Translating ‘Kaufmann’ into English

Die IHK Darmstadt empfiehlt, Bankkaufmann z.B. mit “Bank Management Assistant” zu übersetzen. (Kaufmann im Sinne des HGB würde ich mit “merchant” übersetzen, auch wenn manchmal eine zusätzliche Erklärung nötig ist).

The Darmstadt chamber of commerce has a document online with a list of suggestions for translating words like
Automobilkaufmann Automobile Sales Management Assistant
Bankkaufmann Bank Business Management Assistant
Bürokaufmann Office Management Assistant

These are job titles that always present problems. I think the idea of ‘management assistant’ is a good one, even if it doesn’t solve all problems.

bq. Wir bitten darum, diese Übersetzungen zu benutzen, selbst wenn in offiziellen Dokumenten des Wirtschaftsministeriums noch die unzutreffende Bezeichnung “clerk” verwendet wird.
Wir würden es begrüßen, wenn Sie weitere eigene Übersetzungen nach diesem Schema mit dem DIHK abstimmten.

(Please use these translations, even if official documents from the Hessen Ministry of Economics still use the incorrect term ‘clerk’.
We would be happy if you would agree on translations of your other terms with us.)

For Kaufmann in the sense of someone subject to the Commercial Code, I would use merchant, although this might need explanation.

6 thoughts on “Translating ‘Kaufmann’ into English

  1. I don’t know, “management assistant” sounds strange to me. I also very much doubt it describes what the job is.

    To me “management assistant” sounds like someone who is assisting management, kind of like the “Assistent der Geschaeftsleitung” in German.

    An “Office Management Assistant” sounds like someone who assists the “Office Manager” in running the office. Which is not what to my knowledge a “Buerokaufmann” does.

    What’s wrong with “clerk”? To me this sounds like title inflation, similar to the “Putzfrau” changing to a “Raumpfleger”…

  2. Armin: That’s the problem with clerk – it doesn’t show the person has completed a course of training. Of course, one could argue that such titles shouldn’t be translated at all. But people constantly translate them. If you translate Automobilkaufmann as car salesman, for instance, you have omitted the fact that he did a course to get this qualification. For Bürokaufmann/-frau, Hamblock-Wessels has (trained) office clerk.

    I don’t think all these Darmstadt suggestions are good, but I think it’s worth recording. Translators are always looking for ideas in this area. And people don’t like their c.v.s left mainly in German.

  3. For Vollkaufmann/frau I use registered or fully qualified trader. In Au, it’s the ‘merchant’ whose trade is more than small and to whom the provs. of commercial law are ‘unqualifiedly’ applicable. For Halbkaufmann/frau, I would say ‘vertically challenged clerk’.

  4. Ha ha. Do you actually have Halbkaufleute in Austria? I wouldn’t put it past them.Some of these terms have gone now – Minderkaufmann, for instance – but they still crop up in translations. The problem is the need for a superordinate term, to render Kaufmann in the meaning of someone governed by the Commercial Code. I’m not sure how ‘registered’ or ‘fully qualified’ conveys the meaning of Vollkaufmann, but are you going to use ‘trader’ for Kaufmann? The advantage of ‘merchant’ is the association with the law merchant.

  5. Yes, there are still Minderkaufleute in Austria (§4 HGB/Au. Commercial Code). I understand the tag shows up on the online Firmenbuch (Germany: Handelsregister)on co. searches, rather than on door signplates.

    Merchant/ law merchant/ mercantile law are def. the right terms. Tongue-in-cheek, I was drawing attention to the Voll v. Minder status or stature divide: fully (‘City & Guilds’) qualified, non-exempt large-scale v. small-scale, exempt trader is my stylistic-only pref. in that string to merchant.

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