MDÜ legal terminology/Rechtsterminologie 2

Continuing from yesterday: article in MDÜ:
Stefan Bonath: Herausforderung Rechtstexte.

There’s a brief summary of this in English and French in the MDÜ (print copies of each issue can be ordered for 15 euros)

Stefan Bonath did the first part of German law studies, then changed to translation at the Fachhochschule in Cologne – as far as I know, this is the highest-level institution in Germany offering a reasonable study of legal translation, for unless things have changed a lot, the universities that teach translation just dip a toe in the subject. He has worked as an in-house legal translator for a law firm and for a translation agency, but mainly freelance.

This is a sound basic introduction to the problems of legal translation. For example, it explains the particular problem that each legal term is embedded in a system, so it carries a lot more baggage with it than some people realize. Bonath finds it particularly problematic than many legal terms are also terms of the general language – for example ownership and possession. He emphasizes the importanbce of comparative law and suggests it might be a good idea for legal translators to specialize more narrowly ‘sodass sich sein Rechercheaufwand mit wachsender Erfahrung verringert und die Arbeit wirtschaftlich rechnet’ (perhaps I would say: to improve the quality of the translator’s work).

The article also quotes its sources (something I missed in the second article). I haven’t read Arntz, Fachbezogene Mehrsprachigkeit in Recht und Technik (I only have his co-authored book on terminology), but Sandrini on legal translation in Übersetzen von Rechtstexten. Fachkommunikation im Spannungsfeld zwischen Rechtsordnung und Sprache, and Gérard-René de Groot on translating legal terminology in Recht und Übersetzen are both familiar. I see on looking at them again that both point out that legal terminology work cannot be done in the same way as that for other subjects (a topic I need to come back to). I can’t accept the standard recommendation of Black’s Law Dictionary as the English-language equivalent of Creifelds, Rechtswörterbuch: there is none.

One thing I found a bit odd in the article may have resulted from the lack of a concrete example. Bonath writes that it might be wrong to translate owner as Eigentümer, because in English and US law, an owner could even have acquired the property by theft.

So triff die Eigenschaft eines owner im angloamerikanischen Recht auf eine Person zu, die infolge Kauf, Schenkung oder Herstellung usw., aber auch durch Besitzergreifung oder Diebstahl das Eigentum an einer Sache oder sogar an einem Recht erlangt.

But if the English text says that someone is an owner, I would want to write Eigentümer in German, since the text is not about German law. It would be twisting the meaning of law to change it to Besitzer. However, I suspect Bonath was thinking of a different situation when he wrote this.

I see that Dieter Henrich, in Einführung in das englische Privatrecht, writes

Eine etwas merkwürdige Regelung enthielt Sec. 24 (1) Sale of Goods Act 1891: Auch an gestohlenen Waren kann gutgläubig Eigentum erworben werden (nämlich bei einem Erwerb in market overt).

This is the old edition of Henrich – the newer one is hiding – and I know that market overt has been removed from the law now, following a rather amusing case a few years ago. (This isn’t relevant to the general point under discussion). Anyway, Henrich has to use the term Eigentum here.

The other question that occurs to me, which is not intended as a criticism, is: who is going to read this article? Presumably to students of translation – although, as I said, the most academic of those are not likely to be studying legal translation, at least not in any depth. Legal translators are going to be aware of the points made. The article provides information about legal translation perhaps to those thinking about a future career, and to non-legal translators.

LATER NOTE: The comments attached to this post seem to belong to a post about Lena at Eurovision. Something must have gone wrong in the import from Serendipity. What is the opposite of serendipity?

8 thoughts on “MDÜ legal terminology/Rechtsterminologie 2

    • Yes, of course, but this should have had more English mistakes and incomprehensible passages in it, shouldn’t it?

    • No, I think your ears are deceiving you – it’s definitely ‘dyed blue’, and the song is in correct native English, which of course your version would not be. The bit I heard wrong was the American ‘underwear — and I wore them just the other day’, because in BrE underwear is a singular.

      • still i hear a word starting with “th” after underwear. and if you google it you will only find one other supporter of your understanding. also another native english speaker has my understanding of what lena sings there. ( top post – the one below is your other supporter ;)). maybe my ears are deceiving me, but i’m not the only one. not that it would make much of a difference with regards to content…

        • Hi Stephan,

          We don’t have to agree with each other here, you know. The internet is full of incorrect lyrics. The only solution would be to see the original song text – Lena’s pronunciation is nto likely to be conclusive.

    • Thanks for the search. It’s just a version someone uploaded, not the original. This has ‘sweet or cool’ instead of ‘sweet or cruel’. If she sings ‘that’s blue’ she has to sing ‘it’. I think it’s ‘dyed blue’ and ‘them’. But then you know that.

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