Translation in The Guardian


Eva Braun wollte zehn weitere Frauen haben, die aber wegen der totalen Mobilmachung … nicht sofort zu Stelle waren. Darüber beklagte sie sich bei Hitler. Der war empört und herrschte Bormann zornig an: ‚Ich stampfe ganze Divisionen aus dem Boden. Da müßte es doch ein leichtes sein, ein paar Mädels für meinen Berghof zu beschaffen! Organisieren Sie das!‘“


…on one occasion, he flew into a rage when it proved difficult to hire 10 more serving girls. “I stamp whole divisions into the dirt!” screamed Hitler. “And I can’t get a few more serving sluts for the Berghof?”


Als es um die Aufmachung der Damen ging, scherzte Hitler über Eva Brauns Lippenstift, der Spuren an der Serviette hinterließ. Lachend meinte er, jetzt, in der Kriegszeit, stelle man Lippenstiftersatz aus Tierkadavern her.“


He would laugh at Eva’s lipstick on a serviette and then say, ‘During wartime lipstick is produced out of dead bodies.'”

Bild is not the source of the Guardian quotes, but it looks as if the German both report on has got mangled a bit (bold by MM).

(Thanks to the GerNet list on the ITI)

5 thoughts on “Translation in The Guardian

  1. This is a perfect example of why translation isn’t for everyone. Many journalists, especially, take it upon themselves to translate news stories into their first language, but fail miserably.

    For example, there is one Le Monde correspondent in LA who reports on the latest Hollywood events for the French newspaper. She gets even the most basic idiomatic phrases wrong every time. Worst of all, she also doubles as a “freelance translator”, and I have seen her work first-hand.

    I don’t doubt that she is a gifted writer in her first language, French, but her understanding of English is abysmal, to say the least.

  2. @Trevor: You’re missing the point: a person who can’t write CANNOT be a translator.

    So, your question should be:

    But are journalists who think they can translate as bad as *people* who think they can write?

    The answer is: NO. The journalist who “translates” is worse, because he/she does it for a living or as part of his/her job. The person who “writes” usually does not bother anyone else….

  3. I don’t know if this is such a perfect example. Things like anherrschen = flew into a rage work quite well, but the person lacks the most basic vocabulary. It’s always a good idea to understand the source text. Mistaking aus dem Boden stampfen for in den Boden stampfen is so terrible that it’s almost below the level deserving comment on the style.

  4. But that’s just it, Margaret: as a translator, you must have a perfect command of the source language so as to convey every nuance. The Guardian’s “translator” may know some phrases, but not others, but this is unacceptable, as you well know.

    This example of yours illustrates the typical case of a person with “Halbwissen” and a good dose of arrogance, which leads him or her to believe that he/she does not have to consult a dictionary – he/she simply assumed that he/she knew the meaning of “aus dem Boden stampfen” – you know how it goes: “I once took German in high school, and my German is quite good. I also travel to Germany once a year. Of course, I can translate this text.”

    Nobody is perfect, and no one knows everything. But a good translator knows when to do research or double-check something – and this is probably the main divider between lousy translators and those who know their stuff.

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