I wrote something about Strafbefehle a year ago.
A Strafbefehl (order of summary punishment) is a charge finding that you have committed a minor offence and imposing a fine. If you disagree, you can object and elevate the matter to criminal legal proceedings. It’s a bit like a parking ticket.
When I was living in Germany and translating for the courts as a certified translator, I originally used to get Strafbefehle to translate, and I used to teach students to translate them into English, but the requests became fewer and fewer. There is a theory that German judges know that the language of the courts is German and therefore do not order translations. But I suspect the general decision to cut down on costs occurs at a higher level.
But it does seem wrong for a foreigner, who may not speak German, to get a German document through the post without any way of understanding it supplied.
There’s now been a decision by Freiburg Regional Court (Landgericht) that a Strafbefehl is not effectively served to a non-speaker of German until the translation is served. (There was a similar decision by the Stuttgart Regional Court in 2014).
Sources from the blog of Detlef Burhoff, Rechtsanwalt and former judge at the Higher Regional Court who often deals with translation questions (Nochmals: Strafbefehl – nur mit Übersetzung ist Zustellung wirksam….) – thanks also to Igor Plotkin, a fellow-translator, for frequently mentioning the issue.
The story in Freiburg was that a Strafbefehl was issued against a Georgian speaker on 13.11.2014, but it was not until 24.08.2015 that a translation into Georgian was provided to the defendant, who was in prison (not sure if there was a connection here). Consequently the defendant’s objection filed on 28.08.2015 was within the time limits, contrary to the view of the lower court. The defendant had been informed of his rights by the police by means of a printout in the Georgian language (I wonder if their Georgian is as good as their English? I know Georgian is a tough language so probably they had someone good to write it).
(2) Erforderlich zur Ausübung der strafprozessualen Rechte des Beschuldigten, der der deutschen Sprache nicht mächtig ist, ist in der Regel die schriftliche Übersetzung von freiheitsentziehenden Anordnungen sowie von Anklageschriften, Strafbefehlen und nicht rechtskräftigen Urteilen. Eine auszugsweise schriftliche Übersetzung ist ausreichend, wenn hierdurch die strafprozessualen Rechte des Beschuldigten gewahrt werden. Die schriftliche Übersetzung ist dem Beschuldigten unverzüglich zur Verfügung zu stellen. An die Stelle der schriftlichen Übersetzung kann eine mündliche Übersetzung der Unterlagen oder eine mündliche Zusammenfassung des Inhalts der Unterlagen treten, wenn hierdurch die strafprozessualen Rechte des Beschuldigten gewahrt werden. Dies ist in der Regel dann anzunehmen, wenn der Beschuldigte einen Verteidiger hat.
Translation provided by Kathleen Müller-Rostin.
(2) As a rule, a written translation of custodial orders as well as of bills of indictment, penal orders and non-binding judgments shall be necessary for the exercise of the rights under the law of criminal procedure of an accused who does not have a command of the German language. An excerpted written translation shall be sufficient if the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure are thereby safeguarded. The written translation shall be made available to the accused without delay. An oral translation of the documents or an oral summary of the content of the documents may be substituted for a written translation if the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure are thereby safeguarded. As a rule, this can be assumed if the accused has defence counsel.
Comments: nicht rechtskräftige Urteile: non-binding judgments is odd – I would say judgments that are not (yet) final and non-appealable.
who does not have a command of the German language – who does not speak German
eine auszugsweise schriftliche Überetzung – difficult – excerpted sounds to me as if it was the whole thing, taken from a different source – a written translation of parts of the document?
There is repeated use of the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure – I feel like writing the accused’s criminal-procedure rights but maybe that is too compressed.
The bizarre Ingeborg Bachmann prize for literature has been won by Sharon Dodua Atoo, a black Germanist, mother and activist who has lived in Berlin for 24 years – see Philip Oltermann article in the Guardian. A couple of years ago the texts of the candidates were translated into English, but not this time. The reading, discussion and text, and a video about the author, can be found on the Klagenfurt prize website. She normally writes in English.
Here is more from Sharon Dodua Atoo’s website.
I was translating a text about local government in Germany. There are three levels of government: federal, Land and local. The local government authorities sometimes perform their own duties (Selbstverwaltung) and sometimes perform duties that higher authorities commission them to do (Fremdverwaltung).
Although Selbstverwaltung can be translated as self-government, and there is a right to it, I don’t find I get far with this term, and local autonomy works better.
Here’s the Basic Law, Article 28 (2), in the original:
(2) Den Gemeinden muß das Recht gewährleistet sein, alle Angelegenheiten der örtlichen Gemeinschaft im Rahmen der Gesetze in eigener Verantwortung zu regeln. Auch die Gemeindeverbände haben im Rahmen ihres gesetzlichen Aufgabenbereiches nach Maßgabe der Gesetze das Recht der Selbstverwaltung. Die Gewährleistung der Selbstverwaltung umfaßt auch die Grundlagen der finanziellen Eigenverantwortung; zu diesen Grundlagen gehört eine den Gemeinden mit Hebesatzrecht zustehende wirtschaftskraftbezogene Steuerquelle.
and in the ‘official’ translation by Tomuschat and Currie:
(2) Municipalities must be guaranteed the right to regulate all local affairs on their own responsibility, within the limits prescribed by the laws. Within the limits of their functions designated by a law, associations of municipalities shall also have the right of self-government according to the laws. The guarantee of self-government shall extend to the bases of financial autonomy; these bases shall include the right of municipalities to a source of tax revenues based upon economic ability and the right to establish the rates at which these sources shall be taxed.
Translated by: Professor Christian Tomuschat and Professor David P. Currie
Translation revised by: Professor Christian Tomuschat and Professor Donald P. Kommers in cooperation with the Language Service of the German Bundestag
They translate ‘Länder, Kreise und Gemeinden’ as ‘Land, county and municipality’ (intelligently avoiding the plural of Land and also the use of ‘(federal) state’ so popular for Land).
A note on the word Gemeinde: it is most often translated as municipality nowadays, the US American preference. Local authority is more British. I also like the term commune – they are colloquially called Kommunen in German – but I believe I am out on a limb here. There are various categories of these local authorities, but fortunately I didn’t need to go into that.
The term Fremdverwaltungsaufgaben was more problematic, and I was glad to find transferred duties in a useful article on the German Law Archive site, Local Government Administration in Germany, by Dieter Haschke.
Transferred sphere of activities of the municipalities
The registrar’s office performs all the important tasks in a municipality: publishing banns, performing marriage ceremonies and issuing birth and death certificates are state tasks that the Federation or the Land have transferred to the municipalities by virtue of a law. State control is extended to legal and expert supervision with the entitlement to issue instructions under certain conditions.
The following administrative areas are also part of the transferred sphere of activity: …
I don’t really like sphere of activity (Aufgabenbereich), but in legal translation you don’t always finish up with a natural-sounding term.
The German Law Archive site has been updated recently and is well worth a look.
Pending future legal translation posts, a few remarks:
1. It seems invidious to discuss the EU referendum, as the situation is changing all the time, but some links:
Jolyon Maugham’s Article 50. Our letter to the government. contains a copy of a letter of Bindmans LLP to the Government Legal Department funded through Crowdjustice and seeking clarification that Article 50 will not be activated without primary legislation.
David Allan Green at his Jack of Kent blog: The Two Article 50 legal claims – the current details.
2. Rob Lunn’s post on Using models for translating contracts on the value and limits of models and corpora in the target language.
QOTD Tower Hill tube station, 19 May:
Today you are you
That is truer than true
There is no one alive
Who is youer than you!
I didn’t realize Trollope was responsible for pillar boxes:
Incidentally, this one, on the Strand, is an Edward VII one:
Some interesting English at Photo London:
Translation and interpreting (or more commonly in the US: interpretation)
Translators translate and interpreters interpret? Yes, but interpreting is a form of translation. Newspapers are going to go on referring to people translating in court, Afghan translators and so on. Get over it, people!
And I can’t agree with the argument for the distinction that interpreters have to translate on the spot so they are allowed leeway, i.e. interpreting is called interpreting because it involves understanding and conveying a message – as if translation didn’t, see here:
In fact, it is this real-time comprehension, analysis, and accurate reformulation of one language into another that poses the greatest challenge. The interpreter is both listener and speaker, working in real-time, without a safety net, and with little room to correct errors. The simultaneous, or virtually simultaneous, nature of the work combined with a lack of control over the content of the original speeches mean that the interpreter performs his or her work in demanding conditions that leave little room for error.
However, the importance of the translator’s work must not be overlooked: the absence of immediate time constraints allows the translator to apply more mental resources to the task of finding the correct solution. The translator always seeks rigorous solutions, not solutions that will just ‘get the job done’. To do so, the translator applies thorough research and consulting techniques and uses specialist databases to broaden their understanding of the subject matter.
just because ‘interpret’ has a double meaning doesn’t mean that the two meanings merge.
While I’m on the subject, Werner Siebers, the German criminal defence attorney blogger, has reported on an interpreter who was removed from a case because he translated too freely.
Er versteht sich selbst mehr als Ausleger und Interpretierer denn als Übersetzer. Er meint, „das Gesetz“ – welches auch immer er meint – schreibe ihm vor, gerade nicht wörtlich zu übersetzen, vielmehr müsse er gleich den von ihm erkannten – vermuteten? – Sinn zu Papier bringen.
The comments get a bit hair-raising:
11. Mai 2016 um 11:59
Also wenn der Zeuge sagt: „It was raining cats and dogs“, soll der Dolmetscher übersetzen, dass es „Katzen und Hunde“ geregnet habe??
11. Mai 2016 um 13:41
Selbstverständlich muss er zwingend so übersetzen, er hat nichts zu unterpretieren und auszulegen, er ist lediglich Sprachmittler. Gestattet ist ihm, eine Anmerkung zu machen, dass es sich um eine Redewendung handelt, die eine andere Bedeutung als die wörtliche Übersetzung haben kann (z.B. es regnet Bindfäden oder wie aus Eimern oder einfach stark). Vorrangig ist aber zunächst selbstverständlich und zwingend die wörtliche Übersetzung.
However, it appears that the interpreter was indeed very free: he said “Dafür habe ich kein Geld” (I haven’t got enough money for that) instead of “Mir sind die Hände gebunden” (My hands are tied).
There was a bit of a discussion about this blog post on a translators’ mailing list and some remarks were made by court interpreters – police, public prosecutors or judges ask the interpreter to instruct the witness:
“Herr Dolmetscher, sagen Sie ihm bitte, er ist … schwarzgefahren und hat das Recht… etc.”
oder “Ach ja, ich habe vergessen den Zeugen zu beleheren. Herr Dolmetscher, sagen Sie ihm… Ähm.. Sie kennen doch die Belehrung, gelle? Also, sagen Sie ihm, dass er als Zeuge berechtigt ist… und alles andere, das Übliche, halt!”
A hashtag invented by Sean Jones QC of 11 Kings Bench Walk is doing the rounds, according to Legal Cheek. Lawyers try their hand at law-themed poetry, with hilarious results – from the comments there:
The general idea is to take the beginning of a famous poem and then add the bathos of legal vocabulary.
I was much further out than you thought.
And not waiving but accepting the repudiation.
My instructing solicitors
Have not provided me with
Your Honour. I cannot…
Here they are
But some rhyme:
The barrister bemoaned his witness as a silent interlocutor, the judge opined he could just rely on res ipsa locquitur #barristerpoetry
12:00 PM – 18 May 2016