Wayne Schiess at
thinks legal English should use more verbs.

This example shows one problem translators from German into English have:

Now spot the two nominalizations in this sentence:

The defendant made a referral to Emily Graves, a financial planner, so Ms. Graves could provide the plaintiff with advice.

The two nominalizations, along with their helpers, are made a referral and provide . . . advice. By using verbs, we lose the helpers, enliven the text, and focus on actions:

The defendant referred the plaintiff to Emily Graves, a financial planner, so Ms. Graves could advise the plaintiff.

So when you write, spot the nouns that could be verbs and, when you can, return them to their livelier form.

Referral becomes referred the plaintiff. English needs the direct object, plaintiff.
But sometimes it isn’t clear to the translator from the German text what the direct object should be. And even if it is clear, it may take a while for the translator to work it out.

In fact, we sometimes have to replace refer X by make a referral just in order to avoid interpreting.

So the list of similar phrases given by Schiess to avoid might be useful to a translator not to avoid.

Does legal German use even more nouns than legal English? I sometimes think so. At all events, I usually vary some o the nouns with verbs. But sometimes I use the noun because it just sounds so – lawyerlike, to quote the New Yorker cartoon.

9 thoughts on “Nominalization/Substantivierung

  1. Interesting topic. I saw it on You ask, “Does legal German use even more nouns than legal English?” I would say yes, much more. And even more than legal Portuguese. When translating DE-PT I often come across German nominalizations for which the only possible (that is, idiomatically possible) Portuguese translation does not involve a nominalization.

    • Hi Fabio,

      I keep meaning to blog you.
      I must keep an eye out for examples. It’s always difficult because I don’t want to quote what I’m actually working on (which is full of nominalization!)

  2. I, as a gratuitous commenter and commentator, would agree – almost whole-heartedly – with that.

    We must not, though, forget Scottish Advocates (Barristers) North of the Border ‘stabled’ at the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh as well as UK Solicitors – who by all accounts are just as canny at sports law, Intellectual Property and white-collar crime – not choosing to transfer to the E&W or Irish Bars.

    Interestingly enough, the series has – for a change – received almost a full seal of approval from the Bar Council of E&W: see the article at p. 22 of the October 2008 edition of Counsel written by an acquaintance of mine and ending: ‘This is how the public will see us. This, to a remarkable extent, is how we are’.

    • Yes, very gratuitous.
      Let’s hope that praising one doesn’t diminish the other.
      Is this what Counsel describes as a ‘fly-on-the-wall documentary’? They have a wonderful picture of a fly on the cover, I see.
      About ten or more years ago, there was a fly-on-the-wall programme on ITV, I think, that had wonderful tongue-in-cheek views of experiences like ‘chambers tea’.

  3. Yes. The fly is on that cover of the latest Counsel issue – obtainable by all-comers by post from Lexis/Nexis as well as readable at all well-stocked ref. libraries throughout the UK.

    My acquaintance David W. actually refers in his article to the past ‘fly-on-the-wall’ series showing ‘very grand members of a very good chambers, sitting around an open bottle of wine and saying things like “the Crown wins no victories and suffers no defeats” ‘

    Again, it is a pity there is a no-show of the numerous members of the Bar who have cross-qualified – often for better pay/VHCC = very high-cost criminal cases – as Solicitors or Solicitor-Advocates and are rendering a sterling service, inhouse as litigators and/or IP etc. advisers, not only to City of London ‘Magic Circle’ firms, but also to West End/Covent Garden firms.

    By the same token, the cross-qualification has gone the other way, esp. for Criminal Law Solicitors & Litigators who can’t stand being called up by their lay clients every 5 mins. and now hide behind their Barrister Chambers’ Clerks.

    • Yes, I remember that scene and those words. I used to use the film with students. There were also nice things like a group of barristers all guessing a likely damages figure for a case, and the pupil went first – he did quite well, but they certainly put the screws on him.

  4. I managed to catch the latter half of the first part of the series when I was in London last week. To a layman like myself, it looked very good indeed, though it wasn’t entirely clear what happens to all those newly admitted members who *don’t* get a pupillage. I wonder how many will continue working in the profession in the long term – apparently the new Legal Translation MA at City University has attracted an unexpectedly large number of experienced lawyers wanting to retrain as translators.

  5. Members newly called (to the Bar), strictly speaking. Admitted is on the other – or one other side of the legal profession if you include Legal Executives and Notaries Public – to the Roll of Solicitors.

    I can tell you what happens to some of those who don’t obtain a pupillage. Their BVC/Bar Vocational Course Qualification becomes stale after 6 years. I have never heard of anyone updating by redoing the course or taking refreshers, but it’s a possibility.

    A limited number of good finishers are sometimes re-absorbed aas teachers into the BVC, whilst some take the non-practising qualification into trade & industry or can turn it into a practising qualification in many Brit. Comm. dependencies and jurisdictions (e.g. no pupillage required in Gibraltar, ‘just’ an intro. from a local member of the Bar).

    I’m not surprised about lawyers wanting to retrain at City Uni’s course, though experienced ones don’t sound like aspirants to the Bar.

    Others go to the Annual Bar Conference of E&W and rant and rave at Bar School teachers for teaching a ‘useless course’.

    Many non-pupils keep ringing up the Bar Council on High Holborn to rail at the expensive waste of time (GBP 15,000 for the course only and up to twice that in living expenses debt for the year – or two if done part-time).

    Problem is the number of E&W pupillages contracted – by about one-quarter – when unpaid ones were abolished on the parallel of Law Society-registerable min.-pay Solicitors’ Contracts (prev. known as Articles of Clerkship). So some candidates, instead of seeking out chambers, apply to Solicitors’ Firms with an approved pupil Master/Mistress(!)trainer, usually an inhouse litigator where good service can be clocked up.

    And then, to cap it all whilst this sizeable pocket of resentment is neglected, there is an initiative – on the back of Lord Neuburger’s recent report – to spread the gospel of the Bar and ‘attract schoolchildren in E&W from less privileged backgrounds into the profession’.

    One thing’s for sure: the albeit much smaller Scottish Bar run by the Faculty of Advocates out of Edinburgh – a place well-known to Robin & Yours Truly – can accommodate ALL of their Devils (pupils).

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