Spiegel online in English

Spiegel Online has a curiously named section Fishwrap (Want to know what the German papers are saying?). It’s illustrated by a picture of two herring, I think, in a German tabloid-sized newspaper. I presume it’s named after the Guardian’s The Wrap, which is no longer free of charge. I thought this was a wrap-up of the news, but I may be missing something in understanding the reason for these names. Does it mean reading a summary of the news on the paper used to wrap up fish and chips (rather than raw herring)?

Here are a couple of quotes from the current Fishwrap:

bq. Will Iran be next? Will Bush wage war with every “Outpost of Tyranny”? What will happen to trans-Atlantic relations? Why does America celebrate its new president with a pompous event fit for a king or a dictator? Does this all really matter? These are the pressing questions for which German editorialists seek to divine answers on Friday.

I didn’t really start this blog in order to pull other translators’ work to pieces, so maybe I should let the text speak for itself. There are five things I’m not happy with there.

Another characteristic that is striking elsewhere in the article is the use of colloquial English that would be unusual in British or American writing. Even contractions are not common. Here is some more:

bq. Newspaper editors watched, too, and they’re having a field day with his inaugural speech in Friday’s editions. Surprisingly, only one paper predicts disaster, but if George W. Bush thought he would get the kid glove treatment over here, he can just forget it.

Referring to Die Tageszeitung:

bq. “Describing US President George W. Bush as a proselytizing crackpot leader of a superpower bristling with weapons doesn’t really move things forward, it doesn’t solve any problems and though offensive, it’s not especially original anymore,” it writes. “At the same time: Those who don’t want to take seriously this madness, which Bush did his best to show before and after his inauguration speech, are in for a terrible surprise from the US government.”

The translators are obviously briefed to use contractions frequently and to find colloquial expressions, which is particular hard for non-native speakers. It seems to me we have to look forward to a lot more of this international English. I wanted to say it’s an impoverishment of the language, but I don’t know if that’s the point. It reminds me of flying Lufthansa and reading their two-language magazine. The English there is hard to fault – it doesn’t have the errors seen above – but it follows the German very closely. I associate it with the enclosed air of a plane.

I note that Lufthansa Bordbuch in English is part of an online corpus of translations into English (and the German part is in a corpus too).

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