Zur vollsten Zufriedenheit: voll verwirrend für Übersetzer

Beck Blog (Prof. Dr. Markus Stoffels) reports on a recent decision:

Unzufrieden mit „voller Zufriedenheit“? BAG äußert sich zur Leistungsbeurteilung in Zeugnissen

in which the Federal Employment Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) found it was acceptable for an employee to receive the equivalent of Grade 3 on the six-grade scale because this is the average grade).

Die Note 1 wird mit der Formulierung „stets zur vollsten Zufriedenheit“, die Note 2 mit „stets zur vollen Zufriedenheit“, die Note 3 mit „zur vollen Zufriedenheit“ und die Note 4 mit „zur Zufriedenheit“ zum Ausdruck gebracht.

An employee who wanted a better grade had to show evidence it was deserved.

One sometimes wonders how to translate these terms, where ‘satisfactory’ is quite negative. The non-German recipient ought to be informed of the code used, but I can’t see any other way to translate it except literally (I have actually refused to translate references of this kind in the past).

According to Wikipedia:

Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Bulgaria are the only countries in Europe where employees can legally claim an employment reference, including the right to a correct, unambiguous and benevolent appraisal.

Meanwhile, as English is used more and more widely, the Frankfurter Allgemeine is worried about unfortunate phrases in bad English:

Es gibt Empfehlungen, die mehr schaden als nützen: „He left us with enthusiasm“ oder „You will be lucky to have him to work for you“ gehören zweifellos dazu – besonders wenn sie als gutgemeinte Abschiedsformeln am Ende eines englischen Arbeitszeugnisses stehen.

Here’s the Süddeutsche Zeitung on the same topic (interview with Professor Arnulf Weuster):

Der Bewerber war “attentive to detail”, ein Pedant also. Der Vorgesetzte bescheinigt ihm Flexibilität. Schade nur, dass “flexible” auch “unentschlossen” heißt. Deutsche Arbeitszeugnisse ins Englische zu übersetzen, ist tückisch. Arnulf Weuster, Professor an der Hochschule Offenburg, hat Ratgeber zum Thema verfasst. Trotzdem hält er es letztlich für unmöglich, alle Feinheiten der Zeugnissprache zu übertragen.

And here’s Toytown Germany discussing it.

German lawyers fighting in Munich?

Under the heading Exclusive: Two Linklaters partners resign after office party fight
Roll on Friday reports that two partners at Linklaters in Munich have resigned after a fight at an Oktoberfest party.

I’m not sure if this is right because I can still find Laurenz Schmitt on the Linklaters site, but not thomas Elser.

LATER NOTE: Here’s a German report from November. It looks as if just Thomas Elser left, and Linklaters weren’t saying why.

Happy interpreters video

A video showing happy interpreters at the UN in New York.
Happy Interpreters
from Empanadilla de Atún 1 day ago / via Final Cut Pro Not Yet Rated

To dispel the tower of Babel and other clichés about us we thought that this holiday season we would show you what we really do and what we are really like. Don’t be afraid- no other humans or animals suffered during filming, no extra budgetary resources were required. Not even the need to talk about multilingualism, cost cutting, increased efficiency, doing more for less or any of those buzz words. We have managed to use a universal language and we hope it makes you feel HAPPY.

Apparently this is not the first cover of Pharrell Williams’ video.

Thanks to Elm.

Interpreting Dagenham

In interpreting teenage slang for the jury, what could Mark Paltenghi do? Your honour, this is bare hard to understand: Laughter in court as barrister has to translate defendants’ teenage slang into plain English

A barrister had to translate text messages sent between teenagers into plain English in court after they included slang like ‘bare’ – meaning really- and ‘bait’ – meaning blatant – for the judge.

During the shooting spree in Dagenham, the group are said to have sent text messages to each other, which were read out by the prosecution along with the ‘translations’.

In one message, sent by the youngest defendant who is 16, to a contact called ‘female boss’, he wrote: ‘Hurry up I’ve got bare haters around me now.’

Prosecutor Mark Paltenghi – in his fifties – informed the jury: ‘Next to it in italics you have it re-written.

‘It means: ‘Hurry up, I’ve got a lot of people who don’t particularly like me here.’

Another text read: ‘Hurry up I’ve got a strap on me, this is bare bait’.
Mr Paltenghi told the jury: ‘We believe this means: ‘Hurry up, I’ve got a gun on me, and this is really risky’.’

Defendants Scott Stokes, 20, his brother Jason, 18, Anne-Marie Madden, 25, and 16-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, burst into laughter.

Jurors also giggled when Judge Patricia Lees asked the defence barristers: ‘Do you agree with these translations?’

(First seen in Metro headed I’m a barrister, innit)

LATER NOTE: Just in, the report of a witness speaking Sierra Leone creole (Krio) for an hour before anyone in court realized it was not an acoustics problem.

Witness gave evidence for an hour before anyone in court realised she wasn’t speaking proper English

Forensic linguistics in court

At Language Log, Mark Liberman has a post dated 28.11 and headed Plebgate judgment, in which he reports on his experience as an expert witness, with Peter French appearing for the other side (Mitchell’s).

As is widely known, Andrew Mitchell, the government chief whip, was stopped by police from cycling through a pedestrian entrance in Downing Street and is said to have told the policeman ‘Best you learn your fucking place – you don’t run this fucking government – you’re fucking plebs.’

The language aspect was that there were arguments that the police officer in questio, Toby Rowland, was thought unlikely to invent such an expression, and Mitchell was thought likely to use it.

Mark Liberman had to report on whether the time of the exchange recorded by CCTV cameras was long enough for the words to have been spoken. Both he and Peter French came to the conclusion that the time was long enough. Liberman quotes Archie Bland in The Guardian:

You couldn’t help but be lost in admiration for [Mitting’s] forensic command of the detail: you’d need a memory palace to keep it all straight. And yet it almost all seemed irrelevant. A judgment that took over an hour to read boiled down to the fact that two phonetic experts judged that Mitchell would have had time to say the “toxic phrases”, and that he had told his deputy that he didn’t know what he had said very soon after.

More from the case – full report here – in the Language Log post. Also the commenters get very involved in forms of address in court, starting with whether it was right for Mark to address an English judge as ‘My Lord’.

German Civil Code/BGB-Kommentar kostenlos online verfügbar

Below I post parts of a press release from Karriere-Jura GmbH, which is publishing the German text and a commentary to the German Civil Code free of charge online. There is no need to register.

The whole Code is online, but only some parts have been given commentaries so far – for a list and links see in the German text below.

The publisher is encouraging lawyers to post comments to the sections, which obviously has an advertising effect. For an example, scroll down on the page to § 1371.

This should be very useful for translators. Sometimes a text deals in great detail with a section of the BGB and a commentary is the ideal source of information. But more on commentaries in a future post.

Der Online-Kommentar macht … konsequent von den Möglichkeiten des Internets Gebrauch (Details).

Hinzu tritt ein gravierender Unterschied im Konzept: Da zusätzlich zu den Fachinformationen für Juristen auch eine eigene Rubrik für den Rechtsverkehr veröffentlicht ist, wird mit Kommentar-untypischen Nutzerzahlen von bis zu einer Million Lesern jährlich gerechnet.

Bislang ist noch nicht jede Norm kommentiert. Der Verlag freut sich daher über Anfragen von Autoren, die sich zutrauen, bis zu drei Normen in hoher Qualität zu kommentieren.

Verfügbar sind z.B. bereits Kommentierungen zu folgenden §§: 80 ff. (Stiftungen); 712 ff. (Gesell­schafts­recht); 1004; 1371 ff. (Familien­recht); 611 ff. (Ar­beits­recht), 631 ff. (Werk­vertrags­recht).

Bitte beachten Sie auch das Geleitwort von Prof. Dr. iur. Dr. iur. habil. Gerrick Frhr. v. Hoyningen-Huene, das Sie hier finden: Zum Geleitwort.

Die offizielle Adresse des Kommentars lautet:


Forms of address

If, like me, you are an alumna or alumnus of King’s College London and, unlike me, you wish to attend The Lifeboat Debate: who will save humanity?, you have a choice of titles to enter. In my case, Dr was preselected, but here are more (thanks, Alison!):

Visc Dr Miss Mr Mrs Ms Professor Reverend Admiral Air Care Air Chiefe Marshal Air Cmdr Air Commodore Air Marshal Air Vice-Marshal Alderman Alderman & Sheriff Ambassador Archibishop Archdeacon Assistant Commissioner Baron Baron von Helmfels Baroness Bishop Brigadier Cader #N/A Canon Canon Emeritus Captain CB MBE PhD Chancellor Chief Justice Chief Officer Chief Rabbi Chief Technician Cllr CMG Colonel Comdt Commander Commander (D) Commodore Comtese Councillor Counsellor Count Countess Dame Datin Datin Nik Datin Sri Dato’ Dato’ Sr Datuk Deaconess Dean Detective Constable Dr & Mrs Dr Bishop Dr, Mr Dr. iur. Drs Duchess Duke Earl Elder Emeritus Emeritus Professor En Eur Ing Father Field Marshal Flight Lieutenant Flight Officer Flt Lt Flying Officer FR Frau General Group Captain Her Excellency Her Highness Her Honour Her Honour Judge Herr His Excellency His Highness High Highness Sheikh Sultan His Hon Judge His Honour His Majesty King His Royal Highess The Honourable HRH Prince HRH Princess Judge Justice Lady Lieutenant Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant-Commander Lieutenant-General Lord Lord Justice Lord Mayor of London Lt Col Lt Gen Madam Major Major (rtd) Major-General Marchioness Marchioness of Marquis Master Messrs Misses Mme Monsignor Pastor PC Pehin Pengiran Prebendary President Prince Princess Professor & Mrs Puan Sri Rabbi Rear-Admiral Rev Revd Canon Dr Revd Dr Right Reverend Rt Hon Rt Hon Lord Mayor Almerman Rt Revd Sanator Senior Evangelist Sergeant Sheikh Sheikha Sheriff Shri Sir Sister Smt Squadron Leader Staff Sergeant Sultan Surgeon Surgeon Captain Surgeon Commander Tan Sri Tan Sri Dato Tan Sri Datuk Tan Sri Dr The The Baroness The Dowager The Earl The Hon The Hon Mrs The Honourable The Lady The Lord The Lord Bishop The Marquess The Most Honourable The Most Rev The Rev Canon The Rev, Canon The Rev, Dr The Rev, Mr The Revd The Rev’s Canon The Revd Prebdy The Rt Hon The Rt Hon Lord The Rt Revd The Venerable The Very Rev The Viscount Toh Puan Tun Vice Admiral Viscount Viscountess W Bro Warrant Offcer 2 Bandmaster Wing Commander Sqn Ldr The Very Revd Captain Royal Navy

Some are highly dubious – I think they must have been harvested.

Boing Boing has been here before:
Brit Airways’ honorifics kick United’s ass – not at King’s, that is, but at British Airways. Who have not the same list, although they do have Her Majesty. And a German has added material in a comment.

I am particularly fond of The, standing alone.

One-day symposium on working in legal translation (London)

The University of Roehampton and JoSTrans are holding a one-day symposium in January on becoming a legal translator.

The former is in Barnes-ish according to Google Maps and calls itself ‘London’s campus university’. The latter I should have a link to already – it’s the Journal of Specialised Translation and its latest edition, the July one, has articles about translating crime fiction which may be of interest to readers of this blog. In fact I attended an excellent seminar run by Karen Seago for the CIoL which did not so much encourage me to translate crime fiction (although there are German crime novels) as to read more of it.

University of Roehampton and JoSTrans present a one-day event on Friday 9th January 2015 at the University of Roehampton, London

Becoming a Legal Translator: a symposium.

Thinking of becoming a legal translator? Already translating legal texts and keen to know more? Perhaps you are teaching on a legal translation course? This day of talks and workshops will feature speakers from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of experience in translating and interpreting. Highlights include keynote speeches from Richard Delaney and Juliette Scott, alongside interactive workshops on legal translation and translating for the EU. Please see attached for the full programme.

The symposium will take place in the Gilbert Scott Lecture Theatre, Whitelands College, on Friday 9th January 2015. Please join us for registration in the milling area outside the Gilbert Scott Lecture Theatre at 09:15 for a 09:45 start.

The concession fee for the symposium is £65.00 and the full conference fee is £95.00. To book a place, please visit the University of Roehampton online store by clicking here.

If you have any queries regarding the event, please contact Kristal Oakes (Academic Conferencing Co-ordinator) via email at kristal.oakes@roehampton.ac.uk

We look forward very much to welcoming you to the symposium and to seeing you there!​

Here is a PDF with the programme, as received by me on 24.11.14.
Becoming a Legal Translator 9 Jan 2015 Programme

Unfortunately you can’t register without creating an account, but for future events at Roehampton University you will be laughing.

Loveparade Duisburg: criminal investigation falls into the hands of translators

There’s an article in the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) on the holdups to the Loveparade case resulting from delayed or erroneous translations by two agencies: Das Loveparade-Verfahren überfordert Englisch-Übersetzer.

21 people died from asphyxiation and 541 were injured at the Loveparade 2010 in Duisburg. It seems that the ground was suitable for 250,000 people and didn’t even reach capacity before there was a crush at the entrance between those coming in and those trying to leave. (Wikipedia German, Wikipedia English).

Apparently it is still not clear exactly how the accident occurred. The court commissioned a report from Professor G. Keith Still, Professor of Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan University, presumably to throw light on the sequence of events. This choice of expert witness was criticized as all the documents had to be translated into English for Professor Still and his report had to be translated back into German.

Criticism was directed at the delays in translation by the first agency, and also errors in the translation by the second agency. The second agency was commissioned in June 2012. On Friday November 14, Joachim Schwartz, the presiding judge of the 5th Duisburg Strafkammer, sent out three pages of criticism of errors.

What happened in detail in the translations?

1. We don’t know when the first agency was commissioned, just that June 2012 was regarded as too late. The events took place in June 2010, and after that the documents had to be translated and sent to Professor Still and he had to write his report before any translation could be commissioned.

The article states that the public prosecutors were sometimes unsatisfied with the time they had to wait for translations, and that deadlines were repeatedly breached. This suggests that the first agency was responsible for more than one translation – perhaps the DE>EN ones as well as the EN>DE one.

The report is available online as a PDF (21 pages, contains illustrations and photos). However, there was a later extended report, dated March 2013. This second report can be downloaded from the WAZ site here in four parts.

2. On November 14 the court, as stated above, criticized the second agency’s translation. The public prosecutor’s office is waiting to give the agency a chance to respond.

One part criticized is this (from the second report):

When did the loudspeaker system cease to be effective?

Original, referring to loudspeakers: “Their deployment and use is to inform the crowds but once the entry system failed and the crowds flowed in behind the police lines the situation was already beyond the point of no return.”

Translation: “Deren Verwendung und Einsatz dient der Information der Menschenmenge, aber sobald das Eingangssystem versagte, und die Menschenmenge bis zu den Polizeikordonen geströmt war, hatte die Situation einen Punkt überschritten, wo keine Rückkehr mehr möglich war.”

The translation treats “behind the police lines” as “up to the police lines”. I presume this is important because of the allocation of responsibility.

The court also criticized that the translation was in parts dubious, in parts changed the meaning, and in one place had omitted a complete sentence.

There isn’t enough evidence here to demonstrate a really bad translation. On top of that, the report itself is controversial and much criticized by the defence.

There’s a useful German blog on Loveparade 2010:
Dokumentation der Ereignisse der Loveparade 2010 in Duisburg