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.

Kausalgeschäft – the abstraction principle

Although we know about the abstraction principle in German contract law, we don’t often have to translate it.

Here is Markesinis on the principle:

We now come to what is one of the most intriguing peculiarities of German contract law. Indeed, Zweigert and Kötz, in their treatise, An Introduction to Comparative Law, p. 71, regard it as so distinctive as to argue that it gives the German legal system its characteristic style. … Many common lawyers, and indeed French lawyers,might be tempted to describe it more than just ‘distinctive’. ‘Un-necessary’ and ‘excessively abstract’ are words that have often been used; and not with(out) some justification.

German law notionally distinguishes between the legal transaction that creates the relationship of obligation (Verpflichtungsgeschäft) from (sic) the legal transaction which transfers, alters, extinguishes, or encumbers rights (Verfügungsgeschäft = disposition contract). This distinction is accompanied by an important sub-rule: the validity of the second transaction is independent from (sic) the validity of the first.The first tenet is known as the ‘principle of separation’ (Trennungsprinzip), while the second is referred to as the’principle of abstraction’ (Abstraktionsprinzip).

Basil S. Markesinis, Hannes Unberath, Angus Johnston, The German Law of Contract. A Comparative Treatise, 2nd ed. 2006, p. 27

Even the act of buying a newspaper, in German law, consists of two stages: the intention and the reciprocal handing over of paper and money.

The closest idea in English law is found in conveyancing, where the parties exchange contracts to buy/sell and some weeks later the property and payment are exchanged.

In my translation, the situation was that the Kausalgeschäft (= Verpflichtungsgeschäft) underlying a gift of money in return for a promise not to seek further payment was invalid, and so the gift was invalid too.

One way to do this would be to add a translator’s note explaining this peculiarity of German law. I decided to translate Kausalgeschäft as ‘underlying obligation’ and ‘obligational agreement’, adding ‘(a peculiarity of German law)’.

ProZ is often helpful here.  As long as you understand the German legal point, you can see which answers are helpful, just as when trying to find help in Dietl or Romain.

Pretzels at the Last Supper

I didn’t realize how long pretzels have been around. See Victoria Emily Jones, Praying with Pretzels.

The salty, twisted treats that we call pretzels have their origin, it is thought, in a seventh-century European monastery—according to lore, either in southern France, northern Italy, or Germany. Allegedly a monk invented them by shaping scraps of leftover bread dough to resemble arms crossed in prayer over the chest.

The pretzel’s Lenten link, not to mention its popularity as a year-round snack both inside and outside monastic communities, led artists to sometimes paint pretzels into Last Supper images.

Illustrations there, one of which I have pinched:

St. Bartholomew, from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, in Latin, Utrecht, The Netherlands, ca. 1440. Morgan Library, New York: PML M.917, fol. 228. http://www.themorgan.org/collection/hours-of-catherine-of-cleves/87#

Leytonstone

Café de Montmartre, Leytonstone

I should have known that Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone.

However, I went there to see the Singing Organgrinder at the new market.

He can be heard again at 13.00 next Saturday, but I am not sure if the market will still be in the Church Lane car park.

Lidl, Hornchurch

Today would be Hitler’s birthday, as my father always used to say – he would have been 116 tomorrow, April 21, which is also the Queen’s birthday. So I found myself having to pass time in Hornchurch and visited the new Lidl. It was so large that it reminded me of a big Edeka (Aldi in Upminster is smaller).

Unfortunately it could only be built after the elegant Towers Cinema, later bingo hall, was demolished: here are pictures.

There seemed to be more German foods there than I have seen in Aldi, but I haven’t been often enough to give a reliable account. Leberkäse, the German delicacy containing neither Leber nor Käse, was sold as Bavarian Meat Loaf.

There was also Austrian sliced salami, some of which recalled Käsekrainer (though commenters may correct me).

Here, however, is an older picture of Speculatius at Aldi:

And here some more pictures of Lidl:

Elektro Götz closes 31.3.2018

 

Here’s a photo of my downstairs neighbours for many years, Dieter and Jutta Mund, who ran Elektro Götz in Fürth (they don’t actually live there) but have to close on March 31st, which means this Saturday will be their last trading day. I took the photo in October 2016 and I’m sorry I will not be able to visit them in their shop again.

The kind of shop where if you want a vacuum cleaner bag replacement you will be given full details of the function and price of several manufacturers.

No doubt buying online has meant that a shop of that kind can’t make ends meet nowadays. I am surprised they managed so long!

Many thanks to Ralph Stenzel for keeping me informed.

Elektro Götz in FürthWiki

Fürther Freiheit

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