German customs attempts English

Volker Weber proves that online machine translation is at least no worse than what the Cologne Customs Office can do.

Antrag auf Befreiung vom Zollflugplatzzwang
Application for liberation of the inch airfield compulsion

PDF of the original.

A web search reveals that this version is used at least in Erfurt too.

Some years ago some German courts provided forms containing German and a Denglish translation, into which the translator who was commissioned had to type the not-yet-translated bits. A colleague used to come into college and use the secretary’s typewriter to do this. I suppose they may still do it with PDFs. It was always an eye-opener to see that the courts were incapable of ordering a comprehensible translation, and it wasn’t much of an incentive to do better.

Quark as a superfood/Völliger Quark

I’m glad we can call Quark quark now, which does away with the problem of ‘translating’ it as curd cheese or cottage-cheese-without-the-lumps (Hüttenkäse!), almost as dreadful as the problems of translating Zwetschgen.

The Daily Mail is today touting it as a superfood:

Rise of the soft cheese that can help you lose weight: Sales of ‘superfood’ quark rocket 40% in a year

It’s every dieter’s dream: the cheese that could actually help you shave off those extra pounds.
Sales of quark – a soft cheese that’s virtually fat free – have rocketed by 37.9 per cent in the last year.
Health-conscious Britons forked out a staggering £8.5million for the ingredient, a jump of £2.3million from the previous year.

I am mystified by the term ‘virtually fat free’. That sounds like low-fat quark to me, the stuff I refuse to eat but have accepted, if reluctantly, as a poultice (Quarkwickel sounds like a sort of samosa but isn’t).

But it looks as if Lake District Quark don’t do anything but low-fat quark. They call it ‘naturally fat-free’. They must have got hold of some fat-free cows. And Jennifer Lopez and Carole Middleton are apparently fans.

What makes Lake District Dairy Co. Quark, different from other Quarks?

If consumers are familiar with European Quark, they will notice a distinct difference with our British Lake District Dairy Co. Quark as it is noticeably smoother in texture and more spoonable making it more versatile and perfect for cooking, baking and mixing.

As the Germans would say, that’s a load of Quark (das ist doch völliger Quark!).

Südmilch, for instace, sell it in qualities from low-fat to 40° Fett in der Trockenmasse (fat in dry matter).

Es gibt ihn in verschiedenen Fettstufen von mager bis hin zu 40% Fett i.Tr. Egal ob pur oder mit Joghurt zu frischem Obst, für Desserts oder mit frischen Kräutern zu Kartoffeln: Der Südmilch Speisequark ist immer ein Genuss.

I think quark desserts may be a good way of getting some people to eat more protein. We can get French soft cheese desserts now, but they seem only to be produced in child-size containers.

If you’re keen to get quark in the UK other than low-fat quark, it looks difficult. German Deli has a certain amount, but not only is it Milram Frühlingsquark, which means it’s mixed with herbs and stuff, but it’s described as containing ‘skimmed quark’, and Aldi also apparently has a fat-free version.

Linguistica Antverpiensia: Themes in translation studies

Trevor pointed this series out to me. I can completely missed it.

Linguistica Antverpiensia new series: Themes in translation studies

In particular, an issue in 2013 on legal translation:

No 12 (2013)
Research models and methods in legal translation

I will be coming back to this. This looks promising:

Exploring near-synonymous terms in legal language. A corpus-based, phraseological perspective
Stanislaw Gozdz-Roszkowski


This paper aims to determine the extent to which a corpus-based, phraseological approach can be effectively applied to discriminate among near-synonymous, semantically-related terms which often prove troublesome when translating legal texts. Based on a substantial multi-genre corpus of American legal texts, this study examines the collocational patterns of four legal terms ‘breach’, ‘contravention’, ‘infringement’ and ‘violation’, first in the genre of contracts and then in the multi-genre context of the entire corpus. The findings highlight the area of overlap as well as specificity in the usage of these terms. While collocational constraints can be argued to play an important disambiguating role in the semantic and functional analysis of both source and target text items carried out by translators prior to the interlingual translation, this study emphasizes the applicability of the phraseological approach to English source texts.

You can get the whole document as a PDF. I will return to it in a separate entry.

These struck me too:

Die notarielle Urkunde im italienisch-deutschen Vergleich: Überlegungen zur Übersetzung von Immobilienkaufverträgen
Eva Wiesmann


Notarial documents have some translation-relevant particularities which are strongly associated with the legal culture of the respective country. They are subject to competing influential factors – among others laws and administrative provisions, the facts of the case, form books, notary offices, and the recipient of the document – which determine the content, the specific structure and the language of notarial documents. In addition to the basic parameters of translation, translators should know and tackle the common features and the differences between the notarial documents of the countries concerned in order to produce a professional translation. This paper examines the most important common features and differences between Italian and German real estate sales contracts and presents the implications for translations from Italian into German against the background of the basic parameters of translation.


Investigating legal information in commercial websites: the Terms and conditions of use in different varieties of English
Federica Scarpa


The Terms and conditions of use which are embedded in commercial websites provide a standardised legal model based in common law which exemplifies the increasingly influential role that English plays in international and intercultural commercial and legal settings, but also how deeply rooted legal knowledge is in socio-cultural values and national cultures. Using a small monolingual corpus of Terms and conditions of use drafted in English and embedded in the commercial websites from different countries of origin and legislations based both on common law and civil law, the paper investigates the extent to which different layout/content and language features are displayed by: (1) ELF Terms and conditions translated from different languages/legislations, and (2) ENL non-translated Terms and conditions drafted in different ‘core’ varieties of English. The aim is to show that the English intralingual variation of this highly structured and conventionalised legal format reflects in fact the existing disparities in legal practice among various national legislations, even among systems belonging to the common law family. International legal models such as the one investigated should consequently be considered as “globally-relevant STs” (Adab, 1998, p. 224), i.e. flexible text formats that have been adopted by most countries but at the same time allow for local socio-cultural aspects to influence the construction of legal discourse.

Free-range Scotch eggs

I am surely not the first person to wonder how far free-range eggs (Eier aus Freilandhaltung) actually range.

See Down with free-range chickens! Up with free-range eggs! (quoting Thomas More):

They breed an infinite multitude of chickens in a very curious manner; for the hens do not sit and hatch them, but a vast number of eggs are laid in a gentle and equal heat in order to be hatched, and they are no sooner out of the shell, and able to stir about, but they seem to consider those that feed them as their mothers, and follow them as other chickens do the hen that hatched them.

I don’t think More foresaw these:


It seems you can also get free-range pickled eggs, albeit from England – but after today’s referendum that might be necessary.

Book on German corporate law

Schulz/Wasmeier: The Law of Business Organizations. A Concise Overview of German Corporate Law. Springer Verlag 2012

Look Inside at amazon.

I haven’t read much of this book, but mainly the first chapter, which covers the background on conducting business in Germany, German business law, and German insolvency law. The other chapters deal with AG, GmbH, corporate acquisitions and cross-border corporate activities. At the back are ‘convenience translations’ of extracts from statutes, articles of association of a GmbH and so on.

The introduction of a large amount of terminology, with the original German in brackets, looks very sound. The text occasionally has a slight German feel to it (discussing the advantages and disadvantages of ‘the Ltd.’ rather than ‘the limited company’, for example, or promising in the preface ‘to make German law comprehensive for a foreign reader'; heavy use of ‘so-called’), but the terminology introduced strikes me as excellent.

It looks as if Professor Schulz was the main mover and shaker and Oliver Wasmeier, now Dr. Oliver Wasmeier, was a trainee doing a stage of his training as ‘a legal clerk at the lower district court of Freiburg im Breisgau’, whatever that means (Amtsgericht?). The main body of the book looks sounder to me.

I could have done without the familiar German textbook tactic of introducing each chapter with a ‘Case Study’, which is virtually universal in university books. For instance:

Case Study
A-Corporation (A) is incorporated in the state of Delaware, USA, with its headquarters in Wilmington …John B. (B), the CEO of A, is interested in Germany in particular …B calls Peter C. (C), head of A’s legal department, to ask him to prepare a memorandum …

I suppose these case studies are intended to help the student see the law in practical terms, but students should be able to do that on their own! So I don’t know who the audience is – the preface refers to ‘business practitioners and international students’, but whether those would expect case studies I don’t know.

But this isn’t meant to be a negative review. A few years ago there was a rash of books in English on German law, but that seems to have died down, and I thought this was a good candidate for those considering how to translate terminology in context.

How not to market yourself as a translator

‘Cold email’ from another translator, beginning ‘Hello’ (without my name), offering services, enquiring about my ‘specialisms’, offering 20% off his book (on how to improve one’s translation sales!), and ending with a link to ‘unsubscribe’.

Also advertising a ‘manually vetted translator database and project management system (under development, open for applications that will be processed in October – feel free to browse the site in its current state)’.

I seem out of line with some colleagues once again, although the author’s website quotes only part of Isabel Hurtado de Mendoza’s review in the ITI Bulletin but omits the following:

…I’m sorry to say that The translation sales handbook felt to me like a ‘work in progress’. …I believe that its potential is not fully developed. …A professional editor could possibly spot typos, detect repetitions, indicate the lack of relevance of certain sections …

It looks as if the email was sent to many ITI translators. Reactions varied but were on the whole not positive.

Dangerous zeppelins

In memory of the First World War: children being warned of zeppelins.


If the zeppelins come, keep indoors. Put lights out and keep quiet. British means Pluck.

Apparently it did take a while to develop effective anti-airship measures.

Making mistakes in German (Raed Saleh, Erasmus students in Austria)

1. Raed Saleh is a German SPD politician, who was born in the West Bank (Westjordanland) but grew up in Germany. He is a potential next mayor of Berlin, but it seems a large number of journalists believe his German is too bad. An article in taz, Ein dubioses Hörproblem (with a video clip so you can hear Saleh speaking), disagreed: it analysed the transcript of a TV interview and counted up the errors made by Saleh and the two interviewers. I wouldn’t say Saleh has a foreign accent, but some say he has, and it appears that he can’t be mentioned without the word ‘migrant’ being used, and more errors are heard in his German than are there.

As some of the commenters rightly say, if he does speak excellent German it still doesn’t qualify him to be the mayor of Berlin!

(Via Sprachlog)

2. Linz University has an (Upper) Austrian – German – English dictionary to help visiting Erasmus students (Zur besseren Verständigung zwischen (ober)österreichischen Studenten und Erasmus-Studenten).
The entries are marked as rural (L: ländlicher Raum), urban (S: städtischer Raum) and urban/Viennese (W: wienerisch/städtisch), and also as positive, negative and neutral, though these terms are not explained in English. Red marks language that should not be used.
It seems to refer to spoken language. The English looks fine, although defeated by Leberkäs (‘a type of meat popular in Austria’). And I feel some of the vocabulary is chosen because it’s funny, although it’s probably rare (Beamtenforelle, Holzpyjama – and how often in Linz do they talk about a schöne Leich nowadays?). It’s not all Austrian (den Löffel abgeben) and some is just pronunciation/spelling (moanen: meinen).

Notting Hill carnival – not

I didn’t go to the Notting Hill Carnival because it was pouring with rain (might have meant less of a crush though) and I was going to a Chinese film anyway. I was also disturbed by Time Out’s recommendation that you shouldn’t take a digital camera in case it gets stolen.

Canon Deutschland has just sent me a newsletter recommending the carnival, which it claims takes place on the last weekend in August every year (that would be tomorrow), and suggesting that I should get there early to get a good photography position. But surely not eleven-and-a-half months early?

Eine andere Veranstaltung, die einen Besuch wert ist, ist der Notting Hill Carnival, das größte Straßenfestival Europas, das jedes Jahr am letzten Wochenende im August stattfindet. Das zweitägige Festival zieht über eine Million Feiernde an und erweckt mit viel Musik und Tanz die sonst verschlafenen Straßen des Londoner Künstlerviertels zum Leben. Das Tolle daran: Die Veranstaltung ist kostenlos.

Der Notting Hill Carnival wurde 1965 von der schwarzen Gemeinde Londons ins Leben gerufen mit dem Ziel, die Menschen zusammenzubringen und die Musik und Kultur der Karibik zu feiern. Er bot den Londonern die Möglichkeit, in eindrucksvoll verzierten Kostümen auf den Straßen zu tanzen und zu feiern. In unserem neuen Kurzfilm, der die Einführung unseres Fotomanagement-Services irista feiert, erfahren Sie mehr über das Festival und eines seiner Gründungsmitglieder.

Im Laufe seiner 50-jährigen Geschichte ist der Notting Hill Carnival immer größer geworden. Er ist ein unvergleichliches Erlebnis und bietet Fotografen mit seinen farbenprächtigen Kostümen, weltoffenen Feiernden und inspirierenden Atmosphäre viele tolle Gelegenheiten für Schnappschüsse. Wenn Sie etwas früher kommen, finden Sie noch einen guten Platz, um die atemberaubenden Kostüme der Hauptparade zu fotografieren. Oder stürzen Sie sich bei Sonnenuntergang in die tanzenden Menschenmassen und halten Sie das Geschehen bei wunderschönem, fast magischem Licht fest.