Rechtsverordnung – translating into English

How should one translate the German term Rechtsverordnung, which is often abridged as Verordnung, especially in titles, into English?

In this blog, I have discussed it in the context of Geoffrey Perrin’s 1988 article in Lebende Sprachen, ‘Rechtsverordnung’ and the Terminology of Legal Translation, which Geoffrey has allowed me to post on this site as a PDF. In the right-hand column of this site you can find the link under ‘Articles’.

It’s a complex issue with a lot of disclaimers, but I will start off by saying what usage I prefer in British English, and put any other thoughts later.

The question arises in connection with the German Institutsvergütungsverordnung (long form: Verordnung über die aufsichtsrechtlichen Anforderungen an Vergütungssysteme von Instituten), which has been translated as Remuneration Ordinance for Institutions  and more recently as Remuneration Regulation for Institutions.

Here goes:

Gesetze und (Rechts)verordnungen refers to primary and subordinate legislation. Verordnungen in the plural is best translated by subordinate legislation or delegated legislation. The problem arises when you need a countable singular term, especially part of a title.

The superordinate singular term is statutory instrument. But in the actual titles of statutory instruments in the UK, the term is usually order or regulations (note the plural). Here is a list of UK statutory instruments.

This is why I write order in a title if it is my choice what to write.

A term very widely used, especially by Germans, is ordinance. Perrin discusses that for England and Wales – it is a very archaic-sounding and obscure category. And in the USA it is usually a city ordinance, a form of local legislation (British by(e)-law). I don’t like the word ordinance, but I have seen it used so often that I do understand what it is supposed to mean: a form of delegated legislation.

I don’t like regulation (singular) either. It makes me think of the EU Verordnung – Regulation – a form of primary EU legislation, rather than a form of German subordinate legislation. But as I say, if the translator cites the German title or in some way makes clear that something different from the EU term is meant, I can’t see any harm being done.

I just set this out to explain my thinking.

Disclaimer 1: It may be that regulation works best in US English and (statutory) order doesn’t work at all. Geoffrey Perrin touches on that in his sixth footnote.

2. As long as the original German title is mentioned together with the translator’s English version, there should be no confusion.

3. If a published version exists entitled either Regulation or Ordinance, it may be advisable to stick to that, especially if the end user of the translation is likely to consult it.

4. As Perrin writes in  his article, the expectations of the reader of a translation are important. Hence legal translators always have to consider: is the translation primarily for the UK, the USA, Europe, or all those together. Legal translation for me is rarely about translating between two legal systems – there are always more involved.

Neue Altstadt Frankfurt am Main

Some impressions of the new Altstadt in Frankfurt am Main following a guided tour on October 22.

Frankfurt’s original old town was the biggest in Germany and consisted of about 1250 medieval and Renaissance timber-framed buildings over an area of 7000 square metres. It was destroyed in air raids in WWII and largely replaced by a 1970s brutalist Technisches Rathaus, administrative buildings, which must have robbed the area of its life. The buildings were eventually bought back by the city and the whole area was ‘rebuilt’ from 2012-2018. The small buildings, alleyways and squares have returned: 15 buildings following the old plans (though no longer 12 families sharing one lavatory) and many others designed in a variety of similar styles. There are shops and restaurants in the lower floors. The area was opened in September 2018 and at the moment is full of groups of tourists like me being led around it.

Here’s a picture of the Technisches Rathaus taken in July 2008 by L. Willms:

Some impressions of the new buildings:

Four buildings in the street called Markt or Krönungsweg

On the left is part of no. 32, Goldene Schachtel, a new building. Then the dark red Altes Kaufhaus, also new. The following two buildings are both reconstructions: the pale blue Würzgartn and the pharmacy Schlegel, which forms the end of the Hühnermarkt.

This is just to show the combination of reconstructed and new buildings. There are better pictures online, For instance, here is the Goldene Schachtel from Matthias Alexander (Hg.): Die Neue Altstadt Frankfurt am Main, Societäts Verlag – playing with the use of overhanging storeys.

Rebuilding Frankfurt’s Old Centre

Here is a map of the district on which you can see which building are reconstructions and which are new.

Detail of the Goldene Waage, the most elaborately restored building, to be a café.

Hühnermarkt with fountain to Friedrich Stoltze, a dialect poet whose museum has not yet opened.

A mysterious text on the house Zur Flechte:

Slate – section of the jeweller’s shop Neues Paradies – slate in Old German style.

Soapstone columns behind Goldenes Lämmchen building

And here is a current screenshot of Google Maps showing building still going on. This has been completed now (although shopkeepers are still doing the final work inside) – Google Maps is obviously a bit out of date, so look forward to the next version.

GDPR: must I remove names from the doorbell?


 It has been a while since I posted a  doorbell photo, but this is a topical subject. There‘s a rumour in Germany that the GDPR (German DSGVO) prohibits revealing people‘s names on their doorbells.


In fact there has been a case in Vienna  where a property management company has been advised by a city data privacy agency and intends to replace the names by numbers on 220,000 apartments.

Lord Chancellor’s Breakfast 2018

I’m afraid the light was difficult, I had the wrong lens on the camera at first, and there were more police in the way than three years ago – and also a metal ‘carpet’ containing spikes across the road.

This is Sir Rabinder Singh, the first Sikh Court of Appeal judge, also a legal academic. He wears a turban instead of a wig. And the second photo shows a photographer upskirting some circuit judges.

Making a pork pie

I tried to make pork pies a couple of years ago. Here is an impression:

That’s couple of pickled onions beside it.

I can now report that I’m not the only blogger who can’t make pork pies. Here is an illustrated account from Lehrerzimmer (in German).

My dolly (Holzform) hasn’t got the indentations and holes that his has. They do look good. Must try again.

Tree surgeons

I’ve used tree surgeons a couple of times since I’ve been in Upminster. The photo above, from the local BP garage, shows eight identical posters, not for a concert, but for Cedar Tree Care.

I’ve now got a fake tree surgeon ad through my door for the second time in a few weeks. There must be not only fake tree surgeons around, but people who do their advertising for them, especially the postcards they put through the door.

The latest one has special rates for O.A.Ps. ‘We are currently working in your area’ (they claim to be based here, at a dubious address). ‘Are your ivy & climbers getting too much for you? We can help. NOW IS THE TIME – No job too big or too small’.

Here’s a police warning from two years ago (from the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Association):

Please be aware there has been an increase in door to door scams in the area recently. They are preying on the elderly and vulnerable. These type of scammers include people purporting to be from Water Companies, Gas Board, Tree Surgeons or Home Maintenance to name a few. The scammers will take on an identity to either part you from your money, gain entry to your home to steal, or profit by posing as charities collecting donations.

And here’s a BBC story from ten years ago:

But that’s something which doesn’t bother our rogue trader this week, David Stanley. David is operating as a tree surgeon in and around West London. He has used multiple company names, but he’s currently calling himself London’s A1 Tree Services, which is not to be confused with other ompanies with similar names.

Local council tree officers in London have told us David Stanley’s been causing trouble in the capital for years; by incorrectly telling homeowners with protected trees that they do not need permission to prune or fell them, so that he can get the work.

We also know of complaints against David regarding him overcharging, inventing work, pruning trees so severely that they die, and providing fake names and company addresses. In the past he’s also falsely passed himself off as an Approved Contractor of the Arboricultural Association, and it took High Court action in 2007 to stop him.

I think the best idea is not to move into anywhere with any trees in the garden. But I can recommend Prince Arboriculture in Shenfield.

And finally, here are some local bushes.

Two translations of the Swiss Civil Code

I’m just going through old books and find a translation of the Law of Persons, Article 1-89bis of the Swiss Civil Code, by the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, by a team of seven translators, copyright 2006, which I bought for much bucks in the days before the Swiss government had an English version online (PDF).

Here’s the beginning without much comment, out of interest:

Original

  Art. 1 A. Anwendung des Rechts

A. Anwendung des Rechts

1 Das Gesetz findet auf alle Rechtsfragen Anwendung, für die es nach Wortlaut oder Auslegung eine Bestimmung enthält.

2 Kann dem Gesetz keine Vorschrift entnommen werden, so soll das Gericht1nach Gewohnheitsrecht und, wo auch ein solches fehlt, nach der Regel entscheiden, die es als Gesetzgeber aufstellen würde.

3 Es folgt dabei bewährter Lehre und Überlieferung.


1 Ausdruck gemäss Ziff. I 1 des BG vom 26. Juni 1998, in Kraft seit 1. Jan. 2000 (AS 19991118; BBl 1996 I 1). Diese Änd. ist im ganzen Erlass berücksichtigt.

Art. 2 B. Inhalt der Rechtsverhältnisse / I. Handeln nach Treu und Glauben

B. Inhalt der Rechtsverhältnisse

I. Handeln nach Treu und Glauben

1 Jedermann hat in der Ausübung seiner Rechte und in der Erfüllung seiner Pflichten nach Treu und Glauben zu handeln.

2 Der offenbare Missbrauch eines Rechtes findet keinen Rechtsschutz.

Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce version

Art. 1

Application of the law

The law shall apply to all legal questions that are covered, according to wording or interpretation, by one of the provisions thereof.

In the absence of a provision of law, the judge shall decide according to customary law and, in the absence of such customary law, according to the rule he would establish as a legislator.

In this regard, he shall follow established doctrine and tradition.

Art. 2

Content of legal relationships – Acting in good faith. Good faith

Each person shall be required to exercise his rights and fulfill his duties in good faith.

The manifest abuse of a right shall not be protected by law.

Online version at admin.ch

Art. 1

Application of the law

1 The law applies according to its wording or interpretation to all legal questions for which it contains a provision.

2 In the absence of a provision, the court shall decide in accordance with customary law and, in the absence of customary law, in accordance with the rule that it would make as legislator.

3 In doing so, the court shall follow established doctrine and case law.

Art. 2

Scope and limits of legal relationships – Acting in good faith

1 Every person must act in good faith in the exercise of his or her rights and in the performance of his or her obligations.

2 The manifest abuse of a right is not protected by law.

The comparison is quite interesting. Both versions are acceptable but one might translate differently in some places.

I prefer ‘in accordance with’ to ‘according to’ (which is a trivial matter), but why does the online version translate Überlieferung as ‘case law’? The court (rather than judge) as legislator – for Gesetzgeber I tend to write legislature.

I prefer ‘to perform his duties’ to ‘fulfil’ (‘fulfill’ is the US spelling) and ‘obligations’. ‘hat…nach Treu und Glauben zu handeln’ – one version has ‘must act’ and the other has ‘shall be required to…’.I would have thought ‘shall’ would be OK here – sometimes it is too strong for ‘hat…zu’.

 

English translations of German statutes

1. Many German statutes have been translated into English and are even available online. In fact I scarcely ever look at my collection of published translations now. Some online translations are ‘official’ and listed by juris for the German Federal Ministry of Justice. They are listed by their German abbreviations and details of the translators are given.

Translations of these materials into languages other than German are intended solely as a convenience to the non-German-reading public. Any discrepancies or differences that may arise in translations of the official German versions of these materials are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or enforcement purposes.

2. There are other translations at the German Law Archive. There are also other translations online. The Centre for German Legal Information is a good source – currently it seems to be offline again, perhaps because it is the summer holidays. It often makes sense to refer a client to these translations. One may not agree with every detail, and sometimes the translation is wrong. I always point this out and sometimes revise it. Some of those translations are good, some not so good. But unless I have to translate part of a statute in a translation, I don’t usually look at the whole statute carefully so as to be able to give a reliable critical opinion. (Incidentally, I have recently been working on a translation relating to the Arbeitszeitgesetz and have found a PDF translation on the site of a German law firm, Mayr, in Berlin. That was just unearthed in a web search. But it is not a very difficult statute.)

3. In an earlier entry, in 2010,  Translating statutes: Federal Data Protection Act/Bundesdatenschutzgesetz I did write about two translations. There were some good comments too. Apparently the juris site had nothing then, but it does have a later version translated now, and so what I wrote there is just history.

4. On Twitter today, Inge Noeninger pointed out that the online ‘official’ translation of the Wohnungseigentumsgesetz looks very good.

Act on the Ownership of Apartments and the Right of Permanent Residency (Wohnungseigentumsgesetz, WEG)

Übersetzung durch Iyamide Mahdi in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Sprachendienst des Bundesministeriums der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz.

Translation provided by Iyamide Mahdi in cooperation with the Language Service of the Federal Ministry of Justice and for Consumer Protection.

Original:

(1) Nach Maßgabe dieses Gesetzes kann an Wohnungen das Wohnungseigentum, an nicht zu Wohnzwecken dienenden Räumen eines Gebäudes das Teileigentum begründet werden.

(2) Wohnungseigentum ist das Sondereigentum an einer Wohnung in Verbindung mit dem Miteigentumsanteil an dem gemeinschaftlichen Eigentum, zu dem es gehört.

Translation:

(1) Pursuant to the provisions of this Act, title to an apartment [Wohnungseigentum] may be created in respect of apartments, and title to units [Teileigentum] may be created in respect of non-residential areas of a building.

(2) Title to an apartment comprises the separate ownership [Sondereigentum (1)] of an apartment together with a co-ownership share [Miteigentumsanteil] of the jointly owned property [gemeinschaftliches Eigentum] of which it is an integral part.

I am not about to give a reasoned review of the whole translation. It’s always the same – we encounter a small part of the statute in one translation and then not again for a long time. So if I make a few remarks they are not based on a thorough study.

It is very interesting that the translation uses German terms in brackets. This is in the Definitions section. This is helpful to anyone with a knowledge of German law looking at the translation. I don’t think I’ve seen it in a statute before. Terminology in this area is indeed confusing. The Civil Code does not permit ownership of flats. There’s a similar problem in English law. If you own a building, you own the land under it (down to hell and up to heaven, with a few restrictions for mineral and overhead flight rights etc.). That is freehold, but terms like freehold and leasehold don’t work in German law. There used to be Stockwerkseigentum and there still is in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, where a person owns a whole floor. But nowadays flats are not usually a whole floor. The WEG dates from 1951.

The situation here is that a person may own a flat (an apartment – good term for international comprehension) and may share ownership of common areas such as the stairs. Eigentum translates as property or ownership. I would call Wohnungseigentum ownership of a flat. Wohnung can often be translated as home, but here it means a flat. I would not myself say title to an apartment, although there’s nothing wrong with it. The translation tends towards the more formal and legalistic (pursuant to, title). I would not use the US term condominium, partly because it is not understood in the UK and partly because it is sometimes used to refer to a flat and sometimes to the whole set-up.  Teileigentum is translated as title to units. It does mean ownership of a part, rather than part ownership. It might relate to an identifiable parking space, for example, as well as to the flat.

I note, pettily, that mutatis mutandis is used although UK statutes now write ‘with the necessary modifications’ (section 30).

I thought one of my books on German law in English might deal with the language problems here. A common source is the Wörterbuch Immobilienwirtschaft by Schulte, Lee, Paul, but that is only a starting point. I find myself going back to my ancient 5th edition of Real Property in Germany by Volhard/Weber/Usinger, Fritz Knapp Verlag, 1998. There is in fact a 2009 edition by Usinger and Schneider, which I have so rarely needed that I never got it.

This book does not go into apartment ownership in detail, but on page 1 (quoted at length to show the use of different vocabulary):

Under the Condominium Act (WEG), separate absolute ownership of a self-contained unit in a building may be acquired. Thus, it is possible to enjoy condominium or flat ownership (Wohnungseigentum, § 1 WEG) where flats are concerned, or part-ownership (Teiliegentum, § 1 WEG) where the premises in question are not used for residential purposes. Condominium ownership has acquired considerable economic importance in recent decades, both for the owner-occupier (Eigennutzer), who has been able to acquire the ownership of real property conveniently in this way, and for the investor (Kapitalanleger), in particular in the context of tax-saving models. Such ownership consists of separate absolute ownership of a self-contained unit of a building, combined with proportional ownership in common of those parts and installations of the building which are not subject to individual ownership, such as the roof, external walls, staircase, etc. However, it is also possible to create larger units and even whole buildings in the legal form of part-ownership, for example in the case of awkward real property relations which make physical partition impractical.