Plainer German/Bürgernahe Amtssprache

Sonja Tomašković’s Translator’s Blog links (on 11th August – not sure about a permalink) to the Bundesverwaltungsamt, which has PDF files on Bürgernahe Verwaltungssprache and Sprachliche Gleichbehandlung von Frauen und Männern.

Sonja points out that these are particularly useful for translators into German. I know a lot of translators, usually men strangely enough, start making defensive noises at the idea of non-sexist language, and that reference is not a barbed comment at any of the regular commenters here – but at all events I do find non-sexist and PC language sometimes required by clients.

Personally I like to increase my knowledge of bürgerferne Verwaltungssprache (I hate the word bürgernah).

2 thoughts on “Plainer German/Bürgernahe Amtssprache

  1. Hi Margaret

    I think it’s less the fact that we don’t like not-sexist language and more that we don’t like language meddling. I also dislike general PC language. I tell my clients that they are receiving a perfectly appropriate translation and if they want it PC they can get someone else to do it for them. I do use Ms these days though.


  2. I must admit I don’t often get the problem, but sometimes a German client needs to have it pointed out that less sexist language would be more appropriate for the USA. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind translating Dear Sirs as Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren (or vice versa), both being standard. The problem is introducing non-sexist equivalents when the client wants it or can be expected to want it, but the attempt makes the language clumsy. (he/she/it). That’s why I find the book Mike Ellis mentioned on Flefo useful, because it helps find more elegant alternatives (use the plural, where that works). The book is Casey Miller & Kate Swift’s Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing.

    I had a problem recently where a contract was to be used several times, sometimes for a company and sometimes an agent. I had no problem with using “he” rather than “he or she”, but I didn’t really want to write “he or it”. Nor did I want to introduce five or ten places where the person using the form had to change it, when that wasn’t necessary in the German. I finished up using “it” with a note to the client.

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