Beerbikes banned/BierBikes in Düsseldorf verboten

Bierbikes hadn’t really registered with me until the city of Düsseldorf banned them recently and the order was confirmed by the Düsseldorf administrative court on October 6.

Meter für Meter schiebt sich das eigentümliche Gefährt über die Straße. An der Theke des “Bierbikes” ist die Stimmung prächtig, bei den genervten Autofahrern dahinter ist sie auf dem Tiefpunkt. Ob feuchtfröhlicher Junggesellenabschied oder umweltfreundliche Stadtrundfahrt: In immer mehr deutschen Städten rollen sogenannte Bier- oder Partybikes. Nun hat Düsseldorf die 16-Sitzer verboten: Kein Betrieb ohne Sondergenehmigung – und die werde nicht erteilt, so sieht es die Stadtverwaltung. Das Düsseldorfer Verwaltungsgericht gab ihr Recht (Az: 16 K 6710/09).

The judgment only affects Düsseldorf, and it is not yet final and non-appealable (rechtskräftig) there, so they can still be used. The idea is that one allegedly sober man steers the vehicle while up to sixteen sit along the sides, peddling – make that pedalling – and imbibing.

Here is a picture of one I took at the harvest festival procession yesterday (the following group represent the church of St. Michael):

The Guardian reported on the matter very promptly:

The bizarre contraptions hail from the Netherlands but are a particular hit in Germany, where they are offered to tourists in 34 different cities. Beer bikes, also known as “pedal pubs” or “mobile conference tables”, allow up to 16 drinkers to sit around a beer-barrel table, help themselves to on-tap beer, and listen to music while pedalling around the city. They are steered by a non-drinker employed by the operator. More than half of those who rent them are on stag parties.

The court in Düsseldorf issued the ban this morningafter complaints from other drivers about rowdiness. Complainants maintain that the bikes caused traffic jams, which intensified the longer a beer bike journey lasted – in effect, the more the revellers drank – and the more their pedal power tended to be reduced.

First German court hearing in English/Erste Verhandlung auf Englisch (LG Bonn)

As reported in an earlier entry, hearings in English are now possible at three international commercial chambers in Aachen, Cologne and Bonn. Both parties have to agree to waive the use of an interpreter. The first such hearing took place on May 10 at the Bonn Regional Court (Landgericht). There is a brief report in German in the Kölnische Rundschau, but it does not go into detail, and indeed, the reporter was apparently unable to assess the effectiveness of the language:

Premiere in Bonn: “Good afternoon”, begrüßte Manfred Kaufmann, Vorsitzender der neu eingerichteten 19. Zivilkammer des Bonner Landgerichts, die Parteien: Dann erläuterte der Handelsrichter in englischer Sprache die juristische Problematik der vorliegenden Klage: Eine Aktiengesellschaft belgischen Rechts wirft darin einem Bonner Unternehmen Vertragsbruch vor. Worum es im Detail ging, blieb dem Prozessbeobachter – im Handelsenglisch nicht geübt – im Verborgenen.

However, a colleague, Martina Niessen, Diplom-Dolmetscherin, has kindly reported to translators’ mailing lists on the hearing, which she attended.

To summarize: the courtroom was rather small, seating scarcely more than twenty, but there were SAT1 TV cameras there and a reporter and photographer. The three judges’ wives were reportedly all native speakers of English. Both parties had German lawyers, and the plaintiff also had a Belgian lawyer.

None of the parties was a native speaker of English. The case related to a Belgian company which supplied the Cuban government with electronic components, and a German company which supplied such components to the Belgian company. The German company has been taken over by a U.S. corporation, and so problems have been created by the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The court wanted the parties to reach a compromise, in part because a large amount of Belgian documents in French and Cuban documents in Spanish would have needed to be translated (so much for simplifying matters by using English as the court language!).

There were some language problems. For example, it was necessary to spell names, and the judges were not used to spelling in English. The words plaintiff and defendant were confused several times. Our colleague had the impression that they would have liked to express themselves in German.

The two German lawyers called for a Grundurteil. This is a decision as to whether the plaintiff’s claim has merit, literally a ‘basic judgment’, a kind of interim judgment. I haven’t got my library with me, but I gather Dietl-Lorenz does not contain a term (German judges often consult this dictionary and if it makes a suggestion they are usually happy with it). Nobody knew what the English for Grundurteil was, so they used the term Grundurteil in German – probably the best thing they could do. I would have consulted my English translation of the Zivilprozessordnung for this blog entry, and indeed this is a reference the courts might consider having at hand, but none of these dictionaries or translations are authorities in themselves: the user needs to have the background knowledge to decide which, if any, suggested terminology works.

The record of the proceedings was dictated in German by the presiding judge. The Grundurteil is to be pronounced on 31 May. The hearing was 90 minutes long. One of the associate judges (Beisitzer) spoke excellent English, apparently.

The judges had a tendency to start complex sentences which they could not finish.

Other language problems: the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) was referred to as ‘he’.
Kritik was translated as critic, not criticism.
Gewinn was translated as gain, not profit.
Power of attorney had to be explained to the Belgian.

It does seem odd that – obviously – German law is always involved. It is difficult enough to talk about legal issues in a foreign language, but it is even harder to be constantly translating German law into a foreign language. And this is precisely what is not practised if you do an LL.M. in the USA or UK. It’s something you need to work on.

Pronouncing the English alphabet: I used to get students to write the letters in groups according to the vowel sound, like this (this presumes the British pronunciation of Z as zed – if it is pronounced zee, it goes in the second line instead:


Many thanks to Martina for this report. I’d love to attend one of these hearings!

Lawyers’ costs compared/Anwaltskosten England und Deutschland

The Jackson Report on the reform of civil litigation costs in the UK was published in January 2010.

The final report and the two volumes of the preliminary report can be downloaded here.

Interestingly, at the end of the second volume of the preliminary report there are descriptions of the system in other countries, for instance Chapter 55: Germany, pp. 555 to 565.

1.1 The German rules of civil procedure contemplate cost shifting, albeit according to well-defined scales for recovery. The effect may be that a successful litigant is entitled to recover a smaller proportion of its actual fees than would be recoverable in England and Wales.
1.2 The German system permits the use of contingency fees only in limited circumstances, namely where a claimant does not have the means to retain lawyers for his case. Legal aid is available in certain civil cases.
1.3 In Germany, civil litigation is managed by the court so that it controls the proceedings and the evidence that is brought before it. One method by which the court does this is to appoint experts to assist the court on relevant factual issues, rather than leaving it to the parties to adduce their own expert evidence.

Useful footnotes too:

According to German Civil Procedure Code section 3(1), the value of the dispute is to be determined by the court in its “absolute discretion”. I am advised, however, by senior German judges that in practice no discretion is involved when the litigation concerns quantified or readily quantifiable claims.

Interesting reading and good for vocabulary too.

Returning to the UK, the shadow on the horizon is LPO – Legal Process Outsourcing, which will permit some work to be outsourced, for instance to India.

(Via the euleta list at Yahoo Groups).

Street cleaning week/Kehrwoche

You can do a course on how to do your bit in street cleaning week in the Ostfildern Volkshochschule (I associate this with Baden-Württemberg):

Samstag, 17. April

10:00 Uhr, VHS an der Halle, Nellingen, Esslingerstr. 26
Kehrwoche for beginners A1
Veranstalter: Volkshochschule Ostfildern

This course is designed for people from abroad who have recently arrived in Suabia or have been here for a while, but are not yet familiar with the Swabian tradition of the cleaning week (“Kehrwoche”). This could lead to cultural misunderstandings. Your landlord/-lady might have give you negative feedback on the way you do your Kehrwoche, for example, and you just don’t understand why, and because he speaks in dialect you don’t understand him, either. We will deal with the following aspects: – historical aspects: the origin of the Kehrwoche – tools and equipment (“Kutterschaufel und Kehrwisch”) – rules and standards (what to clean, best time to do the cleaning week, “big” and “small” cleaning week) – vocab and definitions (Kandel etc.) – how to become a Kehrwoche specialist/insider’s knowledge (e.g. how to make as much noise as possible so everybody notices you’re doing it) If you want to, you can bring your own equipment. The trainer will then tell you if it’s adequate. The course will be held in English and German.


Guido Westerwelle

It was widely reported and tweeted yesterday that Guido Westerwelle, the FDP (Liberal) party leader who will be Germany’s next foreign minister, refused to speak English when requested to do so (28th September).
Es ist Deutschland hier

The BBC correspondent asks Westerwelle to speak English, and Westerwelle says that as this is a German press conference in Germany, he can take questions in English but he will answer them in German.

This seems perfectly OK to me, but a lot of other Germans have been making fun of him for this. I admit he gets tactless after answering, when he says in German ‘We can meet outside the conference for tea and speak English, but it’s Germany here’. I hope his manners improve as foreign nminister.

Now Cem Özdemir of the Green Party has made a video Cem Özdemir asks BBC to stay with us promising German speakers of English will be back after the next elections in four years’ time.

I really can’t see that this video does the Greens any good either.

LATER NOTE: The Independent has an article by Philip Hensher, Flummoxed by foreign tongues, supporting Westerwelle too, and mentioning the decline of foreign language teaching and university courses in the UK:

Some people, even in Germany, have criticised Westerwelle for his insistence, and suggested that in fact he couldn’t answer in English. Actually, though his English is certainly not as horribly wonderful as many German politicians’, and he does seem to make some trivial mistakes, it is perfectly serviceable. More curiously, what did the BBC think it was doing, sending a reporter to a press conference in Germany on the German elections, knowing that he couldn’t or wouldn’t speak any German?

See also blog entry by Gabi (in German)


Current news from the EU: Presseurop site launched. Translations of news from various national papers, available in ten languages. Some of it has that airless translatorese feel of the Lufthansa in-flight magazine.

Nothing for Ungood is being translated into German and coming out as a book in December. No wonder we haven’t been getting enough to read on the site.

Trier University has links to strange cases from the USA and Germany. Lawhaha: Strange Judicial Opinions Lawhaha auf Deutsch

SDI on Youtube

Richard Schneider links to a Youtube videoclip made by students of the SDI in Munich, advertising the school.
The SDI has a Berufsfachschule for secretaries, a Fachakademie (the staff there, unlike in Erlangen, coyly pronounce it F-A-K rather than as a word) for translators and interpreters, and since 2007 a private university for other courses – but the film explains it.