Miscellaneous online queries

A number of discussions have turned up on ProZ recently. I fear they are too complex to make anything sensible out of in the time I have available, but I can at least showcase them.

  1. Adrian MM directed my attention to further or alternatively.

This was some time ago and the query seems to have died the death after I added a comment. The asker had particulars of claim to translate into German:

Further or alternatively, it is averred that it was an implied term of the Contract that payment of the Commission for the Services would be paid within a reasonable period of time.

Further, or alternatively, the Defendant has failed to pay the said invoices.

Further or alternatively, it is averred that the place of performance of the obligation by the Claimant as the commercial agent was its place of domicile namely the Registered Address

I presume this is from England and Wales but am not certain. The averred suggests Scotland to me.

I suppose we are wondering why not simply alternatively? That would be hilfsweise, that is, if the first argument fails then the court may consider the second. This formulation further or alternatively seems to open the option to the court to regard the argument as either additional or alternative. Personally I think that hilfsweise and eventualiter are synonyms so I am not convince by hilfsweise oder eventualiter. But does weiterhin oder hilfsweise make sense?

The suggestion außerdem oder hilfsweise seems to me to be the correct translation. It reflects the English. It may be bad practice in English (I think not), maybe further alternatively was meant, but that’s not what it says. It may not make sense in German civil law (rather a tough area to think about for me) but it’s not German civil law. There is some argument at ProZ that a statement of fact cannot be preceded by hilfsweise, but actually that doesn’t make sense at all.

By the way, it seems there is a blog called Further or Alternatively:

FOA read PPE at Oxford and is now a barrister based in London. “Further or alternatively” is a phrase used by barristers to introduce a new argument that may or may not be consistent with the previous ones: FOA may or may not be consistent with your other reading.

2. More recently, the thorny topic of how to translate i.V., i.A. and ppa. has cropped up.

The asker gives three examples:

I have compiled the following list https://www.proz.com/kudoz/german-to-english/human-resources…

ppa signed by the holder of a general power of attorney
i.A. signed in the absence of the authorised signatory
i.V. signed on behalf of another authorised signatory having the same powers of representation

The context is Commercial Guidelines within a corporate group (Germany). Various types of power of representation are discussed in those guidelines.

The asker’s client wants specific translations commented on by native speakers. The powers of attorney sometimes need to be distinguished from each other.

My feeling is that the kind of definition offered above is the only possibility. We just don’t do this signature stuff in such an anal way in English. Above all, the US or UK use of pp. or ppa. is just not the same. A further problem for translators is that the usage in German is not reliable – although as this is a question on behalf of one specific customer it would be possible to unify it. And most of the time we don’t linger on the specific legal relationship between writer and signatory, though admittedly it may become important in some circumstances.

3. Spagatkrapfen – well, I really must get on with my own translation which has nothing to do with food! Spagatkrapfen is a kind of Austrian cake which I understand to consist of flaky pastry shaped on a metal contraption and deep-fried, creating two halves which are sandwiched together with cream and jam. I cannot call this a doughnut or a cruller (yeast dough) or even a cream horn (which looks very similar but is not in two halves and is baked rather than fried). A colleague suggests the French bugnes but it seems their dough is also not pastry, though they are deep-fried (thanks, Claire).

Bundesrat in English

The Bundesrat, sometimes called the Federal Council, Germany’s second house of parliament, has published texts describing itself in French and English. They can be downloaded as PDFs but are also available as small pocketable booklets.

Der Bundesrat (German)

The Bundesrat (English)

Le Bundesrat (French)

This came up on twitter yesterday and I wondered what its purpose was. I don’t know what its dissemination is either. I do know a similar booklet by the Bundesverfassungsgericht, similarly with a description of the building and artworks, though that may be largely online now. But do English- and French-speaking people visit the Bundesrat? What do I know?

In fact I then accidentally discovered that there is a Bundesrat app – in German though. So this booklet calls the Länder federal states but has to crosslink to “Länder” in the app.

We have argued about “federal state” in the past – is Germany not a federal state? then it can’t contain sixteen federal states, and in fact the text does get tied up in this connection. But I think it’s become standard and is understood. I am usually asked to write Land and Länder in British English texts, which would make the following sentence clearer.

The federal states participate in shaping federal legislation through the Bundesrat. 

I am not going to take time to analyse the translation in depth. I just skimmed it. It is very good English, a bit literal (perhaps non-native?) – a bit heavy reading, as is the German – the text is descriptive rather than analytical and probably intended for schools. I wondered if the following was a dig at the House of Commons (it comes up again later):

. Their debates are very fact-oriented – loud interjections or applause are rarely heard.

I did find a Germanism, apparently not in the German original but perhaps in an earlier version – my emphasis:

Mitglieder sind die Ministerpräsidentinnen und ­präsidenten und die Ministerinnen und Minister der Länder beziehungs­weise die Bürgermeisterinnen und Bürgermeister sowie Senatorinnen und Senatoren der Stadtstaaten.

The Bundesrat is made up of the Minister Presidents and ministers from the federal states, along with their pendants in the city states, the mayors and senators.

I imagine the translation is American English. I have never understood federal bills as a translation of Bundesgesetze – to me, a bill is a draft – but I suppose it’s US.

Zustimmungsgesetz – an Act of the Bundestag requiring the consent of the Bundesrat – is strangely abbreviated as consent law.

I do wonder whether the title of the brochure, “16 Länder – Ein Ergebnis” translated as “16 Federal States – one conclusion” is right. Maybe “one result”?

Thanks to Charles Eddy.

Does Facebook speak German?

The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) had to decide whether German documents served on Facebook in Ireland had to be in English, the local language. Facebook refused to accept documents. The court decided that although an individual who could not speak German might have been able to require a translation, a big company like Facebook certainly had employees who could handle German law and indeed it had a German-language website.

Decision in German.

There is an excellent blog post on the case in English on Peter Bert’s weblog Dispute Resolution in Germany. I don’t think I’ve seen this blog before and it’s very interesting.

Back in December 2019, the headline to my post on that very topic still had a question mark: “Does Facebook speak German?” I had reported on what appeared to be only the second decision by a German court of appeals (Oberlandesgericht) on the issue whether Facebook Ireland, the legal entity operating Facebook’s German activities, is entitled to refuse service of German-language court documents under Article 8 of the European Service Regulation.*

I concluded by saying that the Munich order contributed to what German lawyers love to refer to as “prevailing jurisprudence” (herrschende Rechtsprechung) or “prevailing opinion” (herrschende Meinung): Facebook does understand German. This recent decision of the Court of Appeals in Düsseldorf does confirm this conclusion: The headline of the court’s press release yesterday read “Facebook kann Deutsch” – Facebook does speak German. The court held in a ruling concerning a cost application that Facebook cannot insist on a translation of German documents into English.

I want to comment on some of the terminology choices made here. The first one is to translate Beschluss as order. This is common and I have certainly had to do it in the past because a client insisted. Here is a definition from Juraforum:

Der Beschluss ist zu unterscheiden von anderen gerichtlichen Entscheidungen, zu denen das Urteil und die Verfügung zählen. Er ist vor allem dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass er keinen Tatbestand (Sachverhalt) und keine Entscheidungsgründe enthält. Somit beinhaltet er nur den Tenor der Entscheidung und ist daher in der Praxis bei Richtern sehr beliebt.

To my mind a Beschluss is a decision or ruling. It is a kind of decision. It does not set out the facts or give the reasons for the decision but just contains the operative part of the decision. I don’t think that can be conveyed in one word in English, and the context is not usually such that a detailed definition is needed. Maybe there is some usage of order in English that I have missed?

Another point I would simply disagree with is the use of jurisprudence for Rechtsprechung. Rechtsprechung means court decisions or case law. Jurisprudence means legal theory. I think that to refer to case law as jurisprudence is a gallicism.

Year-end notes 3

Arson

Continuing the topic of the dangers of New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany, it’s been reported that a fire started by some kind of fireworks at Krefeld Zoo burnt down the Monkey House and killed about 30 animals, including orang-utans, gorillas and a chimpanzee (two chimpanzees survived).

The later reports say that the fire was started by three women, a 60-year-old woman from Krefeld and her two daughters, who have handed themselves in. They set off sky lanterns (Himmelslaternen) which they had bought on the internet. They didn’t know these were banned. They handed themselves in and face a potential penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

The offence is described in the UK press as negligent arson. Perhaps one might say ‘starting a fire by negligence’, since the word ‘arson’ in English usage and law really suggests deliberate action. I have lose my copy of Bohlander’s Principles of Criminal Law, despite it being one of my go-to books, so all I have is a photocopy of the very old book on Criminal Law by E. J. Cohn – still very useful, even though the law has changed a bit since then.

Lighting sky lanterns has been forbidden (verboten) since 2009. But they can be bought. It seems a matter for the Länder to each decide whether they may be used with a permit. Their danger is that once lit, the person releasing them cannot control where they fly (depends on wind and other factors) or how long they burn, unlike in the case of a rocket. Unheilsbringer Himmelslaterne: Verboten, aber im Verkauf.

Year-end notes 2

I have a large numnber of topics I could blog about if I put more research effort into them.

  1. Lübeck führt den “Gender:Doppelpunkt” ein

I haven’t even touched on the Gender-Sternchen.

I received a query as to whether authorities consider the effect of their decisions on segmentation of texts for translation memory sofrware: people will have to stop recommending sentences being split at a colon (I don’t do that anyway – and surely we must decry the lack of colon usage?).

„Spätestens seit dem Urteil des Bundesgerichtshofes, das das Recht auf Anerkennung eines dritten Geschlechts bestätigt und zu neuen gesetzlichen Änderungen führte, besteht auch für die Verwaltung der Hansestadt LübeckHandlungsbedarf“, sagte Lindenau weiter. Als „tolerante und offene Stadt“ müsse Lübeck „diskriminierungsfrei kommunizieren“.

This is later than the ‘Binnen-I’ and I dare scarcely blog on it without greater research. I know I had to translate a job ad for ‘m/w/d’ (männlich/weiblich/divers) and may have used m/w/x. I have only seen the term Latinx this week, but then I am not used to writing Latina or Latino.

Anyway, here is a discussion about it on ProZ, which is usually good for discussions. I don’t agree with the chosen solution, but that is usually the case. Links given too.

2. Using OCR

If I use OCR, e.g. Abbyy FineReader, to convert scans to readable text, the symbols/logos/stamps on the original document can easily appear in their full glory on the resulting text. Some translators of documents even use these original graphic elements to embellish their translations. I don’t like this. I think a translation should consist of text, and if a logo has a meaning, you explain that meaning, for example (using square brackets, which I can’t find) (stamp), (logo). Anything else is not a translation, and it may create a false impression of what your document is.

This topic came up recently on a translators’ forum where a client had complained that a certified translation of her document was not in colour. That seems a bit odd. In that connection, a few colleagues advocated using first-class paper, high-quality printing and reproduction of original graphic elements. I was shocked!

See earlier post on the form of certified translations, and Richard Schneider (with photos) Von Schuppen und Ösen.

3. New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany.

Bilanz der Silvesternacht in Berlin

Das Berliner Unfallkrankenhaus hat in der Silvesternacht 15 Menschen mit schweren Verletzungen durch Böller oder Raketen behandelt. Dazu zählten in mehreren Fällen schwerste Verbrennungen, wie eine Kliniksprecherin am Neujahrsmorgen sagte. Mehrfach waren durch Explosionen Finger abgetrennt worden, in einem Fall die ganze Hand. Unter den Schwerverletzten waren auch vier Kinder unter zehn Jahren.

Auf Twitter teilte die Klinik mit: “Erfahrungsgemäß werden aber noch etliche Verletzte mit #boellerschmerz am Neujahrstag erwartet. Besonders wenn es weiterhin keinen Regen gibt und die nicht gezündeten Sprengkörper trocken bleiben.”

Pictures of the aftermath. It is ages since I have been to an inner-city area on December 31st, alas. I know it is dangerous, but I enjoyed it. People firing rockets from balconies. Huge batteries of dead cardboard tubes lying around the next morning, though I recall the council clean-up was very prompt. There are always serious injuries.

It isn’t like that in the UK. One hears fireworks being let off more frequently – for instance, not only on November 5th but for Diwali, shortly before. And increasingly at New Year.

It seems that Germans make up for their orderliness the rest of the year in these 24 hours. Is it an offence to let off fireworks a day or two earlier or later? The Guardian considers the problem:

We don’t want to spoil the fun – New Year firework displays divide Germans

By law, Germans are only allowed to set off fireworks between 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 7am on 1 January. Up to €200m (£180m) is spent on fireworks mainly for personal use, according to Germany’s environment agency.

“It is the only time of the year – for just a few hours – when I feel really free and able to make as much noise as I like, with no one telling me what to do,” says Leonard Schneider, a 21-year-old maintenance technician from Cologne.

I presume Bleigießen is still permitted, but of course you can use wax instead.

Year-end notes

This blog is still alive, despite appearances.

At the moment I am aspiring to downsize, and I am looking through masses of old papers that I either throw away, keep or scan and save (the tidier way to forget about them). Unfortunately I really need to look at everything to make sure I don’t overlook something important.

So here is the beginning of a miscellany:

  1. This typewritten notice was in a folder marked ‘Personal’.

Sehr geehrter Kraftfahrer,

Sie parken o h n e B e r e c h t i g u n g auf einem PRIVATPARKPLATZ.

Wir teilen Ihnen mit, daß wir beim nächsten Verstoß den Halter des Fahrzeuges wegen HAUSFRIEDENSBRUCH bei der Staatsanwaltschaft anzeigen werden und weiterhin UNTERLASSUNGSKLAGE beim Amtsgericht Nürnberg wegen vorsätzlicher EIGENTUMSSTÖRUNG erheben werden.

Hochachtungsvoll

i.A. (signature)
für den Eigentümer

Nürnberg, den 9.9.88

Goodness, I thought to myself, this German behaviour would shock some of the residents of Cranham and Upminster who are always discussing parking tickets on Facebook.

But then I remembered: I went with students to watch a trial at the Landgericht in Nuremberg (that’s the building where the war crimes trials took place) and one of them could only find a parking place a bit outside the others. He saw no signs indicating parking was forbidden, but when he went back to his car he found this notice on it. I think it was only the next day that he went to complain at the court and explain how careful he’d been. It turned out that there was a running gag between public prosecutors and lawyers and the former had thought my student was a lawyer. As soon as they realized their mistake, the ticket was withdrawn.

2. An old ad for accounting software called Account-Ability. Picture of Reagan, as a puppet. US heading: ‘With Account-Ability anyone can do your accounts.’ German heading: ‘Wir wissen nicht, was dieser freundliche Politiker empfiehlt…’

Machine Translation and legal texts

Fabio Said has a good summary of the BDÜ conference last week – which I did not attend. – with an emphasis on the presentations dealing with legal translation.

Patrik Mustu, he reports, presented on English-to-German machine translation of legal texts, giving examples of places where DeepL was not precise enough. On the screen behind Mustu one can see the parties hereto rendered in various ways, for example die Parteien hierzu, and the best solution, die Vertragsparteien, which DeepL presumably did not deliver.

Translators are increasingly using DeepL – it’s possible to use the Pro version, which means your private texts are not imported by DeepL – but they need post-editing. This is all a bit outside my current experience but needs keeping an eye on.

In the old days, when MT was rule-based and not statistical, it was recommended to use an MT program in-house and adapt it to one’s texts. Can this be done now with problem terms mentioned (damages, equity, quantum meruit)? Just wondering.

Toque

I find the word toque useful in Scrabble (as is roque).

Toque is a French lawyer’s hat, though. It now refers to the lawyer’s ‘letterbox’ at court, which used to be a pigeonhole to put the hat in – similar to the German Gerichtsfach – did those once hold hats too? (Take this with a pinch of salt, as I don’t do French law).

La Toque

Here is a picture of toques.

I’ve been thinking of this after reading the Guardian’s recap of the series Spiral (Engrenages), and in particular the comments. The recap article specifically refers to the commenter auroreboréalis, who is very informative on the law. Here, for example, most recently, on whether Joséphine Karlsson could become a juge d’ìnstruction:

There are 4 different types of passerelles (access routes between professions/occupations) between the profession of avocat and juge d’instruction, depending on your situation, age, years of experience, previous studies etc. It’s all detailed here: Avocat, magistrat, huissier, notaire… les différentes passerelles entre les métiers du droit and here)….

The comments are an excellent aid to watching or rewatching the series.

George Skeggs

Time for some local trivia again. In August I was at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and unfortunately I did not have my camera in my hand when I saw this gentleman rushing up the stairs in my direction – I only saw the crown of his hat, the shoulders of his suit and his cream chrysanthemum (I think) buttonhole. I managed to get a shot of him shortly afterwards but he was moving very fast so I could not imagine getting him to set up the photo again. Not many people make a good photo from the bird’s eye view.

George Skeggs, as I later discovered

More recently, I have learnt (from the Web) that this is George Skeggs and so I may see him again at more leisure.

George Skeggs, more commonly known – although there’s nothing even remotely common about him – as ‘Soho George’ is one of the last true Soho legends. Self-described as a ‘heterosexual Cockney artist, Hogarthian rake loves individuality,style, sleeps in front of a mirror, ex-gigolo old man held together with polygrip & rubber bands’, George has more style in his big toe than most of us will ever have in our entire lifetimes. Not only possessed of a unique and sophisticated elegance, he’s also a brilliant surrealist artist and chronicler of the history of Soho on twitter @SohoGeorge.