The translation of forms of business association is quite complex and takes so long to discuss that the steam goes out of the boiler before the discussion has got off the ground.
I met some U.S. translators briefly last Friday, but not too briefly for one of them to tell me that all the U.S. lawyers she works for reject the translation of Gesellschafter of a GmbH as shareholder.
This is a good concrete example – without such examples it’s really impossible to discuss why some lawyers don’t like some translations (see earlier entry without examples).
It would be great if people asked their English-speaking lawyers why they don’t like the translation.
So, let’s look at this. Gesellschaft itself is a problem, but at least my favourite translation of GmbH, which is GmbH, is straightforward (until the client complains).
But the word Gesellschafter has to be translated. The nearest equivalents (not translations) of Gesellschafter in English are:
But look at this:
Aktie in AG: share
Anteil in GmbH: share
So it has become standard to translate every Gesellschafter of a limited company as a shareholder. Of course, it may seem like translatorese in a GmbH, but it seems a good solution to me. For some reason, hardly any Germans seem to have heard of the word members.
The U.S. lawyers who didn’t like shareholder apparently wanted members or partners. Members, OK, but never never never partners in a GmbH: it creates the wrong idea.
It’s been suggested to me that the lawyer familiar with two languages may simply be getting confused, and transferring the existence of two terms for shares (Aktie and Anteil) in German to a wrongly assumed existence of two terms in English.