German translators petition for protection of ‘Übersetzer’/Übersetzer, Dolmetscher suchen Schutz der Berufsbezeichnung

Jessica Antosik at the Übersetzerportal reports (in German) on a petition sent by young translators and interpreters to the Petitions Committee (Petitionsausschuss) of the German Bundestag. The Committee is a place people can complain to or petition, with a sort of ombudsman function.

The request was to protect the words Übersetzer, Dolmetscher and Sprachmittler. This would mean that the only people who could call themselves the equivalent of translator or interpreter would have to have some sort of training or pass some sort of exam.

This petition was developed on a social network called Xing, where there is more to read, and members can see more than I can. A representative of the BDÜ is there quoted as saying that if the petition had been granted, the effect would not have been as desired (more work for the petitioners?).

The Committee turned down the petition, inter alia because there is a trend towards encouraging occupations rather than restricting them.

The BDÜ wanted something like this for many years, but as far as I know doesn’t any longer. It amazes me that anyone would want this. I have not yet found that passing or failing a particular exam made anyone a good or bad translator. Do these people look at the many unqualified and incompetent translators and overlook the qualified and incompetent ones? whatever that means, since a translation may work without being brilliant. And presumably non-translators could still translate for money, so you could say ‘I had this translated not by a translator, but by a teacher’. (I have passed the Bavarian and Hesse translators’ exams and the Hesse interpreters’ exam, although I think I learnt more from teaching and online forums than anything else)

Wir, die gezeichneten Übersetzer und Dolmetscher der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, fordern den Schutz der oben genannten Berufsbezeichnung und deren weiterführenden Fachbezeichnungen. Als Qualifikation zur Ausübung der Berufe fordern wir ein abgeschlossenes (Fach-)Hochschulstudium oder eine abgeschlossene Ausbildung an einer anerkannten Ausbildungsstätte. Quereinsteiger sollen fortan ihre Sprach-, Fach- und Sachkompetenz durch entsprechende Nachweise oder eine qualifizierende Prüfung vor einer anerkannten Stelle (z. B. IHK oder staatliches Prüfungsamt) belegen. Sollte eine Person weder eine abgeschlossene Ausbildung noch eine qualifizierende Prüfung vorlegen können, darf sie nicht unter den Berufsbezeichnungen Übersetzer, Dolmetscher oder Sprachmittler tätig werden.

From the grounds:

Übersetzen und Dolmetschen ist mehr als die reine Übertragung in eine andere Sprache. Es erfordert sowohl linguistisches Wissen, stilistisches Feingefühl als auch die richtige und korrekt angewandte Technik des Übersetzen und Dolmetschens. Diese Kenntnisse erwirbt man nur durch eine qualifizierte mehrjährige Ausbildung.

Sorry, but show me someone straight from a university translation diploma course who has linguistic knowledge, stylistic sensitivity (in their mother tongue) and the right and properly applied techniques of translating and interpreting – it takes years of practice.

They also object to translators and interpreters working at very low rates, which they think is more common among unqualified people. But I think our economic system permits it. Personally, I would rather work as a cleaner than translate for peanuts – if only I were fitter, then I might even do some cleaning here.

3 thoughts on “German translators petition for protection of ‘Übersetzer’/Übersetzer, Dolmetscher suchen Schutz der Berufsbezeichnung

    • Of course, I don’t know how much experience these translators have. I just have the feeling that some who go to university here in Germany and study translation and interpreting from the age of 19 or 20 think they are fully prepared when they pass their exams.

  1. This was the result I’d expected from the moment I read of this latest ludicrous attempt to impose a closed shop here in Germany. It was bound to fail, just like the others in past decades. What these people don’t seem to understand is that, to make their case, they have to be able to demonstrate – objectively and beyond reasonable doubt – in a court of law that translators with their preferred “qualifications” are somehow “better” that translators without those qualifications. That’s a non-starter. End of.

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