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.