Lena’s English/Lenas Englisch

Lena Meyer-Landrut has a strange English accent in the song she sang at the European Song Contest, ‘Satellite‘.

As far as I can judge, sometimes the vowels are a failed attempt at estuary English, and sometimes they sound like Yorkshire English ‘Love, I got it bad for you’. There’s nothing wrong with having a mixed accent, but this one seems to vary throughout the song, with the weird ‘ay’ in ‘just the other day’, it irritates me. ‘Can’t go a minute without your love’ is very odd. ‘I even painted my toenails for you’ actually reminds me of the voice of Lauren Luke, who does make-up videos (she’s from South Shields).

Spiegel Online had an article in English by a British writer, Mark Espiner, who totally rubbished Lena’s accent. I thought he went much too far. I was also surprised to see real English on Spiegel Online.

But contrary to the opinions of die hard fans who insist her accent is brilliant, Lena sounds really, really weird. Her attempts to adopt the street language of London — itself a hybrid of US slang, Jamaican argot, and East End vernacular and beloved of British pop stars like Adele and Amy Winehouse, who seem to be Lena’s heroines — end up with her sounding like a Swedish speech therapist imitating Ali G. …

Lena’s isn’t a mockney accent, the affectation of London’s working-class Cockney tone that the likes of Blur’s Damon Albarn were accused of using. Nor is it the full-on “jafakean,” the fake Jamaican accent you often hear on the top decks of North London buses, as the preferred slang of the school kids who like to sound like they’re from the ghetto. Instead, it is a mixture that borrows from the two, then adds a shot of mixed-up European, presumably made up of her native German and what sounds like Scandinavian. In fact, the Scandinavian accent could be a cunning plan to win over the Oslo crowd.

In fact, Espiner seems even more incensed by Lena’s imitation of other singers than by her accent (and he obviously doesn’t like Amy Winehouse).

Now Axel Stefanowitsch has entered the fray at Wissenslogs, with Wir sind Englisch. He rightly says that we need an expert to comment on Espiner’s remarks on London and Jamaican accents (he quotes the German version of Spon).

Stefanowitsch links to Tagesspiegel and Guardian columns by Espiner, in which he reports mainly on theatre. But it seems to me, looking at these articles, that as an Englishman giving his view of Berlin, or writing in the Guardian about Berlin, Espiner is drawn by his job to make generalisations, which I don’t think always work.

Stefanowitsch points out that British English speakers don’t have a right to decide how English is spoken. He thinks Espiner probably regards Oxford English as the only correct form.

This is all correct, but it doesn’t seem likely to me that the kind of weird mixed English Lena sings in Satellite is going to take over the world.

Axel says that his English is a mixture of what he learnt at school in Germany and England, and Lena’s English will be a reflection of her language learning biography:

Ich würde mich ja um eine stimmige Aussprache bemühen, wenn mir ein gutes Vorbild einfallen würde. Aber wie gesagt, Englisch wird weltweit von konservativ geschätzten 700 Millionen Menschen im inneren und äußeren Kreis als Muttersprache oder früh erlernte und alltägliche Zweitsprache gesprochen. Warum sollten Meyer-Landrut, ich, oder andere deutsche Englischsprecher sich also auf eine bestimmte Varietät festlegen? Meine Dialektmischung reflektiert meine Sprachlernbiographie (Schulzeit in Deutschland und England, Studium in Deutschland und Texas), und Meyer-Landruts Dialektmischung wird eben ihre Sprachlernbiographie reflektieren.

But there is an interview with Lena on the Eurovision Song Contest site, and her English accent is not at all mixed there.

LATER NOTE: The Verein Deutscher Sprache thought Lena had no chance at Oslo (quoted by a commenter at Wissenslogs). Walter Krämer says Lena definitely has the talent to win, if only she weren’t singing a song in English that has no connection to Germany and doesn’t invite anyone between Lisbon and Moscow to hum along or dance along (but Schunkeln isn’t really dancing, it’s the arm-in-arm swaying Germans sometimes do in beer tents):

Seit 2002 singen die deutschen Sänger und Sängerinnen meist englisch und schneiden damit deutlich schlechter ab als in den Jahren zuvor, bemerkt der VDS. „Lena Meyer-Landrut hätte wirklich das Talent, den Wettbewerb zu gewinnen“, sagte der Vorsitzende des VDS, Walter Krämer. „Ihr englisches Lied hat aber überhaupt keine Verbindungen zu Deutschland und lädt niemanden zwischen Lissabon und Moskau zum Mitsummen oder Mitschunkeln ein“, kritisierte der VDS-Vorsitzende.

Observer on ECHR and EU/Observer verwechselt EGMR und EU

The Observer reports on calls for prisoners in the UK to be given the vote.

The government faces being hauled before the European court of human rights unless it gives prisoners the right to vote as a matter of urgency.

The article correctly refers to Strasbourg and to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. But what has the term Eurosceptics to do with this?

But any move that recognises the ECHR ruling on prisoner voting is likely to spark an angry reaction from Eurosceptics. In the House of Lords last year Lord Tebbit attacked the measure as a form of “judicial imperialism” effectively foisted on the UK by a foreign court.

A challenge within the UK would first have to go through the UK courts, which are now subject to the Human Rights Act, so the matter would probably not even reach Strasbourg.

The commenter Sverdlovsk writes:

The ECHR is not an EU institution.

It is part of the Council of Europe, which includes countries such as Russia and Turkey. It is an institution that is strongly ‘British’ in character, insofar as it was set up with strong British involvement and support – among others Winston Churchill was a strong supporter.

It’s sad that people will use this as yet another ‘reason to hate the EU’ (cf Raptorjezus), but this is what always seems to happen on these threads.

Once again, the ECHR has nothing to do with the EU.

The Guardian law section

The Times Online is about to disappear from my radar because there will be a charge for using it.

I will miss the law section.

This is no doubt why the Guardian, which I already read for news together with the Independent, has now got a law section. It’s also possible to get a weekly email newsletter called the Bundle.

English in German courts/Deutsche Gerichte benutzen Englisch part 3

Since I wrote on this topic, at least two weblogs have taken it up, and there are comments on the entries. And last week there was an article in Die Zeit.

First, law blog had an entry, Englisch soll deutsche Gerichtssprache werden. One of the commenters wonders whether he is entitled to an interpreter if he wants to watch the proceedings.

Frage: Ich würde gern mal einer in englischer Sprache geführten Gerichtsverhandlung als Zuhörer beiwohnen, um im Rahmen der Öffentlichkeit der Sitzung deren Qualität nachzuvollziehen. Habe ich jetzt einen Anspruch auf Beiordnung eines Dolmetschers, der mir den Verlauf der Verhandlung ins Deutsche übersetzt? Oder muss ich als Zuhörer den Dolmetscher selbst bezahlen? Gelten vielleicht PKH-Grundsätze? Wie steht es mit dem gesetzlichen Richter, wenn für bestimmte Verhandlungsarten nur noch ein sprachlich ausgebildeter Richter in Betracht kommt? Habe ich als Richter vielleicht einen Anspruch auf LLM-Fortbildung, um nicht als Depp dazustehen?…

When I commented there myself, it occurred to me that I suspect two German lawyers and three German judges discussing German law in English are understanding each other despite the language.

And in German Joys, Andrew Hammel had an entry English in German Courtrooms.

Anotherone also had an entry.

Die Zeit has an article on this topic, by Pierre-Christian Fink.

Some points from that article:

BASF is mentioned as a company that conducts a lot of litigation abroad.

A lawyer for another company says the reform would save costs and avoid the common arguments about translation errors. (I have my doubts about this. I certainly think that interpreters, even qualified and court-certified interpreters, often make mistakes, but on the basis of the single case in Bonn, mistakes were not avoided. On the other hand, there were no native speakers of English involved in that case, so maybe it was atypical).

The discussion is about far more than language. It’s about which legal system will establish itself internationally.

I’ve commented before on the Bündnis für das deutsche Recht (Alliance for German law).
I don’t think I ever traced the English document to which it was a reaction – till now. This is mentioned in Die Zeit as ‘England und Wales – das Rechtssystem erster Wahl’ – it was in fact England and Wales: The jurisdiction of choice, published by the Law Society and sponsored by Herbert Smith, Norton Rose and Eversheds. And here is a PDF of it. Incidentally, one point in it is that nothing stops English courts from deciding on German law, which rather removes the argument that for German law to succeed, German courts have to try cases in English:

Cross-border disputes can be tried in English courts whatever the governing law
Parties may agree to select England and Wales as the jurisdiction in which to resolve their dispute whatever the law governing their dispute. The English High Court is experienced in hearing evidence of foreign law and deciding issues in accordance with that law.

Back to Die Zeit. A lawyer is quoted to the effect that a case in the USA that has taken ten weeks and is not over would have been finished in two days in Germany, because of the Code of Civil Procedure.

(Via Richard Schneider)

The draft legislationon introducing English states plainly that there will be financial advantages. This will profit German lawyers too.

Klaus Tolksdorf, President of the Federal Court or Justice, warns against euphoria: will this be the end or the beginning of linguistic confusion in German courts?

Finally, how many German statutes have been translated into English? The Ministry of Justice had no idea. Jan Scharlau of the Centre for German Legal Information (linked in my sidebar and the best place to start looking for English translations) points out that only very few statutes are available in really good English translations. Most of them are either translated in a slovenly manner or not translated at all.

Oettinger improving his English/Oettinger erweitert seinen englischen Wortschatz

The German European Commissioner Günther Oettinger became famous on YouTube for speaking English badly (earlier entry).

His main problem was his ignorance of stress. It’s hard to understand English when unexpected syllables are emphasized.

It’s now reported that Oettinger is trying to improve his English. Südkurier (in German, quoting Hamburger Abendblatt) and other papers report that he is increasing his English vocabulary by ten to twenty words a week.

Über seine Lernmethoden sagt Oettinger: „Abends schaue ich öfter ins Wörterbuch. Wenn es einen englischen Fachbegriff gibt, den ich nicht kenne, dann lerne ich ihn auf diesem Weg. So kommen jede Woche 10 bis 20 neue Wörter hinzu.“ Auch im Urlaub wird nun Englisch gepaukt: „Ich habe mir fest vorgenommen, in meinem Sommerurlaub einen Sprachkurs zu absolvieren.“

He looks in the dictionary every evening and if he finds a technical term he doesn’t know, he learns it. He also intends to take a language course in his summer holiday.

Which dictionary is he using, I wonder? I should think the language course will be more help with his pronunciation.

Pilgrims on the motorway/Pilger auf der Autobahn

Heard on radio traffic information:

Vorsicht auf der Autobahn – Pilger unterwegs.
Watch out for pilgrims on the motorway.

A picture of some pilgrims here.

BR online:

Im Landkreis Straubing-Bogen wird der gesamte Innenstadtbereich von Geiselhöring von 14 bis 15 Uhr wegen der Regensburger Diözesanwallfahrt mit cirka 8000 Teilnehmern gesperrt. Zwischen 15 und 17 Uhr ziehen die Pilger weiter nach Mengkofen. Umleitungen sind eingerichtet. (13:19)

Pilgrimage on Whit Saturday
Pilgrimage site
Webcam at Altötting

German WiFi decision mistranslated/BGH-Urteil zu WLAN ins Englische fehlübersetzt

On May 12, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) pronounced judgment in a copyright case involving an unprotected WiFi connection. It held that the owner could be subject to an injunction – an order to cease and desist – but was not liable in damages. However, he would be liable to pay a maximum of 100 euros as compensation for the costs of a lawyer who had to send him a warning (Abmahnkosten).

The owner of the connection had been on holiday when, in breach of copyright, a third party downloaded via his WiFi connection a song which had been made available by a music company. The connection was not password-protected; the owner had left the default settings.

There is a good short summary of the case by Mark Schweizer on IPKAT today. The German American Law Journal reported on May 12. The full judgment is not yet available. The court’s May 12 press release is
here (in German).

This case has been widely misreported in English. The trouble seems to have started with an AP report which described the potential liability for a lawyer’s costs as a fine (AP report (in English):

German court orders wireless passwords for all


BERLIN — Germany’s top criminal court ruled Wednesday that Internet users need to secure their private wireless connections by password to prevent unauthorized people from using their Web access to illegally download data.

Internet users can be fined up to euro100 ($126) if a third party takes advantage of their unprotected WLAN connection to illegally download music or other files, the Karlsruhe-based court said in its verdict.

First of all, the BGH is not Germany’s top criminal court (IPKAT even refers to it as Germany’s Supreme Court). It has twelve civil and five criminal chambers. This decision was made by the First Civil Senate (chamber) in Karlsruhe.

Then, there is no fine, just a limited obligation to compensate a lawyer for costs.

The German American Law Journal blames the BBC for the problem (Amerika lacht über deutsches Recht).

Das BBC berichtete vom Urteil wie von einer Strafsache und ließ einen englischen Strafverteidiger kommentieren.

But the BBC article only appeared on May 14 and the lawyer it consulted was an intellectual property expert.

Let’s hope that when the full judgment appears, the English and American sources will correct their versions. See comments on this blog.

I think that is enough for now, except that I might return to the untranslatable term Störerhaftung that comes up in this case – I have a feeling I ‘translated’ it recently.