Divorce

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
Zielgruppe
Für international tätige Anwälte und Unternehmensjuristen, Richter in englischsprachigen Kammern, Juristische Fachübersetzer, Studierende der Fachspezifischen Fremdsprachenausbildung, Universitäten und Forschungseinrichtungen.

Unverzüglich

A colleague recently had the word unverzüglich in a legal text and wondered whether it mattered which of the many alternatives to choose.

Romain: prompt, forthwith, without delay

Dietl-Lorenz: (ohne schuldhaftes Zögern) without culpable (or undue) delay

I had wrongly remembered this as without unreasonable delay. Other renderings have been immediately and with all due speed

  1. I note that unverzüglich ist one of the words given a statutory definition (Legaldefinition) in the Civil Code. Here it is:

Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)
§ 121 Anfechtungsfrist

(1) Die Anfechtung muss in den Fällen der §§ 119, 120 ohne schuldhaftes Zögern (unverzüglich) erfolgen, nachdem der Anfechtungsberechtigte von dem Anfechtungsgrund Kenntnis erlangt hat. Die einem Abwesenden gegenüber erfolgte Anfechtung gilt als rechtzeitig erfolgt, wenn die Anfechtungserklärung unverzüglich abgesendet worden ist.(2) Die Anfechtung ist ausgeschlossen, wenn seit der Abgabe der Willenserklärung zehn Jahre verstrichen sind.

Note the way a statutory definition is indicated. Further research reveals that this definition is regarded as applying even outside the Civil Code.

2. Does it then matter how precisely it is translated into English? Immediately seems to suggest more speed, but does that matter? Perhaps not, as long as your translation is for information only and makes it clear that German law prevails. However, without undue delay or without culpable delay does the job well.

3. Dietl wins over Romain here (as so rarely). Von Beseler has:

adj immediate, prompt, instant(aneous);
adv immediately, promptly, instantly; forthwith; at once; on the spot; without delay; at short notice, at a moment’s notice

The BGB meaning is missing, and when it comes to choosing between the other alternatives, legal translators are left to themselves. Nor is there any indication in Dietl of the source of the definition.

LATER NOTE: As Inge Noeninger points out on Twitter (see comment too) unverzüglich contains the word Verzug, delay or default, which is why translating it as immediately is avoided.

Flurbereinigung/Land consolidation

It seems my blog has today been running (running down?) for 16 years so here is a birthday post.

Mittagsstunde by Dörte Hansen (2018), a novel full of Plattdeutsch with the theme of Flurbereinigung reminded me of this strange process. (Hansen’s first novel, Altes Land, has been translated as This House is Mine – one wonders how the dialect was handled). In East Germany small plots of land were joined to form collectives, but in West Germany (and Austria I gather – and also in France and the Netherlands) there was a similar consolidation of small plots but not for socialist reasons.

The process was enabled by a 1953 statute, the Flurbereinigungsgesetz. I don’t think it is done much or at all now.

Very small plots of land resulted from Realteilung, the physical partition of land when inherited by several people – I don’t think the system of inheritance always meant equal partitition, though. Land consolidation was agreed by a group of people and was accompanied by changes to roads and waterways.

Wikipedia (German)

Wikipedia (English)

The effects of this process in practice, both during and after the reorganization of land, are something we didn’t have in the UK.

One aspect that has become known here is the effect of consolidation on vineyards. Wikipedia:

A very negative example of Flurbereinigung occurred in the first half of the 70’s at Kaiserstuhl (Baden-Württemberg), when great terraces where created with an inclination in direction to the hillside. The idea was to store water in the area, but heavy rains in the Pentecost week in 1983 led to flooding. Moreover, due to the inclination of the terraces in springtime (blooming time of the wine) cold air was settles, leading to frequent frost damage to the crops. [3]

And here a 2014 article from the Daily Beast (whatever that is): Germany’s Wine Revolution is Just Getting Started:

Ulli is paving the way for a new wave of wine growers who are ignoring Flurbereinigung and looking to the Prussian tax maps to scout, purchase, and salvage historically great vineyard sites, work them by hand (as opposed to restructuring them to work with machines), and produce dry-tasting wines reminiscent of those created in the 19th century.

I’m afraid that’s all for today, folks.

Pro- and anti-Brexit at Westminster

When I went to the Don McCullin exhition at Tate Britain last Wednesday (includes some photo of the wall going up in East Berlin in 1961 btw), just before midday, I passed the protesters, of whom there seem increasingly more. It was very warm for February.




I love the Che Guevara badge and suspect the man’s style reflects it.

The image settings seem to have changed – must read up on WordPress in an idle moment.

Two minds here.

Rebecca Jowers ES>EN legal translation blog

I’m a bit late to recommend Rebecca Jowers because I don’t so often look at Spanish/English legal resources. But I have noticed that she is authoritative in advising on British as well as US usage.

An introduction: Why this blog? is the first post

I created this blog to share some of the translation pitfalls that I’ve encountered along the way, many of which were brought to my attention by fellow translators, my students of legal English, and law professors, attorneys, judges and other translation clients. It is intended to be a meeting place for translators, interpreters, lawyers and law professors for whom legal terminology is an essential element of their professional activities in both languages. Thus I welcome comments and suggestions from the many experienced colleagues in the profession who, as I am, are enthusiastically devoted to the study of Spanish-English legal terminology. Some of the areas I will be exploring include:
ES-EN legal terminology
Legal English for Spanish-speakers
False friends
Multiple meanings
Confusing terms
Common words with uncommon legal meanings
Expressing civil law concepts in common law terms
Español jurídico
Latinismos
Mistranslations? and
Terminology sources

The blog is called Léxico Jurídico Español-Inglés.


Rebecca has also published A Thematic Lexicon:ñhere is a review by Rob Lunn, whose blog I’ve also recommended in the past.

Photo walk – Zimbabwe Vigil – Sudan protest

After some attempts to accost people and ask to photograph them, it seemed more promising to seek protesters who wanted photographs.

The Zimbabwe Vigil takes place every Saturday outside Zimbabwe House – which I remember as Rhodesia House, long boarded up, in the 1960s. The Vigil has been happening since 2002! And there is a book.

I have not been following this. I remember we were very against the Ian Smith régime in the UK and not coming to an agreement with Ian Smith seems to have had devastating consequences.

At Trafalgar Square there was a protest by Sudanese against Omar Al-Bashir.

Representing Sudan rather than Iceland.

Elsewhere other things were happening.

m/w/d DE>EN

I recently translated this (männlich/weiblich/divers) in a job ad as m/f/x. Other suggestions made by colleagues were more experimental. However, I am now seeing “m/f/d” (mainly on German sites?). And in the USA there is m/f/d/v meaning masculine/feminine/disabled/veteran.

There is an academic job site in the UK and I see they have Professor (m/f/d) International Management and Finance at the Technische Hochschule Deggendorf and Postdoc (m/f/x) at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig.

Functional and formal equivalence in legal translation

Some TranslationTalk tweets this week reminded me of the terms functional equivalence and formal equivalence. I haven’t thought about these terms for years so I thought I would refresh my memory. (This is not a disagreement with the TranslationTalk tweets – they just reminded me of it).

When I started teaching legal translation, in the late 1980s, in those glorious days when no one much wanted legal translation at all, let alone for it to be taught, except, as it happened, the Bavarian courts, I was pleased to be recommended Martin Weston’s book An English Reader’s Guide to the French Legal System. I should add that legal translation had not yet been discovered as such a cornucopia for academic investigation – this was before Susan Šarčević’s New Approach to Legal Translation (which was hampered by having to take many of its translation examples from Canadian French, which is usually translated into Canadian Frenglish). We didn’t have internet resources in the 80s, whereas nowadays, at least for the German and English language pair, there are plenty of bilingual materials online.

Martin Weston had translated in the Secretariat of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and was then Senior Translator in the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. His book was originally a dissertation for a linguistics MA. He has a full bibliography of works on linguistics and translation theory; law; and dictionaries and lexicography.

I found Weston’s analysis of how to translate legal terminology very useful for teaching, though when I myself had a problematic term to translate, I didn’t run through his categories in my head but simply decided how close the German and English terms should be and how they would work in my context before I decided how to translate them.

Weston says that there are five possible approaches to translating ‘culture-bound’ SL expressions (incidentally it looks as if Newmark did something like this at an earlier date):

  1. nearest equivalent TL concept (départment: county)
  2. translate word for word (Académie Française: French Academy)
  3. transcribe the foreign expression, adding a TL explanation if necessary (croissant: croissant – needs no explanation)
  4. create a neologism: a) a literal translation / calque (université du troisième age: university of the third age) b) naturalization (informatique: informatics) c) use existing naturalization (départment: department);
  5. use an existing naturalization (which may be felt to be a native TL expression) (département: department,

Number 1 is functional equivalence, number 2 is formal equivalence.

Thus one could translate le Conseil des ministres as the Cabinet – to translate it as the Council of Ministers would have no equivalent in British culture and would conflict with the English title of the decision-making body of the European Community.

It’s for every translator to decide which type of translation works in English – in any case, many translations of terms have become standard now. I was surprised at the suggestion that a civil-law lawyer might be translated as barrister or solicitor, depending on their current role, because for me the terms are too specific to the English divided profession. Weston does discuss this at length. He seems inclined to accept barrister as a generic term. Discussing how to translate avocat (p. 103), Weston finds that the differences “are not such as to preclude the trnaslation ‘barrister’, however. At the same time, though, it should be noted that, just as many international organizations have official titles in more than one language, so European Community barristers, who are now allowed to practise in any member State, must use only their original official title (e.g. avocat, Rechtsanwalt, barrister), not a translation.”

When I wanted to use this list in teaching, I tried to replace the French examples by German ones, but it didn’t work very well. If you translate Kabinett as Cabinet, I suppose you have both formal and functional equivalence. But still it seemed a useful way of thinking about terminology – not that legal translation consists solely of terminology.

If I were to encounter the word Rechtsanwalt to translate for the first time today, I would have a number of dictionaries to consult and examples to consider. I probably wouldn’t have the time to research in great detail the precise differences not only between Rechtsanwalt and Notar, but between solicitor, barrister, attorney, lawyer, attorney-at-law. As Weston writes, “In a court context, avocat (de la défense) will often be translated as ‘counsel for the defence)'”. But I would be thinking: is this close enough functionally? would it confuse the English reader? how much support does the rest of the text provide to the intended meaning? how important is a precise rendering of this term in this particular text? who is going to read it? (my texts are never intended specifically for England and Wales, but for a number of readers, some of whom aren’t even in common law systems).

I agree with Malcolm Harvey on this (A Beginner’s Course in Legal Translation: the Case of Culture-bound Terms)

Malcolm Harvey Université Lumière Lyon 2, France


Authors are divided over the merits of this technique: Weston describes it as the ‘ideal method of translation’ (1991:23), whereas Sarcevic claims it is ‘misleading and should be avoided in the translation of laws’ (1985:131). Experience shows that learners tend to overuse this device, no doubt because it is aesthetically satisfying and allows them to apply newly-acquired knowledge about the TL system. This can cause them to ignore potential dangers: for instance, the term tribunal d’instance can produce anomalies such as ‘Magistrates’ Court’ or ‘County Court’, which sound distinctly odd in the French context. This temptation is shared by dictionaries and vocabulary books, which sometimes offer incongruous or erroneous equivalencies such as Garde des Sceaux = ‘Lord Chancellor’; avocat général = ‘Queen’s Counsel’ (Gusdorf 1993:85).

Apprentice translators should double-check both denotation and connotation before resorting to a functional equivalent.

This technique is appropriate for the translation of texts intended for the lay reader (novels, general newspaper articles, political speeches etc.) in contexts where scrupulous accuracy is less important than fluency and clarity. However, in a document intended for lawyers, the technique can be misleading.