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).


Book recommendation: Triebel/Vogenauer, Englisch als Vertragssprache

Here is a strong recommendation for a book I have not yet read, only skimmed, myself. Unfortunately I have too many books on the go (rereading Die Emigranten and the Patrick Melrose novels, reading the Secret Barrister, Cotton on Photography as Contemporary Art and two books on literary theory, which we were only just dipping our toes into in the 60s and 70s, to say nothing of a translation of Willehalm and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms  – I can’t remember ever wanting to read so much and having so little time to do it).

Volker Triebel, Stefan Vogenaur, Englisch als Vertragssprache, Beck Verlag 2108

Thanks to Inge Noeninger for pointing it out on Twitter (note the bust of Goethe on her bookshelves – I only have Marx). I had waiting ages, from 1995 to 2012, for the new edition of Englisches Handels- und Wirtschaftsrecht, which was not quite appropriate to my direction of translation, and missed this one.

Please read the table of contents (PDF) via Beck Verlag. Scroll down to see it. The foreword is there too.

The book is intended for lawyers, not legal translators (whereas most of the more pedestrian Legal English books are always advertised to be suitable for translators, interpreters, lawyers and anyone else with a few euros to spare).

The first swection deals among other things with how lawyers actually learn English and how much they do both on LL.M. courses and in big international law firms. This is something I can’t remember reading anywhere else. There is also a bit on the niche role of German as a legal language. There is then a section on what can go wrong, both linguistically and semantically, and a section on problems of general English, followed by one on the special problems of the English language in contracts. Section 5 deals with problems in translating English contract terms into German, Section 6 with problems where the language and the legal system diverge, and section 7 advice on safer drafting. At the end is a bibliography in eight sections. There are indexes in both German and English.

Looking at the bibliographies, I have noted Christopher Hutton, Word Meaning and Legal Interpretation: An Introductory Guide, 2014, but perhaps I should not buy it until I have read this one, which warrants close examination and a large part of which is of direct interest to me. I know most of the books on legal English for non-English-speaking lawyers. I am quite ignorant of how much has been published on Auseinanderfallen von Vertragssprache und anwendbarem Recht – whenever I translate a contract into English, it is governed by German law, so my translation is just for information, and if anyone asked me to help draft a contract in English I would refuse as I’m not a practising lawyer – still, it is interesting, and I recognize some names, not just Triebel himself (several articles) but Suzanne Ballansat-Aebi, who has written well about legal translation, and Gerhard Dannemann.

I’m not sure I’m brainy enough to read Heikki Mattila on Comparative Legal Linguistics, translated from the Finnish, though the history of legal abbreviations is a big temptation, and another element of great interest to me is legal Latin, which varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so is part of what needs translating too. It’s a bit expensive even in Kindle, so I may be safe for the time being.

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)

Karin Linhart, Wörterbuch Recht 2nd edition

This is not a review, and I think dictionary reviews are difficult anyway. But I’d like to say that I’ve had a look at the second edition of Karin Linhart’s law dictionary (DE>EN, EN>DE, 2017) and it really does look greatly changed and improved from the first edition (2010).

I wrote about the first edition here.

Karin Linhart is German, which I hadn’t realized. She has a page in the German Wikipedia, Karin Linhart, with links to other sources and a list of publications. Meet Karin Linhart: A Law Library of Congress Patron has a photo of her with three Library of Congress librarians.

Here are the publisher’s details for the new edition.

One feature of this dictionary remains that its strongest point is the EN>DE part, with a preference (I still feel) for AmE. There are boxouts (those little additional glossary boxes), which Beck Verlag seems to love – I’m not sure who reads them – mainly in that section, but in the DE>EN section too. Their number has decreased. There are definitely English as well as US terms.

The foreword states that the dictionary has been newly designed, expanded and updated, and it is oriented mainly towards foreign students at German, Austrian and Swiss universities, but it is also for German students studying abroad, for lawyers, judges, and although it is written more from a lawyer’s point of view than a translator’s (what on earth does this mean?) it may be of use for translators and interpreters too.

A lot of the end materials have gone. including the amusing advice for German lawyers speaking English abroad and the US and South African constitutions. There is now only a specimen letter of application and CV for Germans applying in the USA.

The new edition is said to have Austrian and Swiss terms in it. So I checked the term HerabsetzungsklageHerabsetzungsurteil came up as a query on a mailing list this week. And it is in there:

Herabsetzungsklage (CH) ErbR
“(in Fällen, in denen die Anordnungen in der letztwilligen Verfügung den Wert übersteigen, über den nach Berücksichtigung der Pflichtteile noch verfügt werden kann) action in abatement – Art. 475 chZGB.”

This is excellent. The term is also in Tom West’s Trilingual Swiss Dictionary, of course, there citing Art. 522, which is equally appropriate, but without the definition.

One thing that strikes me on my cursory review is that there is an emphasis on terminology, especially nouns, from statutes, rather than, for example, conjunctions and turns of phrase – this is not surprising in a small dictionary, and it is what I would go to Romain for. But my Romain is falling apart and there is no help on the horizon – this might be what is meant by saying it is a dictionary conceived for lawyers rather than translators.

There are a large number of cross-references, necessary to save space in a small dictionary.

Noted in flicking through:
lucidum intervallum is translated as clear moment, rather than the usual lucid interval.

Lockvogel Strafr. agent provocateur (stool pigeon? decoy? not a very common word)

Arglistige Täuschung is followed by = List (A), that is, the Austrian equivalent is introduced after the German term – very useful. Other examples are Sorgerecht, (A) Obsorge

The English claimant for Kläger is there, but other new terms like statement of case are not.

mens rea is cross-referenced to criminal state of mind, which is the main headword and a very oddly phrased one, but I suppose it is hard to give a brief definition.

Anyway, this is just a brief reference. I will probably come back to the dictionary. I wish I had made a list of words to check all legal dictionaries for.

Einführung in das luxemburgische Recht

Beck Verlag has a number of introductions to foreign legal systems, and it has now added one to Luxembourg law, by João Nuno Pereira und Dr. Jochen Zenthöfer. There’s an interview with the authors (in German) here: “Ein vorbildlicher Rechtsstaat”.

João Nuno Pereira Es ist das erste Buch in deutscher Sprache, das einen Überblick gibt über die Juristerei in Luxemburg. Für Luxemburger, die lieber auf Deutsch lesen, kann es auch ein Gewinn sein. Wir haben so verständlich wie möglich geschrieben, und übersetzen auch alle französischen Begriffe.

Jochen Zenthöfer Diese Übersetzungsarbeit ist nicht einfach gewesen. Teilweise konnten wir gängige deutsche Fachbegriffe nicht verwenden, weil sie nicht das aussagen, was in Luxemburg damit gemeint ist. Den Begriff „autorité parentale“ konnten wir auch nach langen Gesprächen mit luxemburgischen Experten zum Familienrecht nicht übersetzen, weil jeder Begriff falsch gewesen wäre. „Sorgerecht“ etwa ist ein Unterfall der „autorité“ und meint im deutschen Recht etwas anderes. Es war manchmal schon echt schwer.

Luxembourg has three official languages: German, French and Luxembourgish. This is the first account of Luxembourg law in German and it will be useful for those of the Luxembourgers (of whom there are somewhat over 570,000) who prefer to read German.

Thanks to Christine Schmit on Twitter (her website can also be read in Luxembourgish).

Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary by Tom West

I am pleased to announce that Tom West has published the Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary he has been working on.
You can find details and sample pages on Tom’s website. While you’re there, take a look at his blog (I’ve never succeeded in entering the feed for this in Feedly).
The dictionary can only be ordered from the USA at the moment, at createspace, but this may change in future.

The dictionary is a kind of three-column glossary, but with some explanations in the English column. The first column is either German or French. There is a useful introduction with remarks about the problems of researching Swiss legal lanague.

German-English legal translators sometimes have to research terms from Austria, Switzerland (several cantons) and Liechtenstein – I have translated German stuff from Alto Adige but not yet from Belgium. There are fewer reference materials available for these than for Germany. French translators must have the same problem. I know one translator who poses queries on mailing lists and whenever he or she doesn’t understand the text describes it as Swiss, which suggests the kinds of problems we face.

A few links

Interesting interview (in German) with Katy Derbyshire on translating Clemens Meyer Im Stein (Bricks and Mortar) Ich würde mir wünschen, dass die Literatur die Welt verbessern kann. The novel is actually on my bookshelves but I haven’t started it yet. It’s about the development of prostitution in an East German town after reunification.

The author and translator are apparently giving a talk at Senate House on May 11, from which I discover that there is a

GLGN – Greater London German Network.

The GLGN is part of the think german initiative of regional networks spearheaded by the German Embassy.
The aim of the network is to fight the corner for all things German in the Greater London area by bringing together all those people in and around London who have an interest in the German language and related cultures and facilitating both real and virtual communication between them.

They are on Facebook and Twitter too. Who knew? It claims I am following it on Twitter – must be linked to GSSN, the German Screen Studies Network, which I do follow.

The Institute of Modern Languages Research is now in Senate House, as I realized recently when reading a history of German studies in London called Glanz und Abglanz.

German restaurants in London.

Disturbing: German Village and Bierfest at Mile End.

Now when days get longer and the sun comes out again it’s time for the German Village Festival. Sit outside in our Garden and get the vipe together with friends or family and enjoy a bratwurst or maybe one of our 3 different special brewed Bavarian beers. In addition you can visit our FunTime area or get your self a Heidi wig in the special German souvenier house. In the evening you should join our party in the Bavarian FestTent – grap your Lederhosen or Dirndl and become part of the biggest party!

Heidi wigs also widely available online.

Gerald Graham – obituary

Some of our teachers of German in London were Jewish emigrés (I suppose that’s what we called immigrants then). For instance, I first learnt German at school from a Fräulein (Ruth) Hoeniger, who must have had a stroke a couple of years after I started and so I did not know her for long. I wasn’t even sure she was Jewish, but research indicated she was, and was born in Berlin and taught at schools in Leipzig in the 1930s. I wondered if she was related to the Johann Hoeniger who designed one of the Berlin synagogues, but was unable to confirm that. At university, one of our teachers was Dr. Ilse Graham. I did not know that her husband was a cardiologist at Great Ormond Street hospital, but here is an obituary of him in The Guardian. There are also memoirs online, Scattered Leaves, with photos, typed up by his son at dictation (I got that from a comment on The Times obituary). He was 98 when he died this year.

Having initially as a child wanted to study dentistry, at the age of about 10 I decided that this would be too limiting. I thought I should study medicine. At the age of about 16, when I first went to England, my parents gave me a book by an Ernst Scharrer, called The Brain. I had carried this with me for years and, much later in my story, when studying at Western Reserve, I had a Professor of Anatomy, by the name of Hoerr – and then a new person joined the staff, by the name of Scharrer! The penny dropped that this must be the same person who wrote my precious book. After his first lecture – he was an outstanding teacher, who would draw his complex diagrams with both hands), I went up to him and asked him if he was indeed the author of that book. He was amazed and asked how I knew of it – and then asked me to bring it in, which I did. At which point, he examined it closely and then said: “As far as I know, this is the only copy of my book in existence”.
What had happened was that he had just been appointed head of a major neuroscience institute in Frankfurt, recognized to be a very brilliant man. They were not Jewish, but as Hitler grew in power, they decided that they didn’t want to carry on living in Germany and emigrated to the United States, ending up as an Assistant Professor at Western Reserve. But because of the way they left – pretending to go on holiday and not wanting to take possessions such as his book, which might give the game away – he was not able to bring a copy with him. Meanwhile, the Nazis, because of the way he left, destroyed all of his books.

Gerald Graham, born Gerd Greiffenhagen, tells his eventful life story lightly. He emigrated first to England, then to the USA with his parents, and then to the UK again, in the McCarthy era.
Emigrating didn’t solve everyone’s problems:

When war first broke out on 1st September 1939, very little happened for a while. It was called the Phony War. During this period, the British Government found itself with several thousand German Jews about whom it knew little. How could it be sure they were not Nazi informers? It decided to intern the lot. They were in fact legitimate Jews, including professors and musicians. Some were sent to the Isle of Man and others to Canada and Australia. Ernie, who had volunteered to join the British Army, but was interned instead, was sent to Australia on a small ship. The “Dunera”, embarked on 10 July 1940, with 2,542 detainees, all classified as “enemy aliens,”. They included 200 Italian and 251 German prisoners of war, as well as several dozen Nazi sympathizers, along with 2,036 anti-Nazis, most of them Jewish refugees. The British crew of the ship understood nothing of the politics and circumstances of the Jewish group and, when the Nazis started to fight with the Jews on board, the crew took the side of the Nazis. They had terrible fights over about six weeks on a daily basis. As well as being dangerous, it was of course incredibly upsetting to have escaped to England and then to be placed at the mercy of those they had escaped from. Ilse remembered the case of one aged Jewish professor, whose manuscript – his life’s work – was thrown into the sea with a laugh by British crew members. The moment they got to Australia, telegrams were sent and it became known to the authorities what had happened and there was a debate in Parliament about it, with the Government fiercely attacked for allowing such a thing to happen. Steps were taken to have the Jews sent back to England.

I should also recommend Judith Kerr’s three-book autobiography, starting with When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

(With thanks to Professor John Flood – not the only one I know)

Thormann/Hausbrandt: Rechtssprache – book on legal German

Isabelle Thormann and Jana Hausbrandt, Rechtssprache – klar und verständlich für Dolmetscher, Übersetzer, Germanisten und andere Nichtjuristen, BDÜ Fachverlag 2016 – 446 pp. plus keyword index

Let me start by saying that this is a very full and thorough book with a variety of contents and I think anyone dealing with legal German will like to have it. It is intended for those who know nothing about legal German, so experienced legal translators will not need it, perhaps unless like me they are interested in how legal German is taught and explained. The authors have been running seminars on legal German for several years now, so they know what problems non-lawyers have in practice. (The BDÜ runs webinars on the subject by the authors too).

If you are a BDÜ member, you can consult and search online a library of all the books you bought from this publisher (provided the authors agreed to electronic searchng, including this one, together with past issues of MDÜ. I don’t know if it works for non-BDÜ members. I don’t think you will want to use the book as a dictionary – it would make more sense to work through it first – but electronic searching is very useful.

1. Who is it for?
The authors describe the book as both a reference work and a textbook, and they say it is ‘also’ suitable to prepare for the exam ‘Nachweis grundlegender Kenntnisse der deutschen Rechtssprache’, which many German Länder require court interpreters and translators to pass. In Bavaria the equivalent is or was part of the exam for court interpreters and translators called ‘Gerichts- und Behördenterminologie’. In that connection there is another book from that publisher:
Arbeitsbuch zur Gerichts- und Behördenterminologie, Auflage 2013
Autor: Ulrich Daum, Ramón Hansmeyer

The fact is that in order to pass an exam in Bavaria to be a court interpreter or translator, you do not have to choose law as your main subject, so there are a lot of candidates who ought to know something about legal German and fortunately training in this is increasing. So the legal German in these books is not the language of contracts or intellectual property or even judgments. But it’s still useful stuff.

But the subtitle adds ‘Germanists and other non-lawyers’. And parts of the book are said to be particularly suitable for those with German as a foreign language:

Dieses Buch enthält Hinweise und Teile (z.B. das Kapital “Komische Wörter und Ausdrücke”), die besonders für solche Dolmetscher, Übersetzer und Jurastudenten konzipiert wurden, die Deutsch nicht als Muttersprache, sondern als Fremdsprache gelernt haben.

Does anyone else find this ‘komische Wörter’ a bit condescending? Let’s look at them. First comes a long section of words with a different meaning, like anklagen vs. verklagen vs. einklagen, or bestandskräftig vs. rechtskräftig, then come Vertraute Wörter mit anderer Bedeutung, Fachausdrücke der Rechtssprache, Lexikalische Besonderheiten der Verwaltungssprache and at last Komische Wörter und Ausdrücke. I’m not sure why a non-native speaker should be more surprised than a native speaker by abbedingen or einer Sache keinen Abbruch tun. But anyway, I’m quibbling – the contents of the book are very useful.

2. What’s in it?
You can find details of the book here, together with a PDF sample – click on Leseprobe. I would recommend downloading this as it has a full table of contents and you can see how very full it is. The aditional material alone is very useful, closing with police grades, occupations at court, and much else.
The main parts are 1. Characteristics of legal language (about 200 pages), 2 Legal terminology – actually an introduction to law (about 160 pages) and 3 – Appendix – Additional information and solutions to the exercises.

3. Exercises
There are execises, which seem to crop up rather unexpectedly (to me) in the first part. Thus for example:

Umwandlung eines Relativsatzes in eine Linksattribution.
Formulieren Sie die folgenden Sätze so um, dass der Relativsatz in Form einer Linksattribution ausgedrückt wird.
1. Die Verzögerung, die im November 2015 auf Grund der Klagebegründung entstand, war etwas anders als von Ihnen in Ihrem Schreiben dargestellt zustande gekommen.
Die im November 2015 auf Grund der Klagebegründung entstandene Verzögerung war etwas anders als von Ihnen in Ihrem Schreiben dargesellt zustande gekommen.

I’m not sure what the point of these exercises is, but it looks as if the authors want to encourage more comprehensible legal language, perhaps even plain German, which includes converting sentences back and forth. The exercises probably useful to get a feel for legal German, although I wouldn’t have the patience to do 18 of them. I admit this kind of exercise was always very appealing to me as a teacher (I remember a set of sentences on hereinbefore and so on that caused a lot of problems).

At the very end of the book there are 130 questions testing understanding or memory of the text.

4. German legal language

The first part of the book deals with the characteristics of legal German, starting with sentence patterns and continuing inter alia with prepositions, tenses and
At all events, the first 200 pages of the book give a very detailed analysis of legal German which is also clearly set out and comprehensible. I could learn from them myself. They might also form the basis for a comparative analysis of how to translate legal German into English, whether that was legalese or the kind of less heavy English that some jobs need.

5. Lists of legal terms

Still in Part 1, there are long lists of legal terms, in a number of categories:
Bedeutungsunterschiede: over 40 examples, mainly pairs of words such as Anerkenntnis vs. Geständnis, anhängig vs. rechtshängig, Erbe vs. Vermächtnis. Many of the terms are dealt with in a bit more detail later in the book.
Vertraute Wörter mit anderer Bedeutung
Fachausdrücke der Rechtssprache: ‘Diese Ausdrücke sollten Sie kennen’. A long list with definitions, starting with abdingbar, abgängig, Adhäsionsverfahren, ahnden, Akt, aktenkundig.
Komische Wörter und Ausdrücke: “mit Verlaub”, abbedingen, Abbruch, Abkömmling, Absehen, absprechen and so on.
Stilebenen, Register, Soziolekt: colloquial expressions contrasted with legalese, e.g. Adresse/Anschrift, ansehen/in Augenschein nehmen.

6. Legal terms in the context of an introduction to German law
A nice introduction to the elements of German law, both substantive and procedural. There are also lists of abbreviations and Latin expressions.

At the back, following the final exercise, there is a brief bibliography and also a list of internet links.

That concludes a summary of most of the book. Again, look at the table of contents on the website linked above for a full impression.

One problem of a book like this is searching in it. It does have an index of the keywords at the back, fortunately. Not every word given special treatment counts as a keyword, though. The ‘komische Wörter’ for us foreigners are not included in the index.

As a final comment I have some difficulty in using the definitions of words. But I am not the intended audience for the book. I would be more inclined to go to a statute or to Creifelds or anywhere else I could find a serious legal definition meant for lawyers. But this would not be possible for many of the words dealt with. German general dictionaries exclude legalese (Fachsprache) so we translators are quite dependent on the help of colleagues. Take the word nachlassen in the sense of ‘permit’, for which see Corinna Schlüter-Ellner (below). The bibliography also contains other books that may be helpful; in addition to the volume by Ulrich Daum mentioned above I would add:

Schlüter-Ellner, Corinna: Juristendeutsch verständlich gemacht. Treffende Verben in der deutschen Rechtssprache (same publisher; the book comprises two sections and is not restricted to court vocabulary)
Simon, Heike and Funk-Baker, Gesela: Einführung in das deutsche Recht und die deutsche Rechtssprache