Does Facebook speak German?

The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) had to decide whether German documents served on Facebook in Ireland had to be in English, the local language. Facebook refused to accept documents. The court decided that although an individual who could not speak German might have been able to require a translation, a big company like Facebook certainly had employees who could handle German law and indeed it had a German-language website.

Decision in German.

There is an excellent blog post on the case in English on Peter Bert’s weblog Dispute Resolution in Germany. I don’t think I’ve seen this blog before and it’s very interesting.

Back in December 2019, the headline to my post on that very topic still had a question mark: “Does Facebook speak German?” I had reported on what appeared to be only the second decision by a German court of appeals (Oberlandesgericht) on the issue whether Facebook Ireland, the legal entity operating Facebook’s German activities, is entitled to refuse service of German-language court documents under Article 8 of the European Service Regulation.*

I concluded by saying that the Munich order contributed to what German lawyers love to refer to as “prevailing jurisprudence” (herrschende Rechtsprechung) or “prevailing opinion” (herrschende Meinung): Facebook does understand German. This recent decision of the Court of Appeals in Düsseldorf does confirm this conclusion: The headline of the court’s press release yesterday read “Facebook kann Deutsch” – Facebook does speak German. The court held in a ruling concerning a cost application that Facebook cannot insist on a translation of German documents into English.

I want to comment on some of the terminology choices made here. The first one is to translate Beschluss as order. This is common and I have certainly had to do it in the past because a client insisted. Here is a definition from Juraforum:

Der Beschluss ist zu unterscheiden von anderen gerichtlichen Entscheidungen, zu denen das Urteil und die Verfügung zählen. Er ist vor allem dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass er keinen Tatbestand (Sachverhalt) und keine Entscheidungsgründe enthält. Somit beinhaltet er nur den Tenor der Entscheidung und ist daher in der Praxis bei Richtern sehr beliebt.

To my mind a Beschluss is a decision or ruling. It is a kind of decision. It does not set out the facts or give the reasons for the decision but just contains the operative part of the decision. I don’t think that can be conveyed in one word in English, and the context is not usually such that a detailed definition is needed. Maybe there is some usage of order in English that I have missed?

Another point I would simply disagree with is the use of jurisprudence for Rechtsprechung. Rechtsprechung means court decisions or case law. Jurisprudence means legal theory. I think that to refer to case law as jurisprudence is a gallicism.

Year-end notes 3

Arson

Continuing the topic of the dangers of New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany, it’s been reported that a fire started by some kind of fireworks at Krefeld Zoo burnt down the Monkey House and killed about 30 animals, including orang-utans, gorillas and a chimpanzee (two chimpanzees survived).

The later reports say that the fire was started by three women, a 60-year-old woman from Krefeld and her two daughters, who have handed themselves in. They set off sky lanterns (Himmelslaternen) which they had bought on the internet. They didn’t know these were banned. They handed themselves in and face a potential penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

The offence is described in the UK press as negligent arson. Perhaps one might say ‘starting a fire by negligence’, since the word ‘arson’ in English usage and law really suggests deliberate action. I have lose my copy of Bohlander’s Principles of Criminal Law, despite it being one of my go-to books, so all I have is a photocopy of the very old book on Criminal Law by E. J. Cohn – still very useful, even though the law has changed a bit since then.

Lighting sky lanterns has been forbidden (verboten) since 2009. But they can be bought. It seems a matter for the Länder to each decide whether they may be used with a permit. Their danger is that once lit, the person releasing them cannot control where they fly (depends on wind and other factors) or how long they burn, unlike in the case of a rocket. Unheilsbringer Himmelslaterne: Verboten, aber im Verkauf.

Year-end notes 2

I have a large numnber of topics I could blog about if I put more research effort into them.

  1. Lübeck führt den “Gender:Doppelpunkt” ein

I haven’t even touched on the Gender-Sternchen.

I received a query as to whether authorities consider the effect of their decisions on segmentation of texts for translation memory sofrware: people will have to stop recommending sentences being split at a colon (I don’t do that anyway – and surely we must decry the lack of colon usage?).

„Spätestens seit dem Urteil des Bundesgerichtshofes, das das Recht auf Anerkennung eines dritten Geschlechts bestätigt und zu neuen gesetzlichen Änderungen führte, besteht auch für die Verwaltung der Hansestadt LübeckHandlungsbedarf“, sagte Lindenau weiter. Als „tolerante und offene Stadt“ müsse Lübeck „diskriminierungsfrei kommunizieren“.

This is later than the ‘Binnen-I’ and I dare scarcely blog on it without greater research. I know I had to translate a job ad for ‘m/w/d’ (männlich/weiblich/divers) and may have used m/w/x. I have only seen the term Latinx this week, but then I am not used to writing Latina or Latino.

Anyway, here is a discussion about it on ProZ, which is usually good for discussions. I don’t agree with the chosen solution, but that is usually the case. Links given too.

2. Using OCR

If I use OCR, e.g. Abbyy FineReader, to convert scans to readable text, the symbols/logos/stamps on the original document can easily appear in their full glory on the resulting text. Some translators of documents even use these original graphic elements to embellish their translations. I don’t like this. I think a translation should consist of text, and if a logo has a meaning, you explain that meaning, for example (using square brackets, which I can’t find) (stamp), (logo). Anything else is not a translation, and it may create a false impression of what your document is.

This topic came up recently on a translators’ forum where a client had complained that a certified translation of her document was not in colour. That seems a bit odd. In that connection, a few colleagues advocated using first-class paper, high-quality printing and reproduction of original graphic elements. I was shocked!

See earlier post on the form of certified translations, and Richard Schneider (with photos) Von Schuppen und Ösen.

3. New Year’s Eve fireworks in Germany.

Bilanz der Silvesternacht in Berlin

Das Berliner Unfallkrankenhaus hat in der Silvesternacht 15 Menschen mit schweren Verletzungen durch Böller oder Raketen behandelt. Dazu zählten in mehreren Fällen schwerste Verbrennungen, wie eine Kliniksprecherin am Neujahrsmorgen sagte. Mehrfach waren durch Explosionen Finger abgetrennt worden, in einem Fall die ganze Hand. Unter den Schwerverletzten waren auch vier Kinder unter zehn Jahren.

Auf Twitter teilte die Klinik mit: “Erfahrungsgemäß werden aber noch etliche Verletzte mit #boellerschmerz am Neujahrstag erwartet. Besonders wenn es weiterhin keinen Regen gibt und die nicht gezündeten Sprengkörper trocken bleiben.”

Pictures of the aftermath. It is ages since I have been to an inner-city area on December 31st, alas. I know it is dangerous, but I enjoyed it. People firing rockets from balconies. Huge batteries of dead cardboard tubes lying around the next morning, though I recall the council clean-up was very prompt. There are always serious injuries.

It isn’t like that in the UK. One hears fireworks being let off more frequently – for instance, not only on November 5th but for Diwali, shortly before. And increasingly at New Year.

It seems that Germans make up for their orderliness the rest of the year in these 24 hours. Is it an offence to let off fireworks a day or two earlier or later? The Guardian considers the problem:

We don’t want to spoil the fun – New Year firework displays divide Germans

By law, Germans are only allowed to set off fireworks between 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 7am on 1 January. Up to €200m (£180m) is spent on fireworks mainly for personal use, according to Germany’s environment agency.

“It is the only time of the year – for just a few hours – when I feel really free and able to make as much noise as I like, with no one telling me what to do,” says Leonard Schneider, a 21-year-old maintenance technician from Cologne.

I presume Bleigießen is still permitted, but of course you can use wax instead.

Year-end notes

This blog is still alive, despite appearances.

At the moment I am aspiring to downsize, and I am looking through masses of old papers that I either throw away, keep or scan and save (the tidier way to forget about them). Unfortunately I really need to look at everything to make sure I don’t overlook something important.

So here is the beginning of a miscellany:

  1. This typewritten notice was in a folder marked ‘Personal’.

Sehr geehrter Kraftfahrer,

Sie parken o h n e B e r e c h t i g u n g auf einem PRIVATPARKPLATZ.

Wir teilen Ihnen mit, daß wir beim nächsten Verstoß den Halter des Fahrzeuges wegen HAUSFRIEDENSBRUCH bei der Staatsanwaltschaft anzeigen werden und weiterhin UNTERLASSUNGSKLAGE beim Amtsgericht Nürnberg wegen vorsätzlicher EIGENTUMSSTÖRUNG erheben werden.

Hochachtungsvoll

i.A. (signature)
für den Eigentümer

Nürnberg, den 9.9.88

Goodness, I thought to myself, this German behaviour would shock some of the residents of Cranham and Upminster who are always discussing parking tickets on Facebook.

But then I remembered: I went with students to watch a trial at the Landgericht in Nuremberg (that’s the building where the war crimes trials took place) and one of them could only find a parking place a bit outside the others. He saw no signs indicating parking was forbidden, but when he went back to his car he found this notice on it. I think it was only the next day that he went to complain at the court and explain how careful he’d been. It turned out that there was a running gag between public prosecutors and lawyers and the former had thought my student was a lawyer. As soon as they realized their mistake, the ticket was withdrawn.

2. An old ad for accounting software called Account-Ability. Picture of Reagan, as a puppet. US heading: ‘With Account-Ability anyone can do your accounts.’ German heading: ‘Wir wissen nicht, was dieser freundliche Politiker empfiehlt…’

Machine Translation and legal texts

Fabio Said has a good summary of the BDÜ conference last week – which I did not attend. – with an emphasis on the presentations dealing with legal translation.

Patrik Mustu, he reports, presented on English-to-German machine translation of legal texts, giving examples of places where DeepL was not precise enough. On the screen behind Mustu one can see the parties hereto rendered in various ways, for example die Parteien hierzu, and the best solution, die Vertragsparteien, which DeepL presumably did not deliver.

Translators are increasingly using DeepL – it’s possible to use the Pro version, which means your private texts are not imported by DeepL – but they need post-editing. This is all a bit outside my current experience but needs keeping an eye on.

In the old days, when MT was rule-based and not statistical, it was recommended to use an MT program in-house and adapt it to one’s texts. Can this be done now with problem terms mentioned (damages, equity, quantum meruit)? Just wondering.

Toque

I find the word toque useful in Scrabble (as is roque).

Toque is a French lawyer’s hat, though. It now refers to the lawyer’s ‘letterbox’ at court, which used to be a pigeonhole to put the hat in – similar to the German Gerichtsfach – did those once hold hats too? (Take this with a pinch of salt, as I don’t do French law).

La Toque

Here is a picture of toques.

I’ve been thinking of this after reading the Guardian’s recap of the series Spiral (Engrenages), and in particular the comments. The recap article specifically refers to the commenter auroreboréalis, who is very informative on the law. Here, for example, most recently, on whether Joséphine Karlsson could become a juge d’ìnstruction:

There are 4 different types of passerelles (access routes between professions/occupations) between the profession of avocat and juge d’instruction, depending on your situation, age, years of experience, previous studies etc. It’s all detailed here: Avocat, magistrat, huissier, notaire… les différentes passerelles entre les métiers du droit and here)….

The comments are an excellent aid to watching or rewatching the series.

George Skeggs

Time for some local trivia again. In August I was at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and unfortunately I did not have my camera in my hand when I saw this gentleman rushing up the stairs in my direction – I only saw the crown of his hat, the shoulders of his suit and his cream chrysanthemum (I think) buttonhole. I managed to get a shot of him shortly afterwards but he was moving very fast so I could not imagine getting him to set up the photo again. Not many people make a good photo from the bird’s eye view.

George Skeggs, as I later discovered

More recently, I have learnt (from the Web) that this is George Skeggs and so I may see him again at more leisure.

George Skeggs, more commonly known – although there’s nothing even remotely common about him – as ‘Soho George’ is one of the last true Soho legends. Self-described as a ‘heterosexual Cockney artist, Hogarthian rake loves individuality,style, sleeps in front of a mirror, ex-gigolo old man held together with polygrip & rubber bands’, George has more style in his big toe than most of us will ever have in our entire lifetimes. Not only possessed of a unique and sophisticated elegance, he’s also a brilliant surrealist artist and chronicler of the history of Soho on twitter @SohoGeorge.

The translator’s lot is not a happy one

May I have a word about … the translator’s unhappy lot. An article in The Guardian by Jonathan Bouquet – thanks to Paul Appleyard for linking it on Twitter. And pointing out that the comments are probably the most interesting bit!

I’d never given much thought to the travails of translators, but a recent email from a reader changed all that.
It kicks off: “In addition, for Designated Window Personnel, purchases or sales of Company Securities made pursuant to, and in compliance with, a written plan that meets the requirements of Rule 10b5-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (a “Trading Plan”), may be made without restriction to any particular period provided that (i) the Trading Plan was established in good faith, in compliance with the requirements of Rule 10b5-1…”
I think you get the drift. The sentence continues for another 245 words. And the translator’s lament? He had to render this brain shredder into Welsh.

My first reaction is that this is the kind of legalese the equivalent of which in German I deal with all the time. And the translator into Welsh may be a generalist who is not used to legal texts.

Of course, translators between German and English often specialize, but someone who translates solely between English and Welsh may be obliged to take a wide range of topics, if they are trying to make a living. I feel sorry for interpreters too – constantly performing at high speed on a variety of topics they will not have time to absorb.

The rest of the article segues into a consideration of business jargon, as if that were the same thing!

To quote one comment (weetam):

The basic problem isn’t the turgid text to translate. What happened is that a generic translator was trying to translate a highly specialist text. 
This translator didn’t “have to” translate it into Welsh, but was rather offered work that he/she should have turned down and then accepted it anyway. 
There are specialist translators who deal with this kind of stuff day-in, day-out and can translate something like this in their sleep. Building up those skills takes many years of training and experience, which makes specialist legal translators more expensive. This translator then turns up and undercuts these high rates, and then pretends it’s someone else’s fault if he/she can’t do the job. 
Get the picture? Welcome to our world!

Some of the comments give advice on how to handle difficult subject-matter. One reports that with contract language you just take it bit by bit, whereas translating a description of a staircase was harder, with all the unfamiliar technical language. Another writes:

The challenge with translations, whether it be legal text or medical disclaimers, is that the translator accepting the assignment is a trained linguist and in most cases not expert in the subject he/she has to translate. 
I have had an assignment/project once where a complete material master (parts) of a blast furnace need to be translated. I can share with you that I never realized how many different type screws, nuts, bolts and ball bearers there were all with there own unique technical description. 

I suppose I’m not a trained linguist. I sell myself on the basis that I am a qualified solicitor. But I learnt about law and legal translation by finding myself teaching it, and attending the classes of colleagues who were German lawyers, and as for deciphering really complex German, reading lots of secondary literature when I did my Ph.D. on German literature was a big help, and so perhaps was doing A Level Latin. And that’s what I love about legal translation – deciphering sentences and intentions. Most people who see the kind of language I like to translate would react like Jonathan Bouquet and his ‘travails’. Travail as work, not travails as suffering.

P.S. I forgot to add, what was in my mind, that researching unfamiliar areas takes a long time, and the translator needs to have an idea of whether the pay for this is worth it.

Divorce

When I first taught legal translation, as a subsidiary subject, I started with divorce. At the IFA in Erlangen and other Bavarian Fachakademien, the legal translation syllabus was based on work done for the courts by certified translators, which our students would be qualified as. Translating divorce papers was very common in those days, for example for US military personnel living in Germany. So expensive was the translation of documents needed by the German courts that there used to be divorce translation weekends, for some reason offered in Copenhagen. In fact after I had taught all the areas relating to court work, it was hard to fit contract translation into the timetable, since I thought it would be necessary to teach both contract law and contract language.

Those unfamiliar with divorce law sometimes thought that, since English law is different from German law, English divorce law must be very strange indeed. Not so: divorce had a similar history in both countries, going back to church law, to times when some kind of transgression permitted a petitioner to be given a divorce. The terminology was sometimes archaic even though the law had been reformed so that you were not punished financially or through harsh custody arrangements if you had committed adultery. English divorce law was reformed earlier than German and the law when I first taught it in 1982 and now in 2019 has unintended consequences. In German law a person can get a divorce after one year’s living apart; in English law it takes longer, so it is quicker to petition that the respondent’s behaviour is unreasonable (that is, that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to tolerate it). What is called no-fault divorce actually seems to be based on fault. This is not to say that divorce plays out as a pleasant and smooth process in practice even in Germany, but we didn’t talk about that. Nowadays you can read all this up on the Web so I don’t need to go into details. Anyway, all these many years afterwards, a divorce bill is going through the courts making divorce much easier – actually very easy indeed. New divorce law to end the blame game (Ministry of Justice – with a good summary of the current law)). The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has almost been passed. Of course, it is threatened by prorogation.

DE>EN translation problems: most frequently encountered are the terms related to the apportionment of future pension rights. Zugewinnausgleich, Gütertrennung, Gütergemeinschaft – marital property is not always straightforward. If you translate US documents into German, you have to be careful not to describe a decree absolute as rechtskräftig, which might wrongly suggest that the ex-spouses could remarry immediately (there may be a six-month waiting period). Not divorce but sometimes comes up in that context: Ehefähigkeitszeugnis – certificate of no impediment.

Creifelds on Acolada

At the moment I use only the Dietl/Lorenz law dictionary on the Acolada platform. I more often use Romain on paper (despite the time it takes to look things up). I actually wore out the latest Romain so I bought a copy of the earlier (1994) edition. The later one had feminine and masculine versions of all German nouns where this was relevant, but I didn’t need to look up Anwalt and Anwältin myself.

When there is a new paper version of Dietl/Lorenz (with CD for both directions – currently promised for 2020), I don’t expect it will contain versions of all the latest legal terminology, but that can be found on the Web nowadays – there are quite a few law firms’ sites with a variety of options. Gradually paper dictionaries are whittled down to a few useful ones.

I always used to have an up-to-date version of Creifelds German law dictionary, and now I see that it could be put on the computer and consulted along with Dietl/Lorenz. I read this in the Acolada newsletter. Creifelds Rechtswörterbuch.

I noticed while researching this that Beck Verlag promises another book in the form of a German-English legal dictionary for 2020: This has the perhaps misleading title Rechtsenglisch and is by Rinscheid and Miller. It is as so often for anyone, including judges in (German) English-language courtrooms. It contains sentence examples and is organized both alphabetically and also thematically, so that a lawyer can learn the relevant vocabulary, for example before a client conference. I’d love to be a fly on the wall.

Zum Werk
Die fachgerechte Formulierung deutscher Rechtsberatung in englischer Sprache erfordert mehr als lediglich die Übersetzung einzelner Rechtsbegriffe. Die schnell zugänglichen Online- Wörterbücher scheinen nur auf den ersten Blick eine verlässliche Abhilfe bei der kontextgerechten Verwendung eines Rechtsbegriffs zu bieten. Mit der Vokabel allein ist schließlich noch keine Korrespondenz mit dem Mandanten geführt, kein Schriftsatz geschrieben und auch keine vernünftige Hilfestellung für eine Telefonkonferenz gegeben. Konsequenz ist eine häufig unreflektierte Verwendung von Übersetzungsvorschlägen mit in der Folge fehlerhafter Darstellung.
Die Autoren des vorliegenden Werkes schließen eine wichtige Lücke, in dem sie dem international arbeitenden Juristen eine umfassende Arbeitsgrundlage zur Verwendung der englischen Rechtssprache liefern. Hierzu ist das Werk auf drei Säulen aufgebaut. Erstens enthält das Werk ein alphabetisch sortiertes Glossar mitsamt Beispielssätzen, Erläuterungen und Hinweisen zur kontextgerechten Verwendung (Deutsch-Englisch). Zweitens sind die Begriffe zusätzlich thematisch sortiert – so kann sich der Rechtsanwender mit den in einem speziellen Sach- oder Rechtsgebiet geläufigen Vokabeln vertraut machen, beispielsweise vor einer Mandantenbesprechung. Die dritte Säule bilden Formulierungshilfen und Textbausteine für die Praxis (Emails, Schriftsätze, Telefonkonferenzen etc.).
Vorteile auf einen Blick
Das vorliegende Buch bietet
– ein klassisches zweisprachiges Nachschlagewerk/Wörterbuch mit Beispielsätzen, Erläuterungen und Hinweisen
– zusätzlich die Möglichkeit einer nach Sach- und Rechtsgebieten geordneten Suche
– Englische Formulierungshilfen aus der Praxis
Zielgruppe
Für international tätige Anwälte und Unternehmensjuristen, Richter in englischsprachigen Kammern, Juristische Fachübersetzer, Studierende der Fachspezifischen Fremdsprachenausbildung, Universitäten und Forschungseinrichtungen.