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A friend of mine has asked me to translate a few phrases from English into Russian for a mobile app he's developing. Like many other mobile app developers, he wants to strike a friendly, informal tone with users, and I want this to be reflected in translation. So if I have phrases like "You've received a message from X," or "I've created this song for you," would вы come off as too formal, or is ты too informal? Just trying to get a better sense of this nuance within the context of mobile apps.

Thanks!

  • How about being indirect, e.g., текст получился от...? – KCd Sep 29 '14 at 17:37
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    @KCd: you mean "текст получен", "текст получился" is not correct – kotlomoy Sep 29 '14 at 17:49
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    @Kcd: That would be получено сообщение от .... Unlike English, Russian word for "text" does not mean "a short message". Adding the reflexive particle to получить makes another word meaning "to come out" (текст получился очень хорошим means "this text came out very good"). Finally, "message" is the comment here, not topic, so you put it after the topic. – Quassnoi Sep 29 '14 at 18:21
  • Thanks for the corrections. I wasn't sure what the right term for text was in that context. Now I do. – KCd Sep 30 '14 at 4:43
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Ты is never used by computer applications (except maybe some roleplaying games where a character can be called "ты", depending on circumstances). If such a system will be written by a native English speaker, users would think that he doesn't know the difference between ты and вы.

So don't use "ты" unless the application is either designed for children, or is a hobbyist program written by a teenager for his/her peers.

Besides, there is a problem with a correct gender of verbs: "You've received a message from X" is "Tы получил сообщение от X" for a male but "Tы получила сообщение от X" for a female. With "вы", both are "вы получили сообщение от Х".

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  • One note - you should use "Вы" (first letter is capital) instead "вы" because "Вы" is polite form of you for one person, "вы" is you for many persons. It is really discussion question, but someone can say "вы" for one person is wrong – aknew Oct 2 '14 at 7:09
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    Capital Вы is required in formal documents or when the writer wants to show exceptional respect to the reader. In should not, and does not, exist in computer applications, because a diagnostic message is not an official text, and the programmer doesn't know who is going to read the message, and it is absurd to show an exceptional respect to an unknown person. – user31264 Oct 4 '14 at 10:38
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  1. One way to translate these strings would be using вы, as suggested by user31264. It could be seen as informal if you put it in the right setting.

I've created this song for you
Мы создали для вас новую песню – neutral/formal
Хотите послушать новую песню? – informal/friendly [хотите = вы хотите]

  1. The other way would be to completely rephrase the strings to omit the pronoun of address altogether. This will make the tone more friendly. For example:

You've received a message from X
Вы получили сообщение от Х – neutral/formal
Новое сообщение от Х! – informal/friendly

For successful localization you can combine both "вы" and rephrasing.

  1. Finally, I wouldn't recommend using passive voice (e.g. "Создана новая песня") because it doesn't contribute to the friendliness. The passive voice is mostly used in official papers and makes the text very cold and impersonal.

Hope this helps!

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If you're afraid of [in]formalism - you can tro to translate in other way, e.g. "Получено сообщение от X" (You've received a message from X) or "Создана новая песня" (New song created)

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    Impersonate forms are the way to go. Your app is not human and it should not pretend like it talks to you. – alamar Sep 30 '14 at 12:44
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I would use dative constructs like Вам письмо or Вам от меня песенка.

They sound quite informal without being too familiar.

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  • Formal addressing to a user with mildly informal descriptions of events happening might indeed be better than just impersonate forms or simple informal addressing. – lexxtb Sep 30 '14 at 13:58
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I remember, Skype once was addressing user на „ты“ in dialogues, webpages and even in EULA, i. e. in official agreement, which is absolutely out of place.

There were few discussions over the Runet showing perplexity of users, and now it seems to be fixed.

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"Ты" usually is too informal for application, not oriented to children or teens. Use "вы" or impersonal forms like "Получено сообщение от X"

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