Translating statutes: Federal Data Protection Act /Bundesdatenschutzgesetz

Anyone who is learning about how to translate German statutes into English might be interested to compare the two online translations of the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz.

1. Goethe Institut (formerly Inter Nationes translations)

2. BFDI (Der Bundesbeauftragte für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit)

Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (original German)

In no. 1, I was struck by:

a) The use of Article instead of section for §

b) The difficulty of navigating to sections 5, 43 and 44

c) Section 43 (2) ‘fails to appoint a commissioner for data protection’ – I would only use this for the Federal Commissioner – here, prefer ‘data protection officer’ (No. 2 has ‘data protection official’)

d) Translation of rechtzeitig as on time instead of in (good) time (No. 2 has ‘within the prescribed time limit’)

e) Mystifying translation of section 43 (7): contrary to Article 29 para. 3 sentence 2 does not ensure the acceptance of recordings,
(No. 2: in violation of Section 29 (3) second sentence fails to ensure the inclusion of identifiers)

Incidentally, if one looks at no. 1’s translation of section 29, the terms used do not match.

In no. 2, I liked

a) data subject for Betroffene(r)
(No. 1 had affected party – I was going to use person affected, although I see I had already got data subject in my database)

b) Bußgeldvorschriften and Strafvorschriften, as headings, translated as Administrative offences and Criminal offences
(No. 1 had Administrative Fine Provisions and Penalty Provisions)

c) Translation of section 43 (5):
entgegen § 29 Abs. 2 Satz 3 oder 4 die dort bezeichneten Gründe oder die Art und Weise ihrer glaubhaften Darlegung nicht aufzeichnet
in violation of section 29 (2) third or fourth sentence fails to record the evidence described there or the means of presenting it in a credible way
(No. 1: contrary to Article 29 para. 2 sentence 3 or 4 does not record the reasons named there or does not record the way in which they are credibly presented)

There is more. I would love to know who did the BFDI translation.

German translators petition for protection of ‘Übersetzer’/Übersetzer, Dolmetscher suchen Schutz der Berufsbezeichnung

Jessica Antosik at the Übersetzerportal reports (in German) on a petition sent by young translators and interpreters to the Petitions Committee (Petitionsausschuss) of the German Bundestag. The Committee is a place people can complain to or petition, with a sort of ombudsman function.

The request was to protect the words Übersetzer, Dolmetscher and Sprachmittler. This would mean that the only people who could call themselves the equivalent of translator or interpreter would have to have some sort of training or pass some sort of exam.

This petition was developed on a social network called Xing, where there is more to read, and members can see more than I can. A representative of the BDÜ is there quoted as saying that if the petition had been granted, the effect would not have been as desired (more work for the petitioners?).

The Committee turned down the petition, inter alia because there is a trend towards encouraging occupations rather than restricting them.

The BDÜ wanted something like this for many years, but as far as I know doesn’t any longer. It amazes me that anyone would want this. I have not yet found that passing or failing a particular exam made anyone a good or bad translator. Do these people look at the many unqualified and incompetent translators and overlook the qualified and incompetent ones? whatever that means, since a translation may work without being brilliant. And presumably non-translators could still translate for money, so you could say ‘I had this translated not by a translator, but by a teacher’. (I have passed the Bavarian and Hesse translators’ exams and the Hesse interpreters’ exam, although I think I learnt more from teaching and online forums than anything else)

Wir, die gezeichneten Übersetzer und Dolmetscher der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, fordern den Schutz der oben genannten Berufsbezeichnung und deren weiterführenden Fachbezeichnungen. Als Qualifikation zur Ausübung der Berufe fordern wir ein abgeschlossenes (Fach-)Hochschulstudium oder eine abgeschlossene Ausbildung an einer anerkannten Ausbildungsstätte. Quereinsteiger sollen fortan ihre Sprach-, Fach- und Sachkompetenz durch entsprechende Nachweise oder eine qualifizierende Prüfung vor einer anerkannten Stelle (z. B. IHK oder staatliches Prüfungsamt) belegen. Sollte eine Person weder eine abgeschlossene Ausbildung noch eine qualifizierende Prüfung vorlegen können, darf sie nicht unter den Berufsbezeichnungen Übersetzer, Dolmetscher oder Sprachmittler tätig werden.

From the grounds:

Übersetzen und Dolmetschen ist mehr als die reine Übertragung in eine andere Sprache. Es erfordert sowohl linguistisches Wissen, stilistisches Feingefühl als auch die richtige und korrekt angewandte Technik des Übersetzen und Dolmetschens. Diese Kenntnisse erwirbt man nur durch eine qualifizierte mehrjährige Ausbildung.

Sorry, but show me someone straight from a university translation diploma course who has linguistic knowledge, stylistic sensitivity (in their mother tongue) and the right and properly applied techniques of translating and interpreting – it takes years of practice.

They also object to translators and interpreters working at very low rates, which they think is more common among unqualified people. But I think our economic system permits it. Personally, I would rather work as a cleaner than translate for peanuts – if only I were fitter, then I might even do some cleaning here.

Novelist and translators discuss/Autorin-Übersetzer-Gespräch in Straelen

The novelist (also lawyer, and daughter of a translator) Juli Zeh has been having a discussion with her translators at the Europäisches Übersetzer-Kollegium in Straelen. One can’t be sure whether the press got it right, but the Rheinische Post reports:

1. Chinese has no word for gesunder Menschenverstand (common sense). (One has one’s doubts):

“Man macht sich beim Schreiben keine Vorstellung davon, dass der Begriff des gesunden Menschenverstandes in anderen Sprachen nicht existiert”, sagt Juli Zeh. “Menschen können nur das denken, wofür es auch ein Wort gibt. Es fehlt nicht nur das Wort, es fehlt die ganze Idee dazu. Welt wird erst durch Sprache definiert.”

2. There are several terms for gesunder Menschenverstand in English. Juli Zeh prefers The Healthy Mind.

Doch die Auswahl an Übersetzungen für den Zeitungstitel “Gesunder Menschenverstand” ist groß: The Common Sense, The Healthy Mind oder Logic Dictates. “Mir gefällt The Healthy Mind” sagt Zeh. “Das passt zu meiner Idee.”

The healthy mind? Mens sana in corpore sano?

3. The novel (it was a play originally, I think) is called Corpus Delicti. The many legal terms are particularly hard to translate into other languages, so rponline quotes the Belgian translator Hilde Keteleer. She translates for Belgium and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands there are no Schöffen (lay judges). So she takes the Belgian term Hof van assisen and the Dutch will have to put up with it.

(Wikipedia says this Court of Assize consists of three judges with a jury of twelve, but that’s just by the way).


Internet miscellany/Vermischtes aus dem Internet

1. The Guardian Books Blog invited readers to translate. See comments. A comment by smpugh:

Don’t let’s forget Ogden Nash, btw, who was once told by a lady at some event that she liked one of his books but preferred it in the French translation. “Yes”, he murmured, “my work does tend to lose something in the original”.

The entry links to Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I don’t suppose that is a close translation, but I did grow up with it as my mother was always quoting it, and I can picture the leather cover of the copy we had. It looks as if it was the first version.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Loaf of Bread,–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
And Wilderness is Paradise enow!

(via Unprofessional Translation)

2. A map of the languages of Europe, on Wikimedia Commons (you need to see the large version). This was tweeted by Sarah Dillon from elsewhere, and was discussed on Siberian Light.

One amazing thing about this map is how no English is spoken in the whole of Ireland, in most of Wales, and in large parts of Scotland.

3. You can read the whole of the Tamara Drewe comic by Posy Simmonds, which was published in the Guardian, starting here. One of the narrators is ‘Dr. Glen Larson, translator (MFA, University of Arkansas, PhD, Columbia, currently Visiting Professor at London Medial University)
(via Baroque in Hackney)

4. Nevada Legislator Proposes Bill on How to Pronounce ‘Nevada’

Whereas there are two common pronunciations of the name of our great state:

(1) the provincial pronunciation utilized by approximately two-million Nevadans, using a flat A-sound — a sound not unlike the bleating of a sheep, and;

(2) the cosmopolitan or Spanish pronunciation used by the other seven-billion inhabitants
of our planet, using a soft “A” intonation—not unlike a sigh of contentment, and . . .

Whereas it is becoming a continuous, prodigious, and daunting task for the two million colloquial-speaking inhabitants to interrupt and correct the other seven-billion inhabitants of the Planet who utilize the Spanish/cosmopolitan pronunciation . . .

Therefore; be it resolved, that henceforth, there will be two acceptable pronunciations for the name of our great state:

(1) the preferred pronunciation will be the colloquial pronunciation, and;

(2) the less-preferred pronunciation will be the charitably-tolerated
Spanish/cosmopolitan pronunciation.

Cornish pasties and Euromyths/Euromythen wieder

Cornish pasties (note to Americans: nothing to do with nipple ornaments) are being considered by the EU. There has been an application for Protected Geographical Indication to request that only Cornish pasties made in Cornwall and to the traditional recipe, ingredients and manner are called Cornish pasties. It is not the EU, however, that defines a Cornish pasty, but the Cornish Pasty Association.

The Euromyths site now has a warning that the allegedly correct recipe is not, contrary to stories in the UK national press, dictated by the EU:

Contrary to news reports in the national press, the European Commission does not dictate ingredients or names of ingredients for products seeking EU quality recognition.

Products from the UK looking to get protected status prepare their applications stipulating the criteria, description and recipe of their food products. The EC evaluates the applications once they are revised by Defra. The EC provides the final approval on any particular product.

In the case of Cornish pasties, it was The Cornish Pasty Association who dictated the recipe and ingredients for the genuine Cornish Pasty. The Association has applied for Protected Geographical Indication to request that only Cornish pasties made in Cornwall and to the traditional recipe, ingredients and manner are called Cornish pasties.

A Google search soon reveals what they are talking about. BBC ‘Bogus “Cornish” pasties face ban’ (this one probably OK), ‘EU says Cornish pasties can’t contain carrots …’ (, ‘Turnip or swede? Brussels rules on ingredients of Cornish pasty …’

On August 19, the Daily Telegraph reported on The turnips of Brussels, asking what is the difference between a turnip and a swede. Apparently the Cornish call swedes turnips:

It has proved one of the great culinary conundrums: what is the difference between a turnip and a swede? They are both members of the cabbage family, but the former is a small, white astringent vegetable, while the latter is large, yellowy-orange and sweeter-tasting. They should not be that difficult to tell apart. However, just to confuse matters, the Scots call swedes “neeps”, and the Cornish also insist that they are filling their pasties with turnips, when in fact they are swedes.

Who cares? Well, the European Commission does, because it needs to know the precise ingredients of the pasty in order to give it protected status. For it to be a genuine Cornish pasty, it must contain only one of these vegetables, or the wrath of Brussels will descend on some hapless cook. So listen up, this is very important: the turnip, for the purposes of the pasty, is a swede. Or is it the other way round?

For some sense, see Tabloid Watch.