German am/pm: German strings or English AM/PM?


CLDR 32 Survey Tool input changed a few of the German am/pm strings from German abbreviations for "before noon" and "afternoon" to English AM/PM. This was done inconsistently, and was controversial, so for stability it was reverted in 32.0.1 (), and this follow-up ticket is for reconsidering the issue.

Written German uses 24-hour time.

Spoken German uses 12-hour time with multiple day periods.

CLDR does always provide am/pm strings even if they are not commonly used in the language, so that software that explicitly selects 12h am/pm time format anyway can use understandable strings.

The long-standing German am/pm strings "vorm." and "nachm." were chosen as approximations: They are understandable, but they sound odd when they are not a good match for the time (e.g., 10 at night). The later additions of narrow "vm." and "nm." strings are more obscure.

Many German speakers know English and are likely to recognize AM/PM, but they would recognize them as Englishisms in a German UI.

On one hand, we can provide native strings as much as possible, even for formatting choices that are uncommon in the language, resulting in strings that are not "right" in all uses.

On the other hand, the argument has been made that users who //choose// a German UI with 12-hour am/pm format are not native German speakers and are likely to be more satisfied with English AM/PM strings.

(Has this argument of choosing other-language strings for uncommon formats been used before for CLDR?)






May 9, 2019, 9:39 PM
Trac Comment 6 by perske@637f3e82d0bee6e1—2018-03-29T14:28:56.513Z


Being a German myself, I completely disagree with using AM/PM.
Not all people in Germany speak English, especially in the former GDR.

If you see a need to change the current aprroximations, then use better ones:

"vorm." ("vormittags") can be used about 4 hours a day, from about 8 PM to noon.
(Please let's not argue about one hour more or less.)

But all the time from midnight to noon, using "morgens" is absolutly correct and in common use,
no matter whether "1 Uhr morgens" or "11 Uhr morgens".
So if you want to change it, use "morgens" in place of "vormittags", it covers the complete period.

"nachm." ("nachmittags") also covers about 4 hours a day, from about 2 PM to about 6 PM.
Unfortunately there is no German word covering the complete time from noon to midnight.
"abends" covers a much longer time, it is in common use for all the time from about 4 PM to midnight.

So I propose "morgens" and "abends" as the best approximations I can find;
only from noon to about 4 PM (i.e. 4 out of 24 hours) they do not reflect common usage.

I would not mind if you keep the current "vorm."/"nachm.".
But only technophile people could find AM/PM acceptable.

May 9, 2019, 9:39 PM
Trac Comment 8 by —2018-04-18T16:05:26.200Z

Mark to make these German AM/PM fields as high bar for changes

May 9, 2019, 9:39 PM
Trac Comment 9 by —2018-05-08T23:12:34.634Z

CLDR 33.1 is coming up fast...

May 9, 2019, 9:39 PM
Trac Comment 10 by —2018-05-10T15:29:31.392Z

Discussed in CLDR TC on April 18, 2018 including German native speakers from participating companies. Conclusion was to use “AM”/ “PM” for 12hr systems. Various aspects were considered including German default being 24hr system and the exposure of "AM/PM" to those users who choose to use the 12hr system in German.
This check-in reflects this TC decision.




Kristi Lee


Markus Scherer


Peter Edberg




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