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.
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.