Indirect speech in judgments/Indirekte Rede in Urteilen DE>EN

There was a query on Proz this week on a topic I remember once discussing on u-forum: when you translate a judgment from German to English, how do you indicate that part of it is in reported speech?

I basically agreed with the solution in this case, although it wasn’t quite what I would do (using words like ‘allegedly‘ was one of the points, and I find that a bit negative). I must say that the suggestions and discussions on Proz are often extremely helpful to me. Proz has this weird system called Kudoz, whereby you get points if you help someone to answer a question. This seems to force people to put effort into their answers, because they get even more points if their answer is selected, although sometimes the asker doesn’t select the best answer. There are discussions on Leo and dict. cc too, which tend to be more time-consuming to consult.

So here’s the problem: German uses the subjunctive for reported speech. It is absolutely clear from the verb itself that this is reported speech, even without the reporting verb. Here is a sentence from a judgment of the Bundesgerichtshof:

Nach Auffassung des Berufungsgerichts hat die Klägerin einen Anspruch darauf, dass die Beklagte die Bezeichnung der Klägerin als “Terroristentochter” unterlässt (§ 823 Abs. 1, § 1004 BGB analog). Die Bezeichnung verletze die Klägerin rechtswidrig in ihrem allgemeinen Persönlichkeitsrecht.

The judgment quotes another court. It is a vital part of the meaning that this is a quotation. In the second sentence, the verletze
is subjunctive, so clearly indirect speech, without any introductory verb or ‘Nach Auffassung’ and so on.

In English, it is essential to make this reporting clear. If the reporting verb is in the past tense, the reported verb is backshifted, but this is not always enough to show reported speech: it could mean ‘verletze’ or ‘verletzte’.

English reported speech rules are not terribly well understood in Germany, partly I think because students are expected to adhere rigidly to the backshift whereas we don’t backshift every single verb if it’s clear. Still, here is a summary:

Reporting verb in present tense or ‘According to’ etc: no backshift
Reporting verb in past tense: backshift

Canoonet has a nice summary of the German practice.

In the German example above, the first sentence has ‘Nach Auffassung des Berufungsgerichts’ and no subjunctive, the second sentence has subjunctive.

In English, the reporting phrase ‘In the opinion of the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht)’ would also be followed by a present tense, and the second sentence would remain present tense too.

Techniques of showing it is reported speech: you may replace ‘in the opinion of the court’ by ‘the court held’, followed by a backshift.
You may pepper the translation, as it continues with a big block of reported speech in the subjunctive, with more reporting verbs and ‘in the court’s view’ – these may not be there in the German, but they convey the subjunctive.
Another help is that if a whole paragraph is quoted, the layout alone may make it clear that is the case. This is the approach taken by an online translation of this very judgment.

Here’s a block of judgment (for reference see below) with the reported verbs marked. Note that the last sentence turns to the opinion of the present court, the Bundesgerichtshof, which is no longer subjunctive:

Entscheidungsgründe: I. Nach Auffassung des Berufungsgerichts hat die Klägerin einen Anspruch darauf, dass die Beklagte die Bezeichnung der Klägerin als “Terroristentochter” unterlässt (§ 823 Abs. 1, § 1004 BGB analog). Die Bezeichnung verletze die Klägerin rechtswidrig in ihrem allgemeinen Persönlichkeitsrecht.

Die Äußerung “Terroristentochter” stelle eine Tatsachenbehauptung dar.

Ein durchschnittlicher Leser verstehe den abstrakten Aussagegehalt der Bezeichnung dahin, dass jemand die Tochter von Terroristen oder eines Terroristen sei. Durch den Bezug zu Ulrike Meinhof sei für den durchschnittlichen Leser klargestellt, dass die Bezeichnung im Sinn von “Terroristin-Tochter” gemeint sei.

Es könne dahingestellt bleiben, inwieweit die Klägerin grundsätzlich dulden müsse, dass auf ihre Abstammung von Ulrike Meinhof hingewiesen werde.

Selbst wenn sie dies hinnehmen müsse, dürfe ihre familiäre Abstammung von Ulrike Meinhof nicht durch das eindringliche Schlagwort “Terroristentochter” zum Ausdruck gebracht werden. Zu familiären Beziehungen als Teil der Privatsphäre hätten andere grundsätzlich nur Zugang, soweit er ihnen gestattet werde. Die Klägerin habe keine Einwilligung erteilt, die familiäre Beziehung zu ihrer Mutter und ihre Abstammung darauf zu reduzieren, dass sie eine “Terroristentochter” sei. Sie müsse die Bezeichnung daher nicht dulden.

Etwas anderes gelte auch nicht deswegen, weil die Klägerin mehrfach über Ulrike Meinhof und den RAF-Terrorismus veröffentlicht und dabei auch offen gelegt habe, dass sie die Tochter von Ulrike Meinhof sei. Die Klägerin sei als freie Journalistin tätig. Im Rahmen der in Art. 5 Abs. 1 Satz 2 GG garantierten Pressefreiheit habe sie das Recht, Art und Ausrichtung, Inhalt und Form ihrer Veröffentlichungen selbst zu bestimmen. Der Ton, in dem sie ihre Artikel verfasse, sei Teil der Meinungsfreiheit. Dass sie die Grenze zur Schmähung überschritten habe, werde nicht vorgetragen.

Die Bezeichnung “Terroristen-Tochter” sei rechtswidrig. Zwar habe niemand einen Anspruch darauf, so gestellt zu werden, wie er sich selbst sehe, wohl aber darauf, zutreffend und nicht verfälscht dargestellt zu werden.

II. Die Ausführungen des Berufungsgerichts halten einer revisionsrechtlichen Überprüfung nicht stand.

And here are a couple of ways of translating the beginning:

Grounds: I. In the opinion of the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht), the plaintiff has a claim for the defendant to cease and desist from referring to the plaintiff as ‘Terroristentochter’ (terrorist’s daughter; section 823 (1), section 1004 with the necessary modifications, German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch)). The court finds that the term unlawfully violates the plaintiff’s general right of personality.

Grounds: I. The Higher Regional Court … held as follows: that the plaintiff had a claim…The term unlawfully violated

The expression ‚terrorist’s daughter’ was a statement of fact.

In the translation by Raymond Youngs online, the layout makes it obvious that the whole block is indirect speech. This works here. Youngs uses a past tense, ‘infringed’, without an introductory reporting verb to justify it, but I doubt a reader would normally notice that.

7 In the appeal court’ s view, the claimant has a claim for the defendant to desist from describing her as a “terrorists’ daughter” (¿¿ 823 para 1, ¿¿ 1004 of the BGB by analogy). The description unlawfully infringed the claimant’ s general right of personality.

8 The expression “terrorists’ daughter” represented an assertion of fact.

BGH, Urteil vom 5. 12. 2006 – VI ZR 45/05; OLG München (,3371)

Raymond Youngs translation on the University of Texas site: Case: BGH VI ZR 45/05, Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Supreme Court), 6th Civil Senate
VI ZR 45/05

University of Texas Institute for Transnational Law

Grant and Cutler dictionaries/Rechtswörterbücher

I recently received an indirect query from someone studying legal translation in the UK who wants to buy a German-English law dictionary. There was a list of the dictionaries currently available at Foyles, into which Grant & Cutler has now been integrated (I remember Grant & Cutler near Embankment Station, before it moved closer to Oxford Street and now to Foyles). Here’s the link, but it may change in time.

Title: Author: Description:
Recht Fachwörterbuch Kompakt. Law concise dictionary.: German<>English Bugg, S. G. & Simon, H. Approx. 28.000 terms and more than 50.000 translations. With short German and English introductions to the German, British and American legal system.

Rechtsenglisch: Deutsch<>Englisches Rechtswörterbuch für jedermann Köbler, G. approx. 25.000 entries, 485 pages.
Dictionaries: Specialist & Technical: Legal. Published 2007. Price: £19.95

Wörterbuch Arbeit, Recht, Wirtschaft. Dictionary of Labour, Law and Business terms. Horstenkamp, C. Approx. 5,000 terms.
Dictionaries: Specialist & Technical: Legal. Published 2006. Price: £25.95

Wörterbuch Recht German<>English Bachem, W. & Hamblock, D. Approx. 56,000 terms.
Dictionaries: Specialist & Technical: Legal. Published 2008. Price: £42.99

If you click on the first entry, it says the book and CD ROM are temporarily out of print but cost £52. The paperback (I didn’t know about this) is available and costs £30.

In response, I was taken aback at the absence of Romain and Dietl, but on reflection think they may be unavailable and about to be published in new editions.

I’ve written about small law dictionaries before (here and here). I understand why the publishers like them: because they can sell them to German law students. But they are just not big enough to be much use. If the budget doesn’t run to more, I would advise against the Köbler, although I don’t know its latest edition. The editions I have seen have all been based on a standard and peculiar shortish word list, originally created in German and put into English or whatever other language is involved. Of the others, I slightly prefer the Bachem and I don’t find the extra material in the Langenscheidt much use, but if possible you should compare the two yourself.

The Horstenkamp was unknown to me so I bought a copy. It is out of print but can be got second-hand. I actually got a new copy, but I don’t think it’s that easy to find. This dictionary of labour, law and business terms was done by a colleague. It is actually a set of seven glossaries EN>DE and seven glossaries DE>EN. This disqualifies it for me even if it were bigger, as I don’t want to spend so much time leafing through it. True, there are two global indexes in the back, which somewhat helps. The areas are:
Labour – Arbeit
Business – Wirtschaft
Education/Training – Bildung/Ausbildung
European Union – Europäische Union
Law – Recht
Politics – Politik
Health and Safety – Arbeitssicherheit

The labour part looks OK, but in particular the EU and law sections are very small and it looks more like an interpreter’s private glossary. It also has things like
sich schuldig bekennen – plead guilty (looks like a reverse of an EN>DE entry)
vorsätzlich – wilful; premeditated (Vorsatz is intention, not premeditation)
Pflichtverteidiger – duty solicitor (again, was this generated from EN>DE?)
Gewohnheitsrecht – common law (should be custom)

Schweitzer International Bookstore

Have I recommended the Schweitzer legal bookshop in Munich before? I’ve only been once and they had an eclectic selection of law books in English in the basement. Don’t know if that’s still the case. More interesting was a list of books, for example German law in English, which I got hold of years ago. What I didn’t realize is that its successor and various materials are now available online.

Schweitzer Fachinformationen

If you click on International Bookstore, you will find a number of links to newsletters, including special editions of newsletters, in the form of PDFs with details on relevant literature:

Spezial-Ausgaben des ILFB-Newsletters /
Newsletter – special edition
ILFB Spezial: Arbitration
ILFB Spezial: Germany
ILFB-Spezial: Contracts – Forms – Drafting
ILFB-Spezial: Insolvency
Sonderheft: International Corporate Reporting
ILFB-Spezial: Intellectual Property
ILFB-Spezial: Securities Law & Regulations
ILFB-Spezial: Joint Ventures & Strategic Alliances
ILFB-Spezial: Estate Planning – Trusts
ILFB-Spezial: Private Equity
ILFB-Spezial: Islamic Business & Finance
ILFB-Spezial: Business Crime
ILFB-Spezial: Company Law Reform Act

The newsletters relate to books on law, economics and tax, and you can subscribe to them.

From the special newsletter on Germany (August 2011), here is a typical book description from page 37 (I have this book by Singh and it looks very good – English texts on administrative law are not so easy to get – but I haven’t got round to mentioning it yet).

German Administrative Law in Common
Law Perspective
Singh, Mahendra P., 2nd edition 2001
ISBN 3540423656, 377 p.
(Springer Verlag)
Hardback,€ 85,55
A thoroughly revised edition of the author’s book on German Administrative Law, first published in 1985. From the perspective of a common law jurisdiction the author presents the basic framework of German administrative law, along the lines administrative law is understood in the English speaking world. It covers all the essential elements of German administrative law. It is updated to include the latest developments and the impact of EC law in different spheres.
Nature, Scope, Growth of German Administrative Law. Legislative Powers of the Administration: Delegated Legislation. Administrative Powers: Administrative Act. Administrative Powers: Contracts, Private-Law Acts, Real Acts, and Planning. General Principles of Judicial Review. Judicial Review of Discretionary Powers. Administrative Courts. Judicial Remedies & Procedure. Liability of the Public Authorities. The Basic Law Grundgesetz). Law on Administrative Proceedings of 25 May 1976 (VwVfG). Code of Administrative Court Procedure (VwGO). An Illustrative Judgment.

Great work by Bettina Kube.

There’s a bookshop from the same chain in Nuremberg, but it doesn’t have a brilliant selection on international law. Maybe others do.

Interpreter’s oath/Dolmetschereid

Here’s a curious question from an ITI member. This is the interpreter’s oath, which is taken by all interpreters in courts in England:

I swear by Almighty God that I will well and faithfully interpret and make true explanation of all such matters and things as shall be required of me according to the best of my skill and understanding.

Gosh – haven’t they modernized that one?

The colleague thinks that ‘to the best of my skill’ is wrong and should be ‘to the best of my skills’, because ‘best’ is a superlative adjective and it implies comparison between at least two objects (actually, as a superlative, it would have to be three, because ‘better’ applies to two). He wants it changed.

I can’t see this at all. I am familiar with the legalese expression ‘to the best of my knowledge’ and ‘to the best of my ability’. These are uncountables, as are ‘skill’ and ‘understanding’ in the oath. ‘Skill’ can be countable too – a good source for information on countable and uncountable meanings is the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, which is now online. Now if ‘skill’ should be plural, then ‘understanding’ must be wrong too – which it isn’t! I think both ‘to the best of my skill’ and ‘to the best of my skills’ are correct English. However, although I find 27,000 ghits for the plural, I only find seven of them on UK sites. So if you are in Canada or India or the USA, ‘skills’ is OK here.

Most interpreters in Germany swear an oath, a sort of permanent oath, when they are appointed, so they don’t have to swear in court. I did manage to affirm when I became a court-certified translator, although the courts seem fairly unfamiliar with that procedure here.

In an article on ProZ, Marta Stelmaszak, a Polish-to-English interpreter, also gives the affirmation.

The Interpreter’s Oath
“I swear by Allah/Almighty God, etc. that I will well and faithfully interpret and true explanation make of all such matters and things as shall be required of me according to my best of my skill and understanding”

The Interpreter’s Affirmation
“I do solemnly declare that I will well and faithfully interpret and true explanation make of all such matters and things as shall be required of me according to my best of my skill and understanding”

(That should be ‘the best’, not ‘my best’ – but ‘and true explanation make’ is apparently the recommended word order).

LATER NOTE: A commenter would have added the following affirmation as used in Oxford magistrates’ courts:

I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and faithfully interpret and true explanation make of all such matters and things as shall be required of me according to the best of my skill and understanding.

I imagine there is a lot of variation over the country, or should I say over England and Wales. Apparently Scots are permitted to raise a hand when swearing.

Disparaging the German Federal President/Verunglimpfung des Bundespräsidenten

There’s a kind of defamation you can commit in Germany called Verunglimpfung des Bundespräsidenten. The old StGB translation called it Disparagement of the Federal President, the new one (by Bohlander) calls it Defamation of the Federal President. It’s like defamation in that, in Germany, it’s a criminal offence that can only be prosecuted on the application of the person who claims to have been defamed. There’s a discussion with Udo Vetter here on the risks of going to prison for making a joke about Wulff.

There was in fact a case coming up in Dresden in which someone was on trial for making a joke about Wulff and his wife, but I don’t need to go into that now because this evening it seems the President has had the proceedings dropped (Wulff will keinen Prozess mehr).

See section 90 here:

It comes under the category of offences endangering the democratic state under the rule of law.

Section 90

Defamation of the President of the Federation

(1) Whosoever publicly defames the President of the Federation, in a meeting or through the dissemination of written material (section 11 (3)) shall be liable to imprisonment from three months to five years.

(2) In less serious cases the court in its discretion may mitigate the sentence (section 49 (2)) unless the conditions of section 188 are met.

(3) The penalty shall be imprisonment from six months to five years if the act constitutes an intentional defamation (section 187) or if the offender by the act intentionally supports efforts against the continued existence of the Federal

Republic of Germany or against its constitutional principles.

(4) The offence may only be prosecuted upon the authorisation of the President of the Federation.

Verunglimpfen is a nice word. Unglimpf means insult or defamation. Glimpflich is a better-known word. There was a MHG verb gilimpfan: to behoove. As in: it behooved him to drop the proceedings before he risked further ridicule.

Winter bird count/Die Stunde der Wintervögel

Stunde der Wintervögel. Birds spotted by me in the Stadtpark (lower level) on Sunday from 13.10 to 14.10 (largest number at one time) in a break from the rain, river running high, no sun:

Blackbird Amsel 7
Fieldfare Wacholderdrossel 1
Magpie Elster 3
Blackheaded gull Lachmöwe 4
Mallard Stockente 7
Coot Bläßhuhn 2
Moorhen Teichhuhn 2
Greylag geese Graugans 39
Great tit Kohlmeise 2
Bluetit Blaumeise 150
Tree sparrow Feldsperling 2
Carrion crow Rabenkrähe 7

The online list to register these birds is heavily garden-biased. Thank goodness I didn’t see any peacocks. Here are the most common birds in (a mere) 182 Fürth gardens a year ago (but the results for this year do show the greylag geese – don’t know where the Canada geese had gone):

House sparrow Haussperling
Great tit Kohlmeise
Blackbird Amsel
Bluetit Blaumeise
Greenfinch Grünfink
Tree sparrow Feldsperling
Magpie Elster
Jay Eichelhöher
Robin Rotkehlchen
Chaffinch Buchfink
Nuthatch Kleiber
Carrion crow Rabenkrähe
Collared dove Türkentaube
Great spotted woodpecker Buntspecht
Wood pigeon Ringeltaube
Goldfinch Stieglitz
Rook Saatkrähe
Long-tailed tit Schwanzmeise
Siskin Erlenzeisig
Crested tit Haubenmeise

The British equivalent is called the Big Garden Birdwatch

Becoming a translator with educated proficiency/Geld verdienen als Übersetzer

I am gearing up to start blogging properly again, but meanwhile some reading from a website on running a small business from home. Someone tweeted it this morning, I hope as a joke but perhaps not. The site gives advice on how you can earn money as a ‘verbal translator’ (this seems to mean an interpreter) or a ‘text-based translator’ (apparently a translator). This opportunity is open to you even if you do not have the ideal qualification of having grown up bilingual:

Most organizations who are looking to hire a verbal translator will prefer to find translators that grew up speaking both languages. Fully bilingual, these translators have been speaking both languages since their childhood and this can help bring a fluid mastery that many other translators will not have. These translators will often understand the rhythm and cadence of a particular region which many students of language cannot master.

I have always had the impression that ‘true bilinguals’ are not typically ideal translators, but apparently I was wrong. Looking at my day’s work today, I must admit that fluid mastery is not the first description that occurs to me.

Another important point made, if I interpret it correctly, is that whereas interpreters can just babble away, we translators need to know grammar. That’s good, because I’ve spent quite a few years teaching grammar. The students didn’t seem keen, but I always knew it would be useful some day.

While a verbal translator needs to be able to efficiently handle the ever changing dynamics of a language, text based translators often need to have a better hold on grammatical structure of a language. Both types of translators should certainly be able to both speak and write the language, although text translators should know the specifics behind important grammatical rules of the language. Most written documents will need to have an educated proficiency behind them.

Looking behind me, I haven’t spotted the educated proficiency yet, but I feel sure it must be there.

This is why a number of different tools can all come in handy when you are learning how to become a translator.

Here I am disappointed. I was hoping they would tell me what tools they meant. Do they mean software, or is it hammers and screwdrivers? Still, I am presumably past that point and there seems hope here:

Once you are able to hold a conversation or read a book in two different ways, though, you will know that you are ready to find work as a translator.

(I wonder whether these texts are bought in from Asia?)