Gerold Harfst

Gerold Harfst has just published Übersetzungshilfe – Translation Tool ISBN apparently applied for), a collection of sections from German criminal law statutes translated into English. It can be ordered at (print out the form and post or fax it), as can Harfst’s earlier books.

There was a time when the only translations of the Strafgesetzbuch and Strafprozessordnung on the market were Harfst’s (earlier ones being out of print). The US forces in Europe had translations too, but they weren’t generally available.

Now there are translations of those statutes online (German Law Archive), although not of the Jugendgerichtsgesetz or Betäubungsmittelgesetz.

There are even a bio and photo of the author (presumably the shorter of the two men) online.

I can’t recommend this book specifically since I haven’t seen it. I seem to remember the translations being thorough and quite good. The danger with this kind of book is that until you investigate a particular section of the statute, you can’t really judge the quality of the translation, and in order to do that you need some knowledge of German and American/English law (U.S. English is what Harfst refers to – in fact, he describes himself as an interpreter and translator of the ‘American’ language: Sachverständiger, Dolmetscher und Übersetzer für die amerikanische Sprache), but these translations are often relied on blindly by users.

Here’s an example from Harfst’s earlier translation of the Criminal Code (old translation, new StGB):

bq. § 26 Anstiftung. Als Anstifter wird gleich einem Täter bestraft, wer vorsätzlich einen anderen zu dessen vorsätzlich begangener rechtswidriger Tat bestimmt hat.

bq. German Law Archive (Bundesjustizministerium translation):
§ 26 Incitement. Whoever intentionally induces another to intentionally commit an unlawful act, shall, as an inciter, be punished the same as a perpetrator.

bq. Harfst 1989 (maybe the StGB has changed slightly)
§ 26. Instigation. Whoever, as an accessory before the fact, intentionally has designated another to his intentionally committed illegal act, will be punished as a perpetrator.

Both versions show the non-native speaker (punished the same as; designate X to an act). The comma after ‘act’ would be wrong in German too.

What worries me is the use of accessory before the fact. An accessory before the fact is someone who helps before an offence is committed, and an accessory after the fact is someone who helps after it has been committed. But an instigator or inciter is not an accessory, but a perpetrator. For § 27, Harfst has Aiding and abetting, whereas the GLA version has Accessoryship. That is rather imaginative but a good idea. Harfst continues to use accessory before the fact for Anstifter.

This is all perfectly OK as long as the translator researches both source and target languages.

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