I live in a German speaking country but prefer watching movies/TV shows in English. The biggest reason is, in my opinion, the wrong translation of the word "you". In German there are two possible translations:

  • "Sie": formal, usually used when talking to an adult in a business relation or a child talking to an adult or talking to elderly people. In addition this is mostly combined with the family name: "Sie, Herr Schmied" = "You, Mr. Smith"
  • "Du": informal, between children and friends, though in many companies nowadays also between coworkers. In addition this is mostly combined with the given name. "Du, Michael" = "You, Michael"

In German localizations "Sie" is used most of the time. And this just doesn't make sense to me. Like, I would never use "Sie" on a date or rarely someone at my age (mid 30s) I meet on the street. This was maybe common 50 years ago, but not today. With business customers it somehow is still expected, even if I don't like it. In my experience with communicating with US residents, the family name is rarely used and in emails the given name is used. Maybe I make a wrong link here and using he given name is considered formal in the US.

Is "Sie" the right translation for "you" in informal conversation (in movies/TV shows)?

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    "I would never use "Sie" [for] someone at my age (mid 30s) I meet on the street." - Well, I certainly would. I'd never downright "you" someone I haven't ever met unless it's clearly a minor (or I work in a stupid Apple Store). So this seems quite down to subjective impression. That being said, the question (especially the actual bold part) might be more appropriate for German Language, since it doesn't seem that related to movies & TV at all. – Napoleon Wilson Sep 22 '15 at 12:23
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    Lucky you, I am from a country doesn't speak English too and most of the times someone "presumably" speak my native language, I don't understand anything he's saying, also the tv channels translate it as it's a foreign language so it's not just me who don't understand it if you're wondering – madmada Sep 22 '15 at 12:26
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    @Thomas "But let's say you see a pretty lady and after some eye contact you want to talk to her, would you use "Sie"?" - That highly depends on the situation and the surroundings. But we're digressing, I guess. – Napoleon Wilson Sep 22 '15 at 12:55
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    I've once read that translating English 'you' into languages that have a T-V distinction (a formal grammatical person) is one of the hardest tasks the translators deal with. This is because in many situations it's rather vague whether a formal form should be used or not (and your discussion with Napoleon Wilson seems to confirm that). Additionally sometimes the translator doesn't have the complete information regarding the familiarity of the speakers. Based on that it's not surprising that the translation can often be considered incorrect. – Chanandler Bong Sep 22 '15 at 13:38
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    @Thomas - I'd bet the translator never saw the scene, let alone the full context; it's a job, they do it, they get paid. Also, the original author/actor/director simply never cared how a language with 'little you/big you' differentiation might envisage it - it's hard to imagine something that simply does not exist in your own language/culture. – Tetsujin Sep 23 '15 at 20:12

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