German Civil Code – annotated translation in the pipeline

In a recent mailing list discussion, a colleague queried the online translation of the German Civil Code, because they thought that ‘charge’ meant to charge a person with a criminal offence, whereas in the context used, it meant ‘encumber’ – quite correctly. This is a good illustration of the uncertainty of some translators when faced with legal texts!

There are a large number of translations of statutes into English available online, many of them ‘official’, whatever that means. Whether they have serious problems or not I usually only notice if I happen to be dealing with a specific part of a statute and especially if Iwant to use the terminology of the translation so my customer can consult the whole thing. I have definitely recorded complaints about some of these translations, as readers of this blog will know.

It seems to me that a particular problem with the Civil Code is that a lot of vocabulary is used consistently throughout, even where in everyday German one might vary it. I think the verbs relating to real and personal property are the same, for example. But many translators simply find a translation and follow it slavishly without considering its reliability (because they aren’t in a position to judge it). But a translation into English that closely follows the German wording may not work as well as a more discursive one.

That’s when I pointed out that a really useful BGB translation would have footnotes.

Now it seems that Professor Gerhard Dannemann and Reiner Schulze are publishing such a version.

. It should be out in July and will cost 280 euros. Intended for German and British lawyers.

In its first edition, this article-by-article commentary covers books 1 to 3 of the code, i. e. General Part, Law of Obligations, Law of Things. The commentary takes into account all the changes up to December 2018 and provides a consolidated version of the BGB.
The commentary of each article is headed by the current version of the article both in the German original and an English translation followed by a clearly and uniformly structured analysis of the provision. Focus is laid on the understanding of the meaning of the provision in the context of the code and the proper use of the terminology both in German and English. As the meaning of the BGB does not always follow from the wording of its provisions, especially if translated into another language, they need further explanation. Taking into account the origin of the BGB in 19th century Germany and the difficulties inherent in any legal translation, the proper use of terminology is the real challenge of the commentary.
Facing this challenge, the commentary meets the expectations both of German and foreign lawyers by providing the proper terminology and explanation in English to lawyers and translators and by offering a systematic overview on the BGB to lawyers who are not very familiar with the German civil law.

Professor Dannemann is responsible for the German Law Archive site and there are some bilingual BGB translations there.

ISO 20771 Legal translation – Requirements

There is a new standard for legal translation. I am not interested in acquiring a standard, in particular this one, but I do think it’s interesting what the committee who prepared the standard thought about legal translators.

It’s for individual legal translators but it seems the ATC (Association of Translation Companies) is considering selling packages to help people apply.

The new standard for individual legal translators has been widely reported. Legal translators are wondering if they will feel obliged to have it, what it will cost them in time and money, whether clients will require it and so on. I followed a webinar by the ATC on it. I honestly can’t see this standard going anywhere. The German authorities aren’t going to adopt it because they think that ISO 10771 with an appendix suffices.

The document can be bought for CHF 118 from iso.org. It can be bought as a PDF and downloaded.

Background can be found at Slator: Germany Rejects ISO Standard for Legal Translation, Experts Defend ISO Standard for Legal Translation.

So,I will pick out just a few things: There are definitions, incidentally, of check (source and target language, by the translator), revision (source and target language, by the reviser), review (only target language) and proofread (target language). Those are terms often confused. (Presumably dealt with in the earlier ISO for translators, 10771).

There are also definitions of authorized legal translator and lawyer linguist.

An authorized legal translator would include what is sometimes called a sworn translator in Germany. There are a number of terms used by the various Länder. So this is useful.

Note 1 to entry: Court or government body authorization is generally given on the basis of relevant national legislation, to translate specific documents used in judicial settings, by public authorities or as part of legal proceedings and to take part in legal proceedings in the capacity of an authorized legal translator.

Note 2 to entry: Depending on the national legislation or convention, an authorized legal translator may in some countries or regions also be referred to as a court-appointed translator, sworn translator, court authorized legal translator or a certified legal translator.

A lawyer linguist in this context sounds here like the way I have always understood it – a lawyer with language skills who makes a legal contribution to international legislation, for instance in the EU. Maybe not a practising lawyer, but there as a lawyer rather than a translator, in the main. Some of my colleagues who are qualified lawyers and translators and work as freelances call themselves lawyer linguists, I think to emphasize the fact that they are lawyers, which always impresses clients (as I know to my advantage), not that being a qualified lawyer makes you a competent translator.

person with legal background and linguistic competence who provides legislative linguistic advice

Note 1 to entry: The lawyer linguist can also provide advice within the context of bilingual or multilingual co-drafted legislation, and comparison services to ensure equivalency and consistency between different language versions of legislation.

Note 2 to entry: Depending on the custom or convention a lawyer linguist can in some countries or regions also be referred to as jurilinguist.

Note 3 to entry: A lawyer linguist can, from time to time, also translate, revise or review legal texts, provide advice on legal terminology, legal analysis, etc. 

 There follows a general description of legal translation. It looks rather inflated to me, or rather, the description would apply equally to technical, economics, medical or much other translation:

Given the highly specialist field, potential legal consequences of mistranslation, and formal and liability issues, legal translation requires specific competences and qualifications and a very professional approach from the specialist translators involved in providing the legal translation service. 

5.2 sets out the required qualifications. There are five possibilities of meeting the criteria. Most require at least three years’ experience in translating in the legal field. However, the last does not:

has obtained an officially recognized qualification as an authorized legal translator on the basis of relevant national requirements and regulations.

I am a sworn translator for the Bavarian courts, so presumably I would qualify even if I did not fit the other categories (not quite sure I do, as I have a Ph.D. in German and am qualified as a solicitor). But a person with this qualification, at the time I did it, did not have to have law as their special subject. The only nod towards work for the courts for translators whose main subject was technical or economics translation, for example, was a sort of gap-filling paper on the terminology of the German courts.

I’m skipping over large amounts of definitions of what legal translation consists of and all the stages the individual legal translator is responsible for.

One issue which has been questioned among translators relates to ‘signing off’.

6.7 Signing off and record keeping

In order to ensure full transparency and traceability when the translation is completed, even if there is no formal authorization requirement, the legal translator should sign off the translation as part of the deliverable in a manner agreed previously with the client or required by any other relevant agreements. This may, depending on the specific requirements or convention, include: electronic signature, signing or coding the document, file or TM segments, etc. If required to do so by the client, circumstances or appropriate agreements, the legal translator should provide a short written statement of the translator’s and the reviser’s qualifications, compliance of the translation with the relevant legal requirement and the source text.

NOTE Signing off and record keeping of legal translations can also be covered by regulations.

This seems a bit heavy but in its simplest form it is similar to the stamp and formula added to a certified German translation. It seems to me that the most important element of that is that the trnaslator is identified and can be traced.

Man penalized for farting at police in Vienna

This document is the Austrian equivalent of the German Strafbefehl. It is part of the Austrian Mandatsverfahren (German Strafbefehlsverfahren).

Mandatsverfahren: Muhr/Peinhopf Wörterbuch rechtsterminologischer Unterschiede Österreich-Deutschland offer the translation mandating procedure.

That is a weird translation.

The story came to my attention because it was widely reported, originally in Österreich, then in Der Standard, in a joky way, and thereafter in the New York Times and The Guardian.

Sie haben den öffentlichen Anstand verletzt, indem Sie vor Polizeibeamten laut einen Darmwind haben entweichen lassen.

You offended public decency by loudly breaking wind in the presence of police officers.

The newspaper articles are classic examples of wordplay. Wikpedia too has articles on Blähung and Flatulence, and on Blowing a raspberry – apparently the latter went into US usage despite their lack of rhyming slang.

Der Standard:

Ein Wiener muss für einen “lauten Darmwind” vor einem Polizisten 500 Euro Strafe zahlen. Wie die Tageszeitung “Österreich” online berichtet, soll sich der Vorfall in der Nacht des 5. Juni in Wien-Josefstadt zugetragen haben. Die Polizei sprach auf Twitter von “voller Absicht”. “Und anfurzen lassen sich die Kollegen dann doch eher ungern.”

The Guardian:

A man in Vienna has been fined €500 (£447) for breaking wind loudly in front of police in a move the Austrian capital’s police force was at pains to defend.

The Österreich newspaper reported that the penalty stemmed from an incident on 5 June and that the offender was fined for offending public decency.

City police wrote on Twitter that “of course no one is reported for accidentally letting one go”.

It seems there have been earlier cases, sometimes with a fine of 50 euros. In this case, the fart was only one part of wider conduct, and is described as fully intentional. (ORF) The man can appeal, but would probably be safer not to.

Judgment / judgement

I have been here before (Judgment and judgment), in 2012, and I quoted Lord Neuberger.

Now, Joshua Rozenberg, in A bad day for Jay J, in the Law Society Gazette, mentions the spelling difference again:

It was the family lawyer James Turner QC who set Twitter alight by observing that Wilson had taken the trouble to refer to ‘editorial judgement’ (following the spelling in the statute) but the court’s judgment (following conventional usage). Many of my followers recalled being taught, as students, that a judge uses judgement to write a judgment. News to me; but perhaps I am too judgmental.

(The reference is to Lord Wilson in the Supreme Court).

I missed the Twitter storm, but it doesn’t seem new.

Translation blogs

I mentioned translation blogs on April 15 and intended to follow it up, but every time I wrote about translation blogs I got bogged down.

Luke Spear had collated a list of translation-related blogs, not so rare now as they were in 2003. 

75+ of the best translation, language and linguistics blogs to follow

This list dates from April 9 2020 and has links to every blog mentioned. In most cases, you need to click on the links to see what the blogs are about. Quite an achievement! Luke asks if there are more blogs that could bring the total up to 100. And he wonders if people are blogging less.

The blogs listed are in English – I follow some in German and they would not be of interest to a FR>EN translator.

But now, Nikki Graham has updated her own blogroll, comprising 350 blogs, mainly about translation but some about interpreting, editing and so on.

Not only is it a huge list, but there are asterisks marking which blogs have actually had a post in 2020 (up to 21 May, which is today). The blog names are coloured according to which language some posts are in – most are in English.

You’ll find over 350 blogs listed on this page. Although most are about translation, I’ve also added some on interpreting and some non-translation blogs related to grammar, writing and editing. ..

Although this list started out based on blogs in languages I can understand (English, Spanish and German), I’m quite happy to add colleagues’ recommendations in other languages too.

When I started, in 2003 blogs played a different role. I was lucky enough to be a member of the FLEFO forum on CompuServe, which was the main way translators exchanged information in those days. Nowadays it is easier to pick up quick information on Twitter. Facebook is also an important resource, but I don’t use it for translator links. Journals are often online too, and mailing lists still work very well (I remember when discussions of terminology on lists would call forth complaints that we were wasting bandwidth). 

My own blog has moved through three different software systems – losing some formatting in the earliest posts – but I’ve tried to keep the content. Old links no longer work.

I also used to use Google’s feed reader. Now I use Feedly (free version), which may be more flexible in the paid version. I have a huge number of feeds but many have not posted for years.I have not only translation blogs, but also blogs on law and food, and other miscellaneous topics. I still follow Language Log and languagehat. I’ve got a blogroll and linkroll if you scroll down to the bottom but I can’t guarantee that the blogs are still alive or the links work.

When I started, there were only a few blogs by translators. I mainly followed lawyers, in Germany, the UK and the USA. Translators included Céline Graciet, whose blog was originally called The Naked Translator (the URL is still that); Michael Wahlster with Translate This and others.

I do follow London’s Singing Organ-Grinder, as it is now called, but its language content fluctuates greatly.

Blogs tend to run actively for a few years and then quieten down (like this one) so I tend to follow a few active ones.

The blog I and many others were most curious about was by The Masked Translator, whose identity I never discovered.

I was proceeding in a northerly direction

I’ve just received a comment on a post I wrote in 2004: I was proceeding in a northerly direction/Polizeisprech.

The comment is actually a link to an article on another blog written by a police officer who picks up factual errors in TV police shows. He writes that no policeman has ever ‘proceeded in a northerly direction’, by which he means not that they never go north, but they never use the expression. But that’s exactly the point: it’s when a police officer is in a magistrate’s court refreshing his memory from his police notebook, which is standard practice and permissible, and reads out what he has written – it doesn’t come over naturally.

On this subject I can’t help remembering the German TV series Ein Fall für Zwei, where the German lawyers would strut up and down in court as if there had been a jury in the German court – US TV was the inspiration for that.

Here’s another article on the same topic

Leo Whitlock, one of the editors at the Kent Messenger group of newspapers, has penned an interesting blog looking at the how individuals use overly complicated words when speaking to people in authority.  

It is, I suspect, an attempt to appear not just ‘posh’, as Whitlock claims, but to appear better educated and to gain the respect of their peers. 

This inflated use (or abuse) of the English language is no better illustrated when engaging with the legal community. 

Take, most likely, the apocryphal PC writing in his notebook.  “I was proceeding in a northerly direction, when I apprehended the suspect…..”

No one talks like that.

That’s the situation, I think: talking in a courtroom setting.

Blog birthday in lockdown

Today is the 17th birthday of this blog, started on 15 April 2003, when it seemed obscure to have a weblog with such a narrow focus. Some other blogs of that time still exist.

We are currently in lockdown.

Machine translation

Meanwhile, a thought about machine translation. There is a lot more to be said about this, especially DeepL in connection with legal translation. One thing that strikes me is that in the old days, one might adapt machine translation systems to allow for context. But if you go to the WHO site and allow it to translate into German using Google Translate, you get a map of Turkey labelled Truthahn. Context is not taken into account here!

By the way, do people pronounce WHO double-u aitch oh? I usually say World Health Organization. But I heard someone on radio callilng it The Who recently, which I liked.

Screenshot:

Translation blogs

Luke Spear has chosen this auspicious occasion to collate a list of translation-related blogs, not so rare now as they were in 2003.

75+ of the best translation, language and linguistics blogs to follow

This list dates from April 9 2020 and has links to every blog mentioned. In most cases, you need to click on the links to see what the blogs are about. Quite an achievement! Luke asks if there are more blogs that could bring the total up to 100. Abd he wonders if people are blogging less.

Biut more about that in another post.

Kurzarbeit/furlough

In this time of lockdown, the question has arisen as to how to reduce employees’ hours and pay them less. I’m jjust going to touch on the terminology here – anyone who wants to know more can do a websearch nowadays!

There has been some comment in the UK press about the German system of Kurzarbeit (short-time work). From the Financial Times:

Kurzarbeit: a German export most of Europe wants to buy

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https://www.ft.com/content/927794b2-6b70-11ea-89df-41bea055720b

The tool is Kurzarbeit, or shorter work-time, a policy that has been copied by so many other countries that one economist called it one of Germany’s “most successful exports”. Under the scheme, companies hit by a downturn can send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.

The UK has now introduced a similar scheme. It allows works to be furloughed but kept on the payroll. I knew furlough only as leave for soldiers, but apparently it is used in the USA in this sense. Furlough is like garden leave, where an employee’s contract is terminated to a certain date and he or she continues to be on the payroll but may not work. It’s referred to as the coronavirus job retention scheme. A lot of law firm websites explain it, for instance Crossland Employment Solicitors.

A number of other countries use similar schemes, but I think Germany was the first. The FT thinks it works very well in a country like Germany which invests a lot in apprenticeships, so having trained their workers, they will not want to lose them. The German scheme was ramped up at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

In the USA, works who are furloughed are not likely to be paid 60% of their wages as in Germany, but they may retain health insurance and other benefits.

Some more vocabulary I have picked up recently from German daily coronavirus podcasts: der Impfling for the person being vaccinated, verimpfen to inject a substance.

A tweet from Scott Hanson @papascott:

The line grew to 5 people behind us, 2 of whom left when they learned there was no asparagus. 😂

Elsewhere I note that it took the virus crisis to make Germans give up cash.

Social distancing

I am reporting back here to show that I’m still around. We are living in times of social distancing – at least that’s the term most media and people use. I read in the German press that the term borrowed from English was wrong, that it should be physical distancing as that makes more sense. My feeling was/is that the term social distancing has entered general use. I’ve now tweeted something about social distancing – here is the tweet I linked to:

social distancing

I had a response criticizing the term. So although I did not care about the dispute beforehand, I did a web search and found the Wikipedia article on Social Distancing and the discussion there after there was a request to change the heading.

I hadn’t realized that the WHO changed the term, not that this alters the fact that the disputed term has become common usage (see WP:COMMONNAME).

Feelings run high. Here is vsync:

Strong oppose and speedy close. This request isn’t even well-formed as it’s merely based on trifling wordplay from some obscure “WHO”, so-called, which has no standing whatsoever to comment on anything related to this crisis, let alone messaging on its seriousness or what is or isn’t effective. Now, for some “reasons” that will doubtless be demanded: The term existed prior to the current pandemic and will exist after. The meaning is perfectly coherent as relating to putting distance in social contact, rather than of other random objects. “Wikipedia isn’t a how-to manual” or whatever, but the article perfectly describes the meaning. The point of an encyclopedia is to expound even obscure terms, not rename them. Why don’t you go spend your time telling people masks don’t work or something? vsync (talk) 01:43, 1 April 2020 (UTC)

Book recommendation: Katrin FitzHerbert: True to Both My Selves

Katrin Fitzherbert’s autobiography won a prize for autobiography in 1997. I only heard of it recently and picked it up second-hand. It’s subtitled A Family Memoir of Germany and England in two World Wars.

Here’s the summary from the Virago website:

TRUE TO BOTH MY SELVES is an extraordinary account of a childhood disjointed by country and by war. Curiously mirroring her English grandmother, who married a German hairdresser in London and was then expelled to Germany following the First World War, Katrin Fitzherbert was born in Germany in 1936 and lived under Hitler’s regime until, at the age of eleven, she was suddenly ‘repatriated’ to an England she had never known. There she had to forget her German father and the German language. This is the story of three generations of remarkable women, and their struggle for survival and integrity as individuals in times divided by war.

This is a readable and honest account of some parts of English and German history I know only skeleton facts about – what it was like living through WWII as a child who supported the system and then being told to pretend she had been born in London (for fear of the 1918-type repercussions), that after WWII the English tended to see all Germans as either villains or victims, the psychological pressure when no one in her family had any understanding of what it was like having to hide half of one’s own history.

The blurb on the book says:

Katrin FitzHerbert was born in Germany in 1936. She was educated at fourteen schools in Germany and England and read PPE at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. She has been a journalist, an anthropologist, and trained and worked as a psychiatric social worker. She is the founder and director of the National Pyramid Trust, a charity promoting self-esteem and resilience in primary-school children. She is married, has two daughter, and lives in London and Totnes.