Berufsakademie / Fachhochschule

A colleague, Paul Thomas from Ehningen, translated two certificates containing the word Berufsakademie, which he rendered as vocational academy. The client – a German – was annoyed and said the translation was wrong: it should have been University of Cooperative Education.
Paul searched the Web and found the term almost exclusively used on German Berufsakademie websites.

I don’t know these Berufsakademien – they are a Baden-Württemberg thing, and I’m in Bavaria. There’s a site here.

They sound a bit like polytechnics. But what does cooperative mean?

Eurybase definitely puts them outside higher education. It says they are in eight Länder.

‘Berufsakademien (professional academies) form part of the tertiary sector and combine academic training at a Studienakademie (study institution) with practical professional training in the workplace, thus constituting a dual system (duales System). They were first set up in 1974 in Baden-Württemberg as part of a pilot project and are now to be found in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Sachsen and Thüringen, where they are state-run, and in Schleswig-Holstein, Niedersachsen and Saarland, where they are privately maintained state-recognised institutions.’

The DAAD book: Wörterbuch Englisch, Französisch, Spanisch – Begriffe aus Wissenschaft und Hochschule (ISBN 3 7639 0418 2) gives ‘higher education institution in Germany with professional orientation and on-the-job training’.

And Raddatz’s Fachglossar: Deutsche Berufsbildungsbegriffe, Bertelsmann/GTZ (ISBN 3 7639 0128 0), otherwise full of Germanisms, has ‘vocational college’ plus ‘The vocational college which exists in some Federal States of Germany prepares, as a rule, upper secondary school graduates … in a three-year period for a qualified graduation for a scientific and advanced occupational activity. The training scheme features in-company training periods.’

So what do we do when a whole set of institutions has chosen a term that is rubbish in English? Their very choice seems to disqualify them. A similar term is University of Applied Science for Fachhochschule. There’s a term that Eurybase does support. It reminds me of the Holy Roman Empire – neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

Paul calls it ‘what would appear to be a misnomer made up by German speakers for German consumption’. Tim Slater replies, ‘Well, of course it is not for German consumption, but for misleading an international readership (part of unscrupulous and dishonest sales promotion by German authorities)’.

The conclusion on FLEFO at CompuServe was: use the German term, if only once in brackets, make sure you get paid, and let the client do what it wants with the text.

Zusammenfassung: das Wort Berufsakademie wird standardmäßig mit einem sinnlosen englischen Begriff übersetzt, vor allem auf den Webseiten der Berufsakademien. Kunde, der die beeidigte Übersetzung zweier Urkunden wollte, bemängelt Übersetzung deswegen. Übersetzer klärt Kunden auf. Fazit: wenn der Kunde dem englischsprachigen Übersetzer nicht glauben will, oder ihm sogar glaubt aber sich an der eingebürgerten Form halten will, soll er es tun.
Website von Eurybase – Eurydice Database – gibt zweisprachige Entsprechungen für Bildungsbegriffe in ganz Europa.

2 thoughts on “Berufsakademie / Fachhochschule

  1. ‘Vocational academy’ was, of course, correct. I agree that the German English title is a nonsense. And ‘professional training’ should be ‘vocational training’.

  2. Oh good – my first comment! And professional was misused, of course, whether deliberately or not.
    Mind you, when a German student can spend a year at a British university and come back with a B.A. Hons., one wonders if we aren’t helping them along…

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