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It may seem like an obvious question, but having never been to Germany I wouldn’t know. What is the most ‘native’ (for lack of a better word) way of saying computer science as in a school subject. My teacher says either:

Computer-Studien
Computer-Wissenschaft

But I have also seen:

Informatik (which I thought to be Information Technology )

What is the more ‘German’ way of saying this?

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When you say school, is that American for uni? ;) –  Carsten Schultz Mar 13 at 20:35
    
@CarstenSchultz I don't know if it makes a differnece but no I'm talking about the GCSE subject ;) –  Harvey Mar 13 at 21:04
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I was only asking because of the answer by @PortreeKid. At German schools they sometimes recognise that what they teach is not really computer science yet and hence call it something else. –  Carsten Schultz Mar 13 at 21:25
    
Very true. Currently, we haven't really entered the science part of the course. It's more of a branch of ICT than a science. I suppose it makes sense that the German is Informatik as opposed to computer Wissenschaft then! –  Harvey Mar 13 at 22:20
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@Harvey Du könntest bessere Antworten kriegen, wenn Du auf Abkürzungen wie ICT und GCSE verzichten würdest. –  Robert Mar 14 at 4:25

7 Answers 7

up vote 24 down vote accepted

To the best of my knowledge, Informatik would be the correct term. It translates more closely to science of information than information technology.

This is also how google translates the word and what the German version of the "computer science" wikipedia page returns: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informatik

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Yes, Informatik is what this field of study is called at universities. See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_science#Name_of_the_field –  Carsten Schultz Mar 13 at 20:30
    
Ah I see! Since age 11 I have been taught that Informatik is ICT. –  Harvey Mar 13 at 21:03
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Related: Note that "information science" would be "Informationswissenschaft". –  unor Mar 13 at 21:26
    
See also here: inf.ethz.ch/de. It's used as the name of the computer science department of one of Europe's most renowned technical universities. –  PMF Mar 14 at 7:48
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See also here. One should also keep in mind that Informatik has more or less detached from its real and perceived etymology. –  Wrzlprmft Mar 14 at 9:18

I can sign all of the above, that picked Informatik. As a native speaker maybe it is not semantically the best word, but it certainly is the one being well spread and understood by the general public

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As explained in other answers, "Informatik" is the only term used in universities and by professionals. Journalists tend to use "Computerwissenschaft" as a literal translation of "computer science." As journalists tend to be more influential on everyday language than computer scientists, it's possible that the latter term gains more widespread usage in the coming years.

A related term is "engineer", which in English also includes e.g. software engineers. In Germany "Ingenieur" is a term protected by law that applies to e.g. electrical or mechanical engineering, but never to "computer engineering." The English term "engineer" has a much broader meaning and is not directly translatable. Somebody who has studied computer science and works in the computer industry might call themselves "Informatiker" or "Softwareentwickler", but never "Softwareingenieur" or "Ingenieur"; that might even be a criminal offense unless they actually have a degree in engineering. It goes without saying that this distinction is generally neglected by journalists as well; for them, the people working at Facebook are also "Ingenieure."

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+1 , I'd like to add that in Switzerland, "Softwareingenieur" is a term I often hear in an academic context (I have studied software engineering). "Ingenieur" is definitely not related to computer science. –  Mathias Müller Mar 15 at 22:17
    
Mistranslations will always pop up, but from a bit of Googling I could see little evidence that journalists tend to write Computerwissenschaft. However, that term has twice shown up in texts from Graz, I wonder what is up with that. –  Carsten Schultz Mar 16 at 11:04

In school the subject has different names depending on the state. Examples are TC (Technik/Computer) in Saxony (Lehrplan Sachsen) and Informatik (Lehrplan Bayern) in Bavaria.

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Just to emphasize on what has been said before: Informatik is the subject that is taught at German Universities, normally consisting of algorithms, data structures, software design paradigms, software engineering, databases, expert systems, data communication, operating systems, formal languages + automata, complexity, compiler construction, etc.

When you are looking for a software designer in Germany you would be looking for a Informatiker or Diplom-Informatiker.

Some funny people, especially journalists, seem to actually start using the word Computerwissenschaften when translating Computer Science into German. I doesn't have a well defined meaning in German.

Further, since computers became a hype, people like to jump on the Informatik train, therefore you have things like Fach-Informatik (Fach-Informatik is to Informatik what a mechanic is to a mechanical engineer), and Informationstechnologie (which is often more electrical engineering plus software engineering). I claim neither is what you call Computer Science.

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From your descriptions, Informatik definitely sounds like the correct term for what we call 'computer science' in the U.S., at least in regards to the academic field. 'Fach-Informatic' sounds like what we call 'Information Technology' and 'Informationstechnologie' sounds like what we call 'Computer Engineering.' –  reirab Mar 15 at 2:58
    
Regarding Fach-Informatik in relation to Informatik: that's more like engineering to physics, and the mechanic similar to Systemadministrator (sysadmin). –  Volker Siegel Jul 25 at 14:11

Actually, "Computer-Studien" is downright wrong1, "Computer-Wissenschaften" is weird and would only be acceptable if it's not hyphenated ("Computerwissenschaft").

The correct term for general usage is "Informatik", "Computerwissenschaft" is also appropriate in an academic context. I suggest you inform your German teacher about this.


1 wrong in the sense that its meaning is entirely different. "Computer-Studien" would mean something like: studies or surveys that are concerned with computers.

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As a native german speaker: "Informatik" is definitely the most native expression, used from school projects to university-level education.

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