschinelle Übersetzung produziert gerade für Deutsch im Allgemeinen oft lächerliche und völlig inakzeptable Ergebnisse.

    Zum Deutschlernen scheint mir das also eher ungeeignet.

    Für das Englische habe ich es mir angewöhnt, neue Formulierungen oder Wörter im Internet zu suchen, um herauszufinden, wie verbreitet sie tatsächlich sind. Ich denke, das kann mit Deutsch genausogut funktionieren.

  25. rb says:

    As a sidenote, "Einstellungen" is not only a technical word, but can also mean (at least in its singular form) "attitude". ;-)

  26. Moi says:

    Rolfhub’s right, don’t use Grüß Gott outside Bayern. Try Seàwas (i.e. Servus) instead, and Pfüad Di/Euch/whatever instead of Tschüss.

    Okay, I was joking, those are Bavarian. However the most important Bavarian phrase one needs is "Zupfa!"

  27. Aaargh! says:

    "This kind of thing is all too common, unfortunately. Windows Mobile notwithstanding, MS is usually pretty good at it, programs by others are usually much worse."

    Translations of open source products (like e.g. Firefox) are usually pretty good too. Probably because they are done by real native speakers AND users of the application, instead of by some monkey with a dictionary.

    By the way, why is multi-language support for windows so completely, utterly CRAP ?

    I have e.g. a work PC that has a dutch windows 2000 (not my choice, it was installed when I came to work here). There is no way to switch it to english without re-installing the whole thing. On my Mac at home I can just select one of many languages in my account preferences and everything changes to the selected language, including most applications.

    With windows, there is a separate version for every language, not just the OS, but for almost every application.

  28. Markus says:

    " … half of my dialog boxes were in one language and half were in another. (Well, okay, and the third half was in English. …"

    I like your funny system. It has one and a half UIs. That’s 50% more than any other system I know.

  29. Andreas says:

    Regarding the "Grüß Gott" thing: It always bothers me when people write U instead of Ü.

    It’s really quite simple: If you can’t write ä, ö or ü, then don’t just strip off the Umlaut and write a / o / u.

    Write ae / ue / oe instead. That’s the perfectly correct transcription even Germans use whenever they can’t use Umlauts.

    Also, when you can’t write ß, just use ss and not B.

  30. A Finn from Finland says:

    Andreas’ suggestion of stripping off the Umlauts and writing AE/OE/UE is in line with common practice, but it only works with certain languages such as German. For example, applying the same rule to Finnish will result in a complete mess. I’ve seen some applications that try to convert Umlauts automatically by replacing Ä with AE, Ö with OE and so on. This is bad.

    A few years ago, Finland had a prime minister whose last name was "Jäätteenmäki", which was spelled by certain news outlets – including the BBC – as "Jaeaetteenmaeki". That’s almost unrecognizable and nearly incomprehensible to native speakers of Finnish. This was probably a conscious choice by uninformed editors and not something that was done automatically, though.

    If you can’t use Umlauts in Finnish, just strip them off without any further transformations. This results in incorrect (and often difficult-to-pronounce) spellings, but at least it’s readable.

    However, this approach can also result in potentially embarrassing changes in the meaning of a word. For example, "Näitkö kaveriasi koulussa?" means "Did you see your friend at school?" If you strip off the Umlauts, the meaning changes to (to formulate it nicely) "Did you engage in intercourse with your friend at school?" Similarly, the meaning of "Montako näistä haluat?" changes from "How many of these do you want?" to "How many women do you want?" if you remove the Umlauts.

  31. Michael says:

    "Also, when you can’t write ß, just use ss and not B."

    What’s even more irritating than when people use B for ß is when they use β (lowercase beta).

  32. Mirko says:

    Hi Rolf,

    great misspelling there: "… but when singing an email, one would write…" (Monday, April 24, 2006 12:06 PM by rolfhub)

    We Germans not only have crazy Umlaute but also this habbit of singing our e-mails. Pretty noisy offices but it seems natural – i mean Bach, Beethoven, Bruckner, Bohlen. Hey, they all start with B!

  33. Johnny says:

    As mentioned by quite a few people "Tschüss" is used all over Germany. Interestingly enough, when I was in Berlin two summers ago and hanging out with some locals, I was warned that using "Tschüss" in Switzerland would be viewed as odd, since it is apparently thought of as a children’s greeting. Not sure if anyone can verify that.

  34. Miles Archer says:

    The German greeting that I found funny is "Maltzeit". I could be spelling it wrong as I never saw written. I understand that it literally means "mealtime", but was used anytime.

    This was in an industrial setting near Cologne.

  35. Bernhard says:

    "Tschüss" is pretty seldom used in Switzerland or the Vorarlberg (this is the part of Austria, which is pretty close to Switzerland, and the peopel there talk pretty similar to the Swiss). But this has to do with the dialect of the people there.

    I think the best bet in these areas would be to say "Ciao" (yes, the Italian word) for colloquial use.

    Formal would be "Auf Wiedersehen".

  36. Stefan Kuhr says:


    Knowing that Felix comes from Vienna, Austria, I could imagine that he would say the sentence "Ich habe meinen Computer umgestellt — er spricht jetzt Deutsch." with an ironic smile and with "Wiener Schmäh" (see http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Schm%C3%A4h).  But this is just speculation.

    felixk: Good to hear something from you again :-). I am missing your comments in the MS kernel newsgroup.

  37. Back at the Unicode Conference, after the "Design Principles for A Regional, Multilingual Keyboard" birds-of-a-feather,…

  38. michkap says:

    Andreas, you may want to hold off before you decide what to do with the ‘w’ — the distance between the Swedish Academy and the Swedish people is greater rhan that between the way Finns want to sort and Swedes do….

  39. AC says:

    To Stefan Kuhr: Well I also believed that "gewechselt" implies an act of exchanging something with something else (like he went somewhere, gave to somebody his computer and received another) and that "zu Deutch" also sounds like that the Computer was given to somebody, but then is "gewechselt" unexpected ending of the sentence.

    The question to native Germans: what’s your impression of the "Ich habe meinen Computer zu Deutsch gewechselt"? How correct is that sentence?

    I am not a native speaker of German and I remember the quote from the great book "Three Men on the Bummel" written by Jerome K. Jerome more than 100 years ago (take care when pronouncing the last word as it is a German word) where he writes:

    "Germany being separated so many centuries into a dozen principalities, is unfortunate in possessing a variety of dialects.  Germans from Posen wishful to converse with men of Wurtemburg, have to talk as often as not in French or English; and young ladies who have received an expensive education in Westphalia surprise and disappoint their parents by being unable to understand a word said to them in Mechlenberg."

    "In the course of the century, I am inclined to think that Germany will solve her difficulty in this respect by speaking English."

  40. I wish I’d found your blog a couple days ago. Anyway, I live in Munich and speak fluent Bavarian (and decent German). I’ve also confirmed the following with natives.

    While <i>"Ich habe meinen Computer zu Deutsch gewechselt"</i> is technically correct and everyone would understand you, if you mean to say that you’ve converted your computer <from some.language WHERE $langId!=DE> to the German language interface (MUI?), you’d more likely say, <i>"Ich habe meine Rechner auf deutsch umgestellt."</i>

    In re: Jerome’s musings: Yes and no. Thanks to radio and TV, most Germans can understand each other these days. Some people with very thick dialects (say, deep Bavarian) have trouble understanding others with very thick dialects (e.g., Sächsich, the archetypical/stereotypical East German), but for the most part, the difficulties are few. I still have amusing difficulties ordering a Kaiser roll in any non-Bavarian bakeries but I don’t go hungry.

    I have some code to check now thanks to this Swedish thing.



  41. Stefan Kuhr says:

    AC: Since you asked me: I would fully agree with rolfhub, and Felix’ post ("Ich habe mein … auf Deutsch umgestellt") shows the correct sentence, but since Felix phrased it as a question ("Um, shouldn’t that title read..?") it was probably not clear that that was a rhetorical question.

  42. Stefan Kuhr says:

    After some thinking, two viable alternatives come to my mind:

    "Ich betreibe meinen Recher jetzt in/auf Deutsch" (literally: I am running my computer in German now). This sounds a bit overblown and very, very correct but nevertheless also very sophisticated. No native speaker would even dare to correct you if it were phrased like so.

    "Mein Rechner läuft jetzt in/auf Englisch" (literally: My computer runs in German now). This would sound a bit more like computer techie slang. People like my mum (who has never used a computer) might then ask you: Do computers have a language, can they talk?

  43. rolfhub says:

    Answer to Stefan Kanthak

    > PS: Have you already learned what "Kellerspeicher" means?

    Loooooool, that’s one of the funniest german computer terms i know of, the first time i heared it, i just couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to mean.

    "Keller" normally is the floor in a building below street level (basement), "Speicher" just the opposite (directly under the roof), so it sounds nonsensical.

    Solution: "Speicher" also means memory, and the whole term means just … stack. Just a simple stack (L.I.F.O.).


    Answer to AC

    > The question to native Germans: what’s your impression of the "Ich habe meinen

    > Computer zu Deutsch gewechselt"? How correct is that sentence?

    I think it’s correct, but it sure sounds strange, no native speaker would say it like that. Some alternatives would be:

    "Ich hab meinen Rechner* auf Deutsch umgestellt" [oder "umgeschaltet"]

    "Ich benutze jetzt die deutsche Version von X" [X=Produktname]

    "Ich hab mir das deutsche Sprachpacket** für X installiert" [X=Produktname]

    * most of us don’t say "Computer", but "Rechner" or "PC" or "Mac" (easier to pronounce for us, also shorter).

    ** Many programmes come with english as default language, if you want another one, you install a "Sprachpacket" (language pack).

    > "In the course of the century, I am inclined to think that Germany will solve

    > her difficulty in this respect by speaking English."

    Well, nowadays most of us can speak proper "Hochdeutsch" (official german), but of course many like their local slang better. But we (most of us) try to stick to Hochdeutsch around non-native-speakers. But more and more single english expressions are creeping into everyday language all the time. For example: Computer, TV, Mall, shoppen, Lifestyle, Flatrate, Homepage, Single, Toast/Toaster, Beamer, MP3-player, Notebook/Laptop, Lanparty, Marketing, Show, Placebo, Quiz, Comic, Flatscreen, Scanner, T-Shirt, DJ, Tour, Fastfood, Manager. [Nouns are generally uppercase in ger.]

    False positive: "Handy" ([=cell phone] is a german word, just does not sound like one).


    Answer to Miles Archer

    > The German greeting that I found funny is "Maltzeit". I could be spelling it

    > wrong as I never saw written. I understand that it literally means "mealtime",

    > but was used anytime.

    It’s "Mahlzeit" (mealtime is right), and (apparently) used around high noon (i only know it to be used at mealtime (around high noon). Quite common actually.

  44. Chris Lienert says:

    When studying German at school, I was taught "tschüß" as an informal word with "auf wiedersehen" the formal version. In practice, I’ve found it used all through Germany (at least wherever I’ve visted) and Austria.

    During my last trip to Switzerland, my girlfriend (a French speaker) and I were amazed how much basic French was used in Zürich – particulary "merci". Somehow I actually found the accent a little easier to understand after learning some Italian and French although I’m sure Switzerdütsch will always confuse me.

  45. Stefan Kanthak says:


    you shouldn’t spoil the party, I’d expect Raymond to find out the origin of "Kellerspeicher" himself.

    Unfortunately your deduction is wrong: "Speicher" means "store" in the sense "a place to store things [away]", memory is "Gedächtnis".

    Instead of "Kellerspeicher" also "Stapelspeicher" was/is in use, both being the ORIGINAL words for the concept of the "stack", coined by Prof. Friedrich L. Bauer, Munich, together with Klaus Samelson, who both hold the patent for the "stack".

    See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kellerspeicher for example.



  46. Greg says:

    Here in westward Germany "Mahlzeit" (Mealtime) can be used anytime, be it in the morning, afternoon, night or whatever. It’s just a non-formal greeting like "Hi"

  47. rolfhub says:



    > you shouldn’t spoil the party, I’d expect Raymond to find out the origin of

    > "Kellerspeicher" himself.

    Well, sorry. I won’t do it again.

    Here are two bonus words [in the context of computers] to figure out for him (I won’t give hints):

    - "einkellern"

    - "Haufen"

    > Unfortunately your deduction is wrong: "Speicher" means "store" in the sense

    > "a place to store things [away]"

    Yes, but [at least in my family] it’s quite common to call the floor directly under the roof "Speicher", so for me it’s [or was back then] the opposite of "Keller".

    > memory is "Gedächtnis".

    Yes, but when one refers to the memory of his/her computer, you would translate "memory" to "Speicher" or "Arbeitsspeicher" or "RAM".

    > Instead of "Kellerspeicher" also "Stapelspeicher" was/is in use, both being the

    > ORIGINAL words for the concept of the "stack", coined by Prof. Friedrich L.

    > Bauer, Munich, together with Klaus Samelson, who both hold the patent for the

    > "stack".

    Well, that’s very interesting. So the odd sounding words are actually the original ones, coined by the inventors.

    Also strange that such a simple concept is patentable. I don’t think simple conceps should be patentable at all. But that’s very offtopic now.

    > See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kellerspeicher for example.

    The Wikipedia seemed to be down in the morning, but is up and running again now :-)

    > regards

    > Stefan

    Gruß, Rolf

  48. Hi, Raymond,

    If you like a bit of sarcasm and want to know why the spelling reform is evil, you might want to read Jürgen Langhans’ »Wir schreiben für die, die lesen«: http://www.rechtschreibreform-neindanke.de/dok_hinter_aufsatz.htm

    I hope that many people stick with the old spelling rules. Writing according to the new rules means writing against the reader, rather than for them. That’s what I think, anyway.

    Auf bald,


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