When I first taught legal translation, as a subsidiary subject, I started with divorce. At the IFA in Erlangen and other Bavarian Fachakademien, the legal translation syllabus was based on work done for the courts by certified translators, which our students would be qualified as. Translating divorce papers was very common in those days, for example for US military personnel living in Germany. So expensive was the translation of documents needed by the German courts that there used to be divorce translation weekends, for some reason offered in Copenhagen. In fact after I had taught all the areas relating to court work, it was hard to fit contract translation into the timetable, since I thought it would be necessary to teach both contract law and contract language.

Those unfamiliar with divorce law sometimes thought that, since English law is different from German law, English divorce law must be very strange indeed. Not so: divorce had a similar history in both countries, going back to church law, to times when some kind of transgression permitted a petitioner to be given a divorce. The terminology was sometimes archaic even though the law had been reformed so that you were not punished financially or through harsh custody arrangements if you had committed adultery. English divorce law was reformed earlier than German and the law when I first taught it in 1982 and now in 2019 has unintended consequences. In German law a person can get a divorce after one year’s living apart; in English law it takes longer, so it is quicker to petition that the respondent’s behaviour is unreasonable (that is, that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to tolerate it). What is called no-fault divorce actually seems to be based on fault. This is not to say that divorce plays out as a pleasant and smooth process in practice even in Germany, but we didn’t talk about that. Nowadays you can read all this up on the Web so I don’t need to go into details. Anyway, all these many years afterwards, a divorce bill is going through the courts making divorce much easier – actually very easy indeed. New divorce law to end the blame game (Ministry of Justice – with a good summary of the current law)). The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has almost been passed. Of course, it is threatened by prorogation.

DE>EN translation problems: most frequently encountered are the terms related to the apportionment of future pension rights. Zugewinnausgleich, Gütertrennung, Gütergemeinschaft – marital property is not always straightforward. If you translate US documents into German, you have to be careful not to describe a decree absolute as rechtskräftig, which might wrongly suggest that the ex-spouses could remarry immediately (there may be a six-month waiting period). Not divorce but sometimes comes up in that context: Ehefähigkeitszeugnis – certificate of no impediment.

Creifelds on Acolada

At the moment I use only the Dietl/Lorenz law dictionary on the Acolada platform. I more often use Romain on paper (despite the time it takes to look things up). I actually wore out the latest Romain so I bought a copy of the earlier (1994) edition. The later one had feminine and masculine versions of all German nouns where this was relevant, but I didn’t need to look up Anwalt and Anwältin myself.

When there is a new paper version of Dietl/Lorenz (with CD for both directions – currently promised for 2020), I don’t expect it will contain versions of all the latest legal terminology, but that can be found on the Web nowadays – there are quite a few law firms’ sites with a variety of options. Gradually paper dictionaries are whittled down to a few useful ones.

I always used to have an up-to-date version of Creifelds German law dictionary, and now I see that it could be put on the computer and consulted along with Dietl/Lorenz. I read this in the Acolada newsletter. Creifelds Rechtswörterbuch.

I noticed while researching this that Beck Verlag promises another book in the form of a German-English legal dictionary for 2020: This has the perhaps misleading title Rechtsenglisch and is by Rinscheid and Miller. It is as so often for anyone, including judges in (German) English-language courtrooms. It contains sentence examples and is organized both alphabetically and also thematically, so that a lawyer can learn the relevant vocabulary, for example before a client conference. I’d love to be a fly on the wall.

Zum Werk
Die fachgerechte Formulierung deutscher Rechtsberatung in englischer Sprache erfordert mehr als lediglich die Übersetzung einzelner Rechtsbegriffe. Die schnell zugänglichen Online- Wörterbücher scheinen nur auf den ersten Blick eine verlässliche Abhilfe bei der kontextgerechten Verwendung eines Rechtsbegriffs zu bieten. Mit der Vokabel allein ist schließlich noch keine Korrespondenz mit dem Mandanten geführt, kein Schriftsatz geschrieben und auch keine vernünftige Hilfestellung für eine Telefonkonferenz gegeben. Konsequenz ist eine häufig unreflektierte Verwendung von Übersetzungsvorschlägen mit in der Folge fehlerhafter Darstellung.
Die Autoren des vorliegenden Werkes schließen eine wichtige Lücke, in dem sie dem international arbeitenden Juristen eine umfassende Arbeitsgrundlage zur Verwendung der englischen Rechtssprache liefern. Hierzu ist das Werk auf drei Säulen aufgebaut. Erstens enthält das Werk ein alphabetisch sortiertes Glossar mitsamt Beispielssätzen, Erläuterungen und Hinweisen zur kontextgerechten Verwendung (Deutsch-Englisch). Zweitens sind die Begriffe zusätzlich thematisch sortiert – so kann sich der Rechtsanwender mit den in einem speziellen Sach- oder Rechtsgebiet geläufigen Vokabeln vertraut machen, beispielsweise vor einer Mandantenbesprechung. Die dritte Säule bilden Formulierungshilfen und Textbausteine für die Praxis (Emails, Schriftsätze, Telefonkonferenzen etc.).
Vorteile auf einen Blick
Das vorliegende Buch bietet
– ein klassisches zweisprachiges Nachschlagewerk/Wörterbuch mit Beispielsätzen, Erläuterungen und Hinweisen
– zusätzlich die Möglichkeit einer nach Sach- und Rechtsgebieten geordneten Suche
– Englische Formulierungshilfen aus der Praxis
Für international tätige Anwälte und Unternehmensjuristen, Richter in englischsprachigen Kammern, Juristische Fachübersetzer, Studierende der Fachspezifischen Fremdsprachenausbildung, Universitäten und Forschungseinrichtungen.