hilfs-hilfsweise

A note on a translation problem: a colleague had a sentence with hilfsweise and later hilfs-hilfsweise. I have met ‘in the alternative…in the further alternative’.

Also encountered: ‘in the first alternative…in the second alternative’. I think this puts the two on the same level, whereas ‘in the further alternative’ makes it subordinate – first try one, then if that doesn’t work, fall back on two.

Also encountered in German texts: eventualiter and subeventualiter.

I have not given a context. It is sometimes used in applications to court, requesting one alternative, but if that fails, a second.

A Linguee search for ‘in the further alternative’ reveals also ‘äußerst hilfsweise’ and ‘weiter hilfsweise’. A web search reveals more. A ProZ entry suggests that the German should be hilfsweise and höchst fürsorglich.

But I don’t need to go into enormous detail, although the commenter xxxKrstyMacC may wish to.

 

unverzüglich/without undue delay

I normally translate unverzüglich as without undue delay. This is always in contracts governed by German law where the German-language version takes precedence.

The background is in section 121 of the German Civil Code, which contains a statutory definition (Legaldefinition):

§ 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.
Here’s the ‘official’ English translation:

Section 121 Period for avoidance

(1) Avoidance must be effected, in the cases set out in sections 119 and 120,without culpable delay (without undue delay) after the person entitled to avoid obtains knowledge of the ground for avoidance. Avoidance made to an absent person is regarded as effected in good time if the declaration of avoidance is forwarded without undue delay.

The translation is a bit odd, but there is no good solution. The German gives the definition first (without culpable delay) and the term defined  (unverzüglich) in brackets. The English seems to say that whenever in the text of the Civil Code we encounter without undue delay we should read it to mean without culpable delay. That is the way brackets are used in many statutory definitions in German.

I certainly don’t think that an English-speaking reader would understand ‘without undue delay’ to mean ‘without culpable delay’. But it does indicate that not every delay will be a problem.

Triebel/Vogenauer write that a lot of terms that are precise in German law, and even have a statutory definition as in this case, have English semi-equivalents that are rather vague.

The contracts I translate have usually been governed by German law and with the German version taking priority, my translation just for convenience, and they have usually been for individuals in big companies to understand, but if they have a legal problem, they will consult a German colleague or lawyer because the German version prevails. However, there are many contracts written in English but governed by German law. I would not translate one of those because I’m not a practising and insured lawyer. Triebel/Vogenauer is written with those lawyers in mind. Their knowledge of law may be better than their knowledge of the English they draft it in.

There are two ways of handling this in such a contract: 1) write ‘without undue delay (unverzüglich, §121 BGB)’ or something along those lines 2) attach a glossary to the contract including all the terms with a specific meaning in German that would need explanation in English.

Triebel/Vogenauer (305 ff.) discuss the problem of translating vague English terms in German and using the German term with a statutory definition, for example translating ‘without (undue) delay’ as ‘unverzüglich’ in the sense of section 121 of the Civil Code. They give a table of such terms with both a definition of the English meaning and a partial approximation in German law.

Ken Adams encountered this problem in 2015 – see the post “Shall Without Undue Delay” (Including a German Angle). I was alerted to this article in Twitter only this week.

He thought ‘promptly’ was more elegant than ‘without undue delay’. He received an email from an attorney in Düsseldorf who cautioned against this is the contract was governed by German law. He explained the problem and added ‘So I tend to use “without undue delay”, often followed by “unverzüglich” in brackets’. There are some useful comments thee, including two from Stuart Bugg, who does translate such contracts. (His book, Contracts in English, is ot based on the law of any particular jurisdiction, and it contains an apendix with German translations of legal terms).

On Juraforum there is a list of terms given a Legaldefinition (statutory definition) in German law.

Legaldefinition meint eine im Gesetz enthaltene Definition eines unbestimmten Rechtsbegriffes. Sie sind oftmals daran zu erkennen, dass das definierte Wort nach der Definition in Klammern steht.

 

Zum Beispiel:   Anspruch, § 194 Absatz 1 BGB

„Das Recht, von einem anderen ein Tun oder Unterlassen zu verlangen (Anspruch), unterliegt der Verjährung.“

Ein Anspruch ist gem. der Legaldefinition in § 194 Absatz 1 BGB ein Recht, von einem anderen ein Tun oder Unterlassen zu verlangen.

 

Persönlich bekannt

I have always found it confusing that persons appearing (die Erschienenen) before a notary may be described as ausgewiesen durch Personalausweis or persönlich bekannt.  It makes it look as if there is a big difference between the two, but I don’t think there is. It isn’t a case of a) I saw the person’s passport and here is the number and b) an old acquaintance.

I dread to think how I used to translate this years ago, when I encountered it more often.

In fact there’s a good explanation on LEO, (by wienergriessler), as sometimes happens:

Jein: “dem Notar von Person bekannt” kann heißen, dass die Person sich bei einer früheren Beurkundung schon mit Ausweis/Pass “ausgewiesen” hat; der Notar darf aber m.W. auch dann “von Person bekannt” schreiben,wenn er die Person aus seinem persönlichen Kontakt kennt,ohne den Ausweis gesehen zu haben
(Beispiel: Ein Richter, den der Notar aus dem Gericht kennt, will etwas beurkunden lassen. Dann darf der Notar auch schreiben: von Person bekannt)

So it seems that in case b) the notary has copied out the ID/passport number before, in most cases.

I was reminded of this some time ago when I looked at Diatopische Variation in der deutschen Rechtssprache, by Brammbilla/Gerdes/Messina. I turned to pp. 314 ff., Recht in Bayern:

Wie die Untersuchung des Korpus ergibt, verwenden die bayerischen Notare nach 1899 die vorher in Bayern übliche Formulierung mir nach Namen, Stand und Wohnort bekannt nicht mehr, sondern nur noch die bayernunspezifische Formulierung mir persönlich bekannt.

I like the word bayernunspezifisch. But the earlier formulation made it clear to me what the wording means.

The book immediately gets very exciting on the subjects of Bavarian weights and measures (‘Das Dezimal betrug in Bayern ein hundertstel Tagwerk und das wiederum 34,07 Quadratmeter’), occupations and subject of contract (variant terms for potatoes and sausages).

 

German-English legal contracts workshop

The ITI is offering a workshop on contract translation: Dual German/English Contracts Workshop in Milton Keynes in May. Event Details:

This workshop – aimed at both established and aspiring legal translators working from German into English and English into German – will boost your knowledge about German and English contracts and improve your translation skills in this field.

During the session, you will:

Discover the difference between English and German legal language and the implications for legal translation

Have put theory into practice, identified and discussed legal translation problems in specific language direction, based on a short contract

Learn how to solve terminological problems and improve your legal writing style

Know how to acquire the necessary linguistic skills and improve your proficiency in this particular field

 

Speakers Angela Sigee and Rebecca Smith

Translation blogging

I think this year I will probably ignore this blog’s birthday (early April, 15?). When I started there were a few translation blogs, although probably no other legal translation blogs. I thought that after I stopped teaching legal translation, I still had a lot of things to say about it. But nowadays I am more likely to post interesting links to Twitter. Goodness knows how many I am missing.

A websearch brings up a lot of posts on ‘Best translation blogs’. I am fond of this description of mine:

  • Transblawg is dedicated to German-English legal translation. The posts, written by Werner Patels, are full of humor and entertainment, which makes his blog fun and quite useful at the same time. It offers help and information to translators on a variety of topics and specializations.

This should teach me not to be so full of myself.

Here’s a new legal translation blog: Language with a Pinch of Law.

Like many, it’s the offshoot of a legal translation firm. It’s run by Paula Arturo and its languages are US English and Spanish (Argentina) and Portuguese (Brazil). There is an active Twitter feed too. It goes into US legal usage quite a lot (often quoting  Ken Adams or Bryan Garner (Black’s Law Dictionary)). There is also apparently a Facebook group called Legal Writing and Translation, (‘For those who passionately pursue linguistic excellence’), but I haven’t investigated it. The main emphasis of the blog is probably translating US contracts (common law) into Spanish (civil law).

Nikki Graham in her Tranix blog (My words for a change) started a translation and interpreting BLOG survey in January of this year, and she has now published a first post on the results: Blogging is not dead.

She had 190 responses. One finding was that over 84% of those replying do read blogs (but then why would they fill in a survey about blogging if they didn’t?). The next question: is blogging good for your business? The majority did not think so.

I had a problem with that question because I did not create this blog directly to be good for my business, although it might appeal to other translators, and if legal translation is not their special field they might recommend me to their clients. But then again I seem to have enough work.

There are a lot of quotes from survey answers. There is to be a second part:

In part 2 of the survey results, we’ll look at the reasons why people do and don’t blog.

I will be interested in that. When I started this blog, the world of advertising yourself as a translator was very different.

From another blog: Martin Crellin, in false friends, good and bad translation, posts on becoming a German. He writes in German, despite the English title. I was amused to read that one of the places he had to apply to asked for a handwritten c.v. – although he found out later he could have done it on the computer. I remember handwritten cvs!

Translating a German judgment – Project Gutenberg case

Here are the two texts I am about to discuss:

Original German judgment of Frankfurt am Main Regional Court

English translation of the judgment

Here is an IPKAT post on the case.

I apologize in advance if I seem to be nitpicking in the following, since the translation is excellent and reads very well in English, although the latter is not a 100% requirement in legal translation. I assume the translation was commissioned by the Cologne law firm Wilde Beuger Solmecke, who represented both Project Gutenberg and its managing director and CEO Dr. Gregory Newby.

A commenter on my earlier post is interested in a discussion of the US English aspects of this translation. I had not thought about that. It is very similar to a British English text. However, I suppose that people might be interested on what strikes me, so I will report on that at the end.

The following are just a few remarks out of many that could be made!

Use of reported speech

Anyone translating a German judgment into English must make it clear when a statement is direct speech (the words of the court) and when it is indirect speech (the submissions of the parties). This translation does that very well.

An example: in the section of the judgment setting out the facts of the case, the words of the parties often have to be summarized, and it must be made clear in German and English that these are what the parties state.

p. 7  Die Beklagten behaupten, dass die Beklagte zu 1) keine Kenntnis von der Nationalität ihrer Nutzer habe.

Tr: The defendants claim that the first defendant has no knowledge of the nationality of its users.

No problem here.

p. 8 Die Beklagten seien nicht zum Schadensersatz verpflichtet, da sie weder vorsätzlich noch fahrlässig gehandelt hätten.

Tr. The defendants claim they are not liable for damages as their actions were neither willful  nor grossly negligent.

Here it was necessary to make it clear that this was a party’s statement, and also which party stated it.

This may seem elementary, but it is something that inexperienced translators often overlook. It also surprises me that native speakers of German who translate into English (quite common not only in Germany but in the USA, where Germans may have lived so long that they feel more comfortable with English than with German) do not always realize that this is reported speech: they learnt it from hearing it, rather than from being taught the grammar.

There are various ways of indicating reported speech. One possiblity is to write ‘The defendants submitted as follows” and then make it clear typographically that several paragraphs are the defendants’ statements. I don’t myself use ‘allege’ or ‘allegedly’, unlike the translator here, because I find it suggests that there was something suspicious about the statement – here is an example:

Die Handlungen der Freiwilligen könnten den Beklagten nicht zugerechnet werden.
The actions of the volunteers can allegedly not be attributed to the defendants.

I would rather know who ‘alleges’ this, although it is probably clear from the rest of the paragraph.

Translating court names

Landgericht Frankfurt am Main
District Court of Frankfurt am Main

I prefer Frankfurt am Main Regional Court (recommended by German authorities).
District Court: this is unclear – does it mean Landgericht or Amtsgericht? On page 10 (and elsewhere) reference to a decision by ‚Regional Court of Hamburg‘.

Germanisms?

…hat das Landgericht Frankfurt am Main – 3. Zivilkkammer –
durch Vorsitzenden Richter am Landgericht Dr. Kurth,..
… the District Court of Frankfurt am Main – 3rd Civil Division –
through Dr. Kurth, Presiding Judge at the District Court

Through?
I would say the court is ‚sitting with (judges)‘ or ‚composed of‘…

IV Von den Kosten des Rechtsstreits haben die Beklagten jeweils die Hälfte zu tragen.
The defendants shall pay half of the costs of the proceedings respectively.

The defendants shall bear half of the costs of the proceedings each.

What I would do differently

Bezug wird genommen
reference shall be made

Me: Reference is made

Es wird festgestellt, dass die Beklagten als Gesamtschuldner verpflichtet sind, der Klägerin Schadenersatz zu leisten…
The court finds that the defendants, as the joint and several debtors, are obligated to pay damages to the plaintiff

Me: The court finds that the defendants are liable as joint and several debtors to pay damages to the plaintiff

nach §32 ZPO
pursuant to §32 ZPO (German Rules of Civil Procedure)

Me: under section 32 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung)

§ 97 Abs. 1 UrhG
§ 97 sec. 1 UrhG

Me: section 97 (1) Copyright Act

I would not translate Rechtsanwälte as attorneys-at-law, but just as attorneys. The former sounds too much like part of the common-law system.
I would not use authorized proxy for Prozessbevollmächtigte – I would reserve proxy for someone representing another at an AGM. Maybe attorney of record or counsel.

 

What makes this translation US English?
There aren’t many differences from British English here.
The usual: obligate (rather than oblige, which is less common in BrE than be under a duty)
not proven

 

Translating judgments – Project Gutenberg blocks German users

Link

Following a dispute on copyright between Project Gutenberg in the USA and S. Fischer Verlag – German copyright still covers some works by Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann and Alfred Döblin, but they are in the public domain in the USA – the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court (Landgericht) has ordered Project Gutenberg to block access to 18 texts to users in Germany, following which Project Gutenberg has blocked all access to Project Gutenberg in Germany, as Chris Meadows on TeleRead reports:

Project Gutenberg blocks German users after court rules in favor of Holtzbrinck subsidiary

Here’s a better summary than mine: Court Order to block access in Germany.

This case has been going on for a while and there will presumably be an appeal.

Incidentally, there is a German Projekt Gutenberg, run by Spiegel Online, which is not involved here and which I am sure complies with German copyright law.

At all events, the articles quoted give links to the original judgment and the English translation. I don’t think we often see such a good chance to comment on translating judgments (I’ve done much more translating of decisions than of contracts over the years) so in a separate post I will comment on the translation.

Can legal translators be replaced by machines?

In recent months at least, it seems that machine translation, based on huge databases of sample translations (neural networks), has massively improved. DeepL is one example. Professional translators would avoid using this as their translations might be integrated into the system, which would be a breach of their client confidentiality. But I do suspect that any law firm processing a huge pile of exhibits in a foreign language and wondering which pages would be worth translating can have the whole lot rapidly machine-translated, then zoom in on the most relevant bits and have them machine-translated.

Peter Winslow, a legal translator with a penchant for Karl Kraus, has posted in a Beck Verlag forum three translations of a sentence, two of which are machine translators and the third by a human translator with to me dubious qualifications:

Nur eine der nachstehenden Übersetzungen ins Deutsche wurde von einem menschlichen Übersetzer angefertigt, die anderen zwei stammen von maschinellen Übersetzungssystemen (vor mindestens sechs Monaten). … Erkennen Sie, welche Übersetzung der menschliche Übersetzer angefertigt hat? Der Mensch ist Deutscher und deutscher Muttersprachler. Er ist Diplom-Übersetzer – sogar für die englische Sprache allgemein beeidigt und öffentlich bestellt – und gibt an, mehr als fünf Jahre Berufserfahrung als freiberuflicher Übersetzer zu haben.

Presumably most readers of this quiz will be German lawyers, and of course they will ask themselves how to know whether a translator can be relied on. It isn’t easy. Someone who has studied translation at a German university will probably have learnt little about legal translation, although you may need to show legal knowledge to be qualified to translate for the courts. It would be better to find a translator with specific legal experience or qualifications, and experience in doing legal translations. But I think one problem is that lawyers specialize, whereas legal translators tend to specialize only in law, not in a narrow area of law. They may have years of experience in a particular area of legal translation, or they may not. I hope most big law firms that do a lot of international work will have inhouse translation teams including trained translators, who will know how to evaluate any software systems used for translation. With smaller firms it is less likely.

The sentence taken as an example is “This policy defines the specific server roles required to implement the server program.” This sentence is hardly typical of legal translations.

(I am guessing, like Prof. Dr. Müller, that the second version is the native speaker of German – the answer has not yet been revealed).

One problem at the moment seems to be that agencies are using MT and the occasional sentence is quite wrong. They then require “proof-reading” from a freelance, but if only the final product is reviewed, in English for example, the error may not be evident, although the review will be cheaper than if it were compared with the original.

(With thanks to Igor Plotkin for posting this on a mailing list)

Legal Integration and Language Diversity: book on translation in EU lawmaking

Legal Integration and Language Diversity: Rethinking Translation in EU Lawmaking, by C.J.W. Baaij – Oxford University Press, coming out in February

This book should be interesting. It comes to the conclusion that particularly after Brexit, it would be a good idea for English to be the original language of all legislation.

  • Introduces the first comprehensive quantitative analysis of the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, spanning 50 years, focusing on interpreting and solving discrepancies between language versions of EU legislation

  • Integrates a variety of analytic methods and gathers data from both policy document analyses, interviews, and quantitative and qualitative examination of the EU’s Institutional Multilingualism

  • Builds a normative theoretical framework from legal translation studies and comparative law, general translation theory and language philosophy, and European studies

  • Proposes three EU policy changes that question mainstream thinking, from both political and theoretical vantage points

  • Argues that Brexit provides an additional reason in favor of rather than against recognizing English as the primary official language of the EU

(Via Wildy & Sons newsletter)

Follow-up to ‘Strafbefehle must be translated’

In a recent post Strafbefehle must be translated I linked to the CJEU case on the subject. At that time, only the Advocate General’s opinion was available in English, but now I’ve called up a bilingual version of the judgment.

I’m treating the German as the original version and only commenting on any elements which may be German rather than EU.

Thus the term Strafbefehl is now penalty order, not penal order
Unfallflucht: failure to stop at the scene of an accident

German law: two sections of the Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz are transllated. There is an ‘official’ translation online in Germany, by Kathleen Müller-Rostin, but this was not used.

CJEU DE
§ 187 des Gerichtsverfassungsgesetzes (GVG) sieht in seinem Abs. 1 vor, dass für einen Beschuldigten, der der deutschen Sprache nicht mächtig ist, ein Dolmetscher oder Übersetzer heranzuziehen ist, soweit dies zur Ausübung seiner strafprozessualen Rechte erforderlich ist.

Official translation (Courts Constitution Act)
The court shall call in an interpreter or a translator for an accused or convicted person who does not have a command of the German language or is hearing impaired or speech impaired, insofar as this is necessary for the exercise of his rights under the law of criminal procedure. The court shall advise the accused in a language he understands that he may to this extent demand that an interpreter or a translator be called in for the entire criminal proceedings free of charge.

CJEU EN
Paragraph 187(1) of the Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (Law on the Judicial System, ‘the GVG’) provides that, for an accused who does not have a command of the German language, recourse must be had to an interpreter or translator in so far as that is necessary for the exercise of his rights of defence in criminal proceedings.

I note: Law of the Judicial System instead of Courts Constitution Act – I remember that ‘constitution’ though correct confuses some non-native speakers, who think it refers to constitutional law, so there’s an argument for avoiding it. I like judicial system. Judicature Act is sometimes used, and I think that confuses people too. There are so many words beginning with ‘ju-‘ in legal English and they aren’t always understood. (Is that true of ‘judicial’ too?) I would stick to Act rather than Law.
Call in or have recourse to an interpreter – the latter is a bit pompous. ‘That is necessary’ seems a bit less idiomatic than ‘this is necessary’. I don’t know why ‘rights of defence’ is used rather than ‘rights under the law of criminal procedure’.
Section is really widely used, rather than paragraph, in English translation.

CJEU DE
Des Weiteren bestimmt § 187 GVG in seinem Abs. 2, dass zur Ausübung der strafprozessualen Rechte eines Beschuldigten, der der deutschen Sprache nicht mächtig ist, in der Regel die schriftliche Übersetzung von freiheitsentziehenden Anordnungen sowie von Anklageschriften, Strafbefehlen und nicht rechtskräftigen Urteilen erforderlich ist.

Official translation
As a rule, a written translation of custodial orders as well as of bills of indictment, penal orders and non-binding judgments shall be necessary for the exercise of the rights under the law of criminal procedure of an accused who does not have a command of the German language.

CJEU EN
In addition, Paragraph 187(2) of the GVG provides that, as a rule, a written translation of custodial orders as well as of indictments, penalty orders and non-final judgments is necessary for the exercise of the rights of defence of an accused who does not have a command of the German language.

Not much to say here, but one point that is sometimes overlooked and is handled correctly in boht cases here: if this is a summary of the law rather than a quotation, shall is out of place. It is not used to summarize law or contract. It is used within a statute or a contract with intended binding effect, but it is not customary to us it in reporting texts.

The German law continues with the Code of Criminal Procedure. Official translation: Original translation by Brian Duffett and Monika Ebinger
Translation updated by Kathleen Müller-Rostin and Iyamide Mahdi. However, I don’t have any useful comments on this, but here it is since I’ve collated it:

CJEU DE
Nach § 37 Abs. 3 der Strafprozessordnung (StPO) ist bei einem der deutschen Sprache nicht mächtigen Angeklagten nur das „Urteil“ zusammen mit einer Übersetzung in eine dem Angeklagten verständliche Sprache zuzustellen.

Official translation
If a translation of the judgment is to be made available to a participant in the proceedings pursuant to section 187 subsections (1) and (2) of the Courts Constitution Act, the judgment shall be served together with the translation. In such cases service on the other participants in the proceedings shall be effected at the same time as service pursuant to the first sentence.

CJEU EN
Paragraph 37(3) of the Strafprozessordnung (Code of Criminal Procedure, ‘the StPO’) provides that, for an accused without a command of the German language, only the ‘judgment’ (Urteil) must be served, together with its translation into a language the accused understands.

 

I think these further thoughts on DE>EN legal translation are enough for the time being.