The language of the court is German – Strafbefehle

I wrote something about Strafbefehle a year ago.

A Strafbefehl (order of summary punishment) is a charge finding that you have committed a minor offence and imposing a fine. If you disagree, you can object and elevate the matter to criminal legal proceedings. It’s a bit like a parking ticket.

When I was living in Germany and translating for the courts as a certified translator, I originally used to get Strafbefehle to translate, and I used to teach students to translate them into English, but the requests became fewer and fewer. There is a theory that German judges know that the language of the courts is German and therefore do not order translations. But I suspect the general decision to cut down on costs occurs at a higher level.

But it does seem wrong for a foreigner, who may not speak German, to get a German document through the post without any way of understanding it supplied.

There’s now been a decision by Freiburg Regional Court (Landgericht) that a Strafbefehl is not effectively served to a non-speaker of German until the translation is served. (There was a similar decision by the Stuttgart Regional Court in 2014).

Sources from the blog of Detlef Burhoff, Rechtsanwalt and former judge at the Higher Regional Court who often deals with translation questions (Nochmals: Strafbefehl – nur mit Übersetzung ist Zustellung wirksam….) – thanks also to Igor Plotkin, a fellow-translator, for frequently mentioning the issue.

The story in Freiburg was that a Strafbefehl was issued against a Georgian speaker on 13.11.2014, but it was not until 24.08.2015 that a translation into Georgian was provided to the defendant, who was in prison (not sure if there was a connection here). Consequently the defendant’s objection filed on 28.08.2015 was within the time limits, contrary to the view of the lower court. The defendant had been informed of his rights by the police by means of a printout in the Georgian language (I wonder if their Georgian is as good as their English? I know Georgian is a tough language so probably they had someone good to write it).

The basis of all this is section 187 of the Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (‘official’ translation: Courts Constitution Act).

§ 187
(1)…
(2) Erforderlich zur Ausübung der strafprozessualen Rechte des Beschuldigten, der der deutschen Sprache nicht mächtig ist, ist in der Regel die schriftliche Übersetzung von freiheitsentziehenden Anordnungen sowie von Anklageschriften, Strafbefehlen und nicht rechtskräftigen Urteilen. Eine auszugsweise schriftliche Übersetzung ist ausreichend, wenn hierdurch die strafprozessualen Rechte des Beschuldigten gewahrt werden. Die schriftliche Übersetzung ist dem Beschuldigten unverzüglich zur Verfügung zu stellen. An die Stelle der schriftlichen Übersetzung kann eine mündliche Übersetzung der Unterlagen oder eine mündliche Zusammenfassung des Inhalts der Unterlagen treten, wenn hierdurch die strafprozessualen Rechte des Beschuldigten gewahrt werden. Dies ist in der Regel dann anzunehmen, wenn der Beschuldigte einen Verteidiger hat.

Translation provided by Kathleen Müller-Rostin.

Section 187

(1) …
(2) 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. An excerpted written translation shall be sufficient if the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure are thereby safeguarded. The written translation shall be made available to the accused without delay. An oral translation of the documents or an oral summary of the content of the documents may be substituted for a written translation if the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure are thereby safeguarded. As a rule, this can be assumed if the accused has defence counsel.

Comments: nicht rechtskräftige Urteile: non-binding judgments is odd – I would say judgments that are not (yet) final and non-appealable.

who does not have a command of the German languagewho does not speak German

eine auszugsweise schriftliche Überetzung – difficult – excerpted sounds to me as if it was the whole thing, taken from a different source – a written translation of parts of the document?
There is repeated use of the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure – I feel like writing the accused’s criminal-procedure rights but maybe that is too compressed.

Selbstverwaltung/Fremdverwaltung

I was translating a text about local government in Germany. There are three levels of government: federal, Land and local. The local government authorities sometimes perform their own duties (Selbstverwaltung) and sometimes perform duties that higher authorities commission them to do (Fremdverwaltung).

Although Selbstverwaltung can be translated as self-government, and there is a right to it, I don’t find I get far with this term, and local autonomy works better.

Here’s the Basic Law, Article 28 (2), in the original:

(2) Den Gemeinden muß das Recht gewährleistet sein, alle Angelegenheiten der örtlichen Gemeinschaft im Rahmen der Gesetze in eigener Verantwortung zu regeln. Auch die Gemeindeverbände haben im Rahmen ihres gesetzlichen Aufgabenbereiches nach Maßgabe der Gesetze das Recht der Selbstverwaltung. Die Gewährleistung der Selbstverwaltung umfaßt auch die Grundlagen der finanziellen Eigenverantwortung; zu diesen Grundlagen gehört eine den Gemeinden mit Hebesatzrecht zustehende wirtschaftskraftbezogene Steuerquelle.

and in the ‘official’ translation by Tomuschat and Currie:

(2) Municipalities must be guaranteed the right to regulate all local affairs on their own responsibility, within the limits prescribed by the laws. Within the limits of their functions designated by a law, associations of municipalities shall also have the right of self-government according to the laws. The guarantee of self-government shall extend to the bases of financial autonomy; these bases shall include the right of municipalities to a source of tax revenues based upon economic ability and the right to establish the rates at which these sources shall be taxed.

Translated by: Professor Christian Tomuschat and Professor David P. Currie
Translation revised by: Professor Christian Tomuschat and Professor Donald P. Kommers in cooperation with the Language Service of the German Bundestag

They translate ‘Länder, Kreise und Gemeinden’ as ‘Land, county and municipality’ (intelligently avoiding the plural of Land and also the use of ‘(federal) state’ so popular for Land).

A note on the word Gemeinde: it is most often translated as municipality nowadays, the US American preference. Local authority is more British. I also like the term commune – they are colloquially called Kommunen in German – but I believe I am out on a limb here. There are various categories of these local authorities, but fortunately I didn’t need to go into that.

The term Fremdverwaltungsaufgaben was more problematic, and I was glad to find transferred duties in a useful article on the German Law Archive site, Local Government Administration in Germany, by Dieter Haschke.

Transferred sphere of activities of the municipalities

The registrar’s office performs all the important tasks in a municipality: publishing banns, performing marriage ceremonies and issuing birth and death certificates are state tasks that the Federation or the Land have transferred to the municipalities by virtue of a law. State control is extended to legal and expert supervision with the entitlement to issue instructions under certain conditions.

The following administrative areas are also part of the transferred sphere of activity: …

I don’t really like sphere of activity (Aufgabenbereich), but in legal translation you don’t always finish up with a natural-sounding term.

The German Law Archive site has been updated recently and is well worth a look.

Translation and interpreting

Translation and interpreting (or more commonly in the US: interpretation)

Translators translate and interpreters interpret? Yes, but interpreting is a form of translation. Newspapers are going to go on referring to people translating in court, Afghan translators and so on. Get over it, people!

interptransl

And I can’t agree with the argument for the distinction that interpreters have to translate on the spot so they are allowed leeway, i.e. interpreting is called interpreting because it involves understanding and conveying a message – as if translation didn’t, see here:

In fact, it is this real-time comprehension, analysis, and accurate reformulation of one language into another that poses the greatest challenge. The interpreter is both listener and speaker, working in real-time, without a safety net, and with little room to correct errors. The simultaneous, or virtually simultaneous, nature of the work combined with a lack of control over the content of the original speeches mean that the interpreter performs his or her work in demanding conditions that leave little room for error.

However, the importance of the translator’s work must not be overlooked: the absence of immediate time constraints allows the translator to apply more mental resources to the task of finding the correct solution. The translator always seeks rigorous solutions, not solutions that will just ‘get the job done’. To do so, the translator applies thorough research and consulting techniques and uses specialist databases to broaden their understanding of the subject matter.

just because ‘interpret’ has a double meaning doesn’t mean that the two meanings merge.

While I’m on the subject, Werner Siebers, the German criminal defence attorney blogger, has reported on an interpreter who was removed from a case because he translated too freely.

Er versteht sich selbst mehr als Ausleger und Interpretierer denn als Übersetzer. Er meint, „das Gesetz“ – welches auch immer er meint – schreibe ihm vor, gerade nicht wörtlich zu übersetzen, vielmehr müsse er gleich den von ihm erkannten – vermuteten? – Sinn zu Papier bringen.

The comments get a bit hair-raising:

Batman schreibt:
11. Mai 2016 um 11:59

Also wenn der Zeuge sagt: „It was raining cats and dogs“, soll der Dolmetscher übersetzen, dass es „Katzen und Hunde“ geregnet habe??
Antworten

rawsiebers schreibt:
11. Mai 2016 um 13:41

Selbstverständlich muss er zwingend so übersetzen, er hat nichts zu unterpretieren und auszulegen, er ist lediglich Sprachmittler. Gestattet ist ihm, eine Anmerkung zu machen, dass es sich um eine Redewendung handelt, die eine andere Bedeutung als die wörtliche Übersetzung haben kann (z.B. es regnet Bindfäden oder wie aus Eimern oder einfach stark). Vorrangig ist aber zunächst selbstverständlich und zwingend die wörtliche Übersetzung.

However, it appears that the interpreter was indeed very free: he said “Dafür habe ich kein Geld” (I haven’t got enough money for that) instead of “Mir sind die Hände gebunden” (My hands are tied).

There was a bit of a discussion about this blog post on a translators’ mailing list and some remarks were made by court interpreters – police, public prosecutors or judges ask the interpreter to instruct the witness:

“Herr Dolmetscher, sagen Sie ihm bitte, er ist … schwarzgefahren und hat das Recht… etc.”

oder “Ach ja, ich habe vergessen den Zeugen zu beleheren. Herr Dolmetscher, sagen Sie ihm… Ähm.. Sie kennen doch die Belehrung, gelle? Also, sagen Sie ihm, dass er als Zeuge berechtigt ist… und alles andere, das Übliche, halt!”

Impressumspflicht

One of the most frequently discussed translation errors is that of Impressum. A search of this site will reveal many posts on it, perhaps leading to confusion. The main purpose of an Impressum is to make it possible to contact the website owner, so I think legal notice is better than disclaimer, even if there is a disclaimer in there too. But to translate it as imprint or masthead is rather ridiculous.

I’ve even discussed Impressumspflicht, and Peter Müller raised the subject too. But this related to substance, not vocabulary.

Now I see in Linguee that there is a sentence on data privacy that gives rich soil for translation errors:

Der Nutzung von im Rahmen der Impressumspflicht veröffentlichten Kontaktdaten durch Dritte zur Übersendung von nicht ausdrücklich angeforderter Werbung und Informationsmaterialien wird hiermit ausdrücklich widersprochen.

Here are some attempts (leaving out the names of the guilty):

We hereby expressly prohibit the use of the contact data published as part of our duty to publish an imprint …

The utilization of contact data published within the bounds of the imprint obligation by a third party for the consignment

The use of the contact details, published in the framework of the index obligations, by third parties for the transmission

The use of contact data which has been published due to general information requirements by third parties,

The use of published contact data within the limits of impring opbligation through third parties for the transfer of not explicitly requested advertising

The use of in the context of the imprint obligation published contact contacts through third the transmittal of not expressly

The use of contact data published in the context of the Impressumspflicht by third parties for the over-sending of advertising not requested

We hereby expressly object to the use by third parties of the contact data published within the scope of our statutory legal notice

The utilization from in the context of the “About us” liability announced contact information by third parties to send implicit

The use of the framework of the imprint obligation published contact data by third parties for the distribution of unwanted

My version would probably be something like ‘Under German/EU law, we have to to publish contact details on our website. We expressly refuse permission to third parties to use contact data revealed in this way to send advertising and information materials that have not been expressly requested.’

Mass mailing

Did anyone else get one of these?

Hi,
I really loved your blog!

My name is XXX and I am a partner at YYY. We are looking to solve the pains and frustrations of the translation industry through training, consultancy and our flagship TMS software solution.

Currently, we are looking to deliver amazing content and insights from thought leaders to our growing customer platform. And once we saw your amazing blog we couldn’t stop thinking about getting in touch with you to see if there are potential ways to collaborate.

It would be great to set up a short chat with you to explore synergies! Just let me know when it would be a good time for you if you are up for it.

Would love to hear back from you.
Take care,

I think it’s usually etiquette not to reply to emails, for instance job offers, which are not addressed personally to oneself, although actually I did reply to XXX (in the negative) here.

Weasels have their name blackened

At Marder she wrote, Martin Crellin confirms what I originally suspected – the animal that shut down the Large Hadron Collider was not a weasel (Wiesel) but a beech or stone marten (Steinmarder).
I must admit that I began to research the story when I read the report, but the only German versions I read did (incorrectly) say Wiesel.
And this is not the pine marten found in the British Isles, but another one, well known for chewing through car cables but apparently not eating them. I remember on the drive back to Fürth from Vienna we once had to abandon the car at Regensburg after flames came out of the bonnet, later detected as marten damage.

ITI problems

The ITI retirement issue story is set out at The ongoing ITI retirement/resignation saga on Lisa Simpson’s blog – many thanks to Lisa for hosting this matter.

The post contains a letter which ITI members including myself sent to the ITI Bulletin but which was not permitted to be published.

My problem with this is not that I want to retire yet myself, but the way others are being treated if they do, and the fact that the letter was not published. The retired category does not permit any paid translation work at all, in this age where people expect to work after retirement. As for those who leave, who include founding members (the ITI was founded 30 years ago), they are asked to return their certificates.

See also the post at Herbert Eppel’s blog.

Complete poems of Du Fu published in translation

Steve Owen has translated the complete poems of Du Fu (1400-odd) and they are published together with the original Chinese, the Harvard Gazette reports: Translating Nine Pounds of Poetry.

What’s more, the complete work is available in an open access version free online in PDFs.

As Du Fu might have written if he’d been writing English:

Meng of the Granaries Section Comes on Foot to Give This Old Man Full Pots of New Ale and Bean Sauce

Chu shores gave passage to autumn clogs,
as my folding chair faced the evening fields.
Having strained the lees, you separated the liquid from the dregs,
the pot of bean sauce spills over as you carry it.
One will add fragrant flavor when I dine on coarse meal,
as for the other, when friends come we will get drunk.
How can one avoid ordinary things in managing life? —
please tell my rustic wife how to make these.

Saitenwürschtle at Daimler: insult or slander?

There was a row between Daimler shareholders at the AGM buffet, because one of them was packing a doggie bag of frankfurters, which have more names than I realized, and the Stuttgart one is Saitenwürschtle, Saite being their skin. This was in Berlin, where perhaps there was fear of missing out on the sausages. There were 5500 shareholders present, and 12500 frankfurters had been ordered.

Wikimedia image:
120px-Wiener_Wuerstchen_fcm

Ein Aktionär habe mehrfach Würstchen vom Büfett zum Mitnehmen eingepackt, sagte die Sprecherin. Eine andere Anteilseignerin habe ihn darauf angesprochen – dies habe zu einem verbalen Schlagabtausch geführt. Um die Lage zu entspannen, habe man die Polizei gerufen. Die Aktionärin habe eine Anzeige wegen Beleidigung erstattet.

It seems that the gentleman helping himself insulted the lady who objected, since she is charging him with Beleidigung.

This story has been widely reported in the British press too. The Guardian:

The row broke out when one man repeatedly went to the buffet and began wrapping up several sausages to take home, whereupon a female shareholder intervened to tick him off, resulting in a shouting match and the police being called.

Answering shareholder questions at the meeting, Daimler board chairman Manfred Bischoff said: “We had to call the police to settle the matter.”

A Daimler spokeswoman said it was a verbal altercation and the police were called to calm matters – because the female shareholder wanted to file a complaint for slander, and did so.

They call Beleidigung slander, but more information is needed. A big legal translation problem!

Ein normenverdeutlichendes Gespräch

A colleague was wondering about the translation into English of the term ein normenverdeutlichendes Gespräch (literally, a conversation clarifying the law). He found it in this lovely Hamburg police report of two days ago:

Hamburg (ots) – Zeit: 24.03.2016, 23:36 Uhr Ort: Hamburg-Meiendorf, Hellmesberger Weg

In der Zentralen Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung in Hamburg-Meiendorf kam es zu einem Streit unter Bewohnern. Der Hintergrund hierzu ist unklar. Es versammelten sich ca. 20 Bewohner der Unterkunft und stachelten sich gegenseitig an, so dass aufgrund der aggressiven Stimmung das Wachpersonal die Polizei verständigte. 10 Funkstreifenwagen fuhren zum Einsatzort. Als ein Rädelsführer konnte ein 28-jähriger Mann (Nationalität ungeklärt) vor Ort von den Beamten ermittelt werden. Die Beamten konnten den Streit schlichten und führten mit dem 28-Jährigen ein normenverdeutlichendes Gespräch durch.

First of all we need to find out what it means in English. We have here a situation involving about twenty migrants (also known as refugees) who were causing a rumpus and their ringleader (!) – nationality unknown, but presumably not German – was obviously told by the police, who arrived with ten radio patrol cars, to behave himself, in that it was explained to him that what he was doing could be prosecuted as a criminal offence but they were letting him off for the time being.

It looks as if a more technical term, Normenverdeutlichung, has been borrowed because it sounds so wonderfully official.

A similar usage is quoted by Birgit Grossmann in her Doku-Hotline blog:

Polizeisprecher Ronald Walther: „Nach einem normenverdeutlichenden Gespräch haben wir die beiden ihren Eltern übergeben.“

She doesn’t spend much time on it, though:

Seit ca. 1998 scheint es diese Wortschöpfung zu geben, in den Duden hat sie es allerdings noch nicht geschafft. Kann nur noch wenige Jahrzehnte dauern – oder wir warten auf das nächste Modewort zur Jugendproblematik.

My feeling was that this is a specifically German term from criminology or sociology and we need to find a German definition. However, it seems that norm clarification is an English term connected with restorative justice and Normenverdeutlichung is a translation of that. The German term, however, seems to crop up in connection with action before any charge or arrest, avoiding punishment (as in the example from Hamburg), not with action after an offence. At the moment that’s as far as I’ve got with it.

Here is one of the several English ghits for norm clarification. It appears to have a different meaning from the German:

Exercises in norm clarification and elaboration can benefit from the standard-setting fundamentals set out in General Assembly resolution 41/120: the results should, inter alia, ‘(a) be consistent with the existing body of international human rights law’; ‘(b) be of fundamental character and derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person’; ‘(c) be sufficiently precise to give rise to identifiable and practicable rights and obligations’.

One ghit is a PDF file of Strategien der Gewaltprävention im Jugendkriminalrecht by Horst Viehmann, which interestingly has a translation into English as Strategies of Violence Prevention within the German Framework of Juvenile Criminal Law

Here’s an extract:

Das Jugendkriminalrecht ist ein präventiv ausgerichtetes Recht. Nicht die Bestrafung der Täterinnen und Täter ist Intention und Aufgabe, sondern die zukünftige straffreie Bewährung der Verurteilten. Sie sollen nicht wieder straffällig werden, nachdem sie einmal mit dem Gesetz in Konflikt geraten sind. Sinn und Ziel ist die sogenannte Spezialprävention. Das künftige Verhalten der jungen Menschen soll konstruktiv beeinflusst werden. Sie sollen Einsicht in die Schädlichkeit oder Verwerflichkeit des vorangegangenen Handelns gewinnen und daraus Resistenz vor Rückfälligkeit erlangen. Und sie sollen in die Lage versetzt werden, das Leben künftig ohne Straftaten zu gestalten. Für den großen Anteil der ubiquitären (weit verbreiteten) und der episodenhaften (vorübergehenden) Kriminalität junger Menschen genügt das Signal: Das Handeln wird nicht geduldet, es ist bei Strafe verboten (in der Fachsprache: Normverdeutlichung). Einsicht, Befähigung zur Gestaltung eines straffreien Lebens und Normverdeutlichung sind – vereinfacht gesagt – die Ziele aller jugendstrafrechtlichen Reaktionen und Interventionen. Zwar gibt es auch ein repressives Element mit Sicherungsfunktion, aber es ist eine Ausnahmeregelung, und es ist im Ergebnis ebenfalls auf die Legalbewährung hin orientiert: Die Jugendstrafe wegen schwerer Schuld – aber auch hier ist die erzieherische Perspektive zu berücksichtigen.

and here the translation:

Juvenile criminal law is preventively conceived law; its design purpose and its responsibility in practice are not to ensure that offenders are punished, but rather that those convicted should subsequently show themselves capable of living within the law. The aim is that following their first clash with the law they should not go on to commit further offences. The rationale and purpose amount to what is called “special prevention”: the future behaviour of the young persons concerned is supposed to be influenced for the better. They are supposed to gain an understanding of the harmful or reprehensible nature of their earlier conduct, thereby acquiring a degree of resistance to recidivism. And they are supposed to be put in a position enabling them to live from then on without re-offending. For most of the ubiquitous or episodic criminality on the part of young people, the clear warning suffices: this particular behaviour will not be tolerated, it is forbidden and will be punished (the technical term here is “norm clarification”). Insight, enablement to live an offence-free life, and norm clarification are – to put it in simple terms – the objectives of all reactions and interventions under juvenile penal law. There is admittedly also a repressive element, as a safeguard; but that is a provision for exceptional circumstances, and in terms of results is likewise aimed at subsequent good con-duct: detention in a young offenders institution follows on a serious offence – but here too due attention must be paid to the educational aspect.

The translation is by an outfit called Textworks Translations. It is a close reading of the German and a bit heavy, and actually rather similar to what I would do myself in a legal translation done for information purposes where I myself am never fully familiar with the research in the area. Textworks Translations are academics who translate academic texts for academics, they say (Von Wissenschaftlern für Wissenschaftler). Anja Löbert and Dr. Timothy Wise are named (author of the soon-to-appear volume Wise, T 2016, Yodeling and Meaning in American Music, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.)

My comments on the translation: Spezialprävention can be translated not only as special prevention but also as specific deterrence – perhaps worth considering. I would probably avoid supposed to for sollen: it always reads to me as if it meant ‘they ought to be but they aren’t’. And the educational aspect at the end reminded me that Geoffrey Perrin recommended educative in the context of juvenile criminal law, because it has nothing to do with formal, organized education (Bildung).

(But at a later point the translation does use educative: ‘The Act’s core principle is its educative intent. This educative principle is not defined expressis verbis in the text, but is frequently and variously alluded to, as well as being implicit in the actual provisions.’)

And that reminded me that before I moved this blog to WordPress I had a number of still really useful articles by Geoffrey Perrin on my site which he kindly let me use. And I must put them on this site – look out for a post.

With thanks to the colleague, who knows who he is.