Brochure: Law – Made in Germany – global, effektiv, kostengünstig

The Bündnis für das deutsche Recht (discussed earlier here and here) has now produced a bilingual brochure, available as a PDF on the site of the Deutscher Richterbund. (On the Deutscher Richterbund, the German American Law Journal has an entry today).

The brochure is about 30 pages in length and summarizes the reasons why businesses should base their contracts on German law rather than U.S. or UK law – there are a few explicit comparisons to the detriment of the latter from the Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009. It has a preface by the German Minister of Justice, who looks younger with every photo, and at the end the responsible organizations are named – the various German Bar, judges’ and notaries’ associations, the editorial team (five lawyers) and the translation company (Stoke-Borchert Corporate and Financial Translations in Hamburg).

I think it’s a bit of a thankless task to translate a text like this, which probably has to be done in a short period of time, where the German has a tendency to be a bit pompous and the English is not just describing a legal system but also trying to market it at the same time. The following remarks on terminology choices are not intended as a criticism of the translation – the terminology choices are quite defensible.

One thing that strikes me, having read only part of the brochure, is that it doesn’t mention the biggest barrier against German law and in favour of US and UK law: language.

A couple of terminology choices struck me. Firstly, on page 5 and elsewhere, kontinentaleuropäisches Recht is translated as Continental European law. Normally it would be civil law, which has the problem that many people don’t understand the term. I don’t think the fact that it appears under a photo of the European Community flag made this translation essential, and it is not familiar, although it presumably conveys the right idea. I think it is really a new creation (Google has 51 ghits for UK sites, 70 for DE sites, and 840-odd overall, which isn’t many). I’m not suggesting it wasn’t the best choice in the circumstances, though.

Another choice was to refer to GmbH, by way of explanation, as private limited company (quite common) and AG as public limited company (not common and not usually advised, but there is no really good solution – stock corporation is the common term, which one could find fault with).

Personen- und Kapitalgesellschaften are translated as partnerships and corporations limited by shares, rather than the usual British partnerships and companies. Presumably this is an attempt to find a term that works in the U.S. as well, although company is used frequently too.

Something went wrong at the printer’s or in processing – when doesn’t it? – when German inverted commas were used (and why write “GmbH” in inverts in the English text?). Some of the word divisions look a bit iffy, but that is par for the course, and in any case I am not sure they aren’t American. But I haven’t seen the paper version – it may be that the inverted commas were OK there (I don’t have much hope, though, from past experience).

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