Decision on circumcision/Urteil zu Beschneidung

As has been widely reported in Germany and abroad, in May Cologne Regional Court (Landgericht – a court sitting with one professional judge and two lay judges) decided that circumcising a child unable to give consent, for religious reasons, with no medical indication, constitutes bodily harm and is therefore a criminal offence.

In the case in question, a doctor had been prosecuted because it appeared he had caused unnecessary bleeding, but his medical skilled was found to be perfectly OK. The court, on appeal, held that he would have committed bodily harm but he was unable to know that what he was doing was unlawful – he was subject to a mistake as to the law (Verbotsirrtum). But of course doctors can’t claim not to know the law in future after the publicity this case has had.

On weighing the interests of the parents in the religious upbringing of their child against the child’s interest in physical integrity, the court found that the circumcision was unconstitutional.

There have been a number of objections to the decision, not just by Jews and Muslims, but also by German lawyers. For instance, the court rejected the argument that the parents could justify the act (German criminal defences are divided into grounds of excuse and grounds of justification).

This decision doesn’t bind German courts, but it may be followed.

At the UK Human Rights Blog, Adam Wagner (German court rules child’s religious circumcision can be a criminal offence) actually got the court to send him the original judgments (I noticed that at least one German law blog linked to this British site for the text). He also translated it through Google Translate (alas, that version is not up there, but it could be reconstructed), and on the basis of this he got the full gist of the judgment, as far as I could see. However, I decided to translate the judgment myself and see if I could improve on Google, and my relatively quick and dirty translation can be found through a link on the UK Human Rights Blog article. I omitted all the literature references (I suppose these came from the judge rather than the two post office employees who were the lay judges!).

Austrian: Es war wie im Spruch zu entscheiden

From an Austrian judgment: Es war wie im Spruch zu entscheiden. My translation: The case was decided as in the operative part of this judgment.

Judgments are divided into named sections, for instance in Germany Tenor means the operative part – Spruch is the Austrian equivalent. These words are printed in the judgment, but they are used in referring to it, and Austrian judgments happen to use it in this way.

This standard wording has been discussed by translators on the internet too. Literally, it means It was necessary to decide (es war … zu entscheiden), not It was decided. Personally, I don’t think that adds any shade of meaning to the more usual English It was decided.

Repetitorium Hofmann, a cramming institute, has a very nice PDF file for trainee lawyers on the structure and wording of judgments. Probably worth saving to disc – link may not work for ever.

There’s apparently a similar expression, Es war spruchgemäß zu entscheiden. A LEO discussion has a comment containing this:

“Es war daher spruchgemäß zu entscheiden” bedeutet sinngemäß: Es war daher so zu entscheiden, wie es das Gericht getan hat. Oder: Die Entscheidung war so zu treffen, wie sie im Urteilsspruch niedergelegt ist.Die Formulierung wird üblicherweise am Ende der Urteilsgründe verwendet, um zur Abrundung noch einmal auf den Tenor (also den Kern der gerichtlichen Entscheidung, der ganz oben über der Begründung steht) Bezug zu nehmen. Der Satz besagt im Grunde genommen gar nichts und ist vollkommen überflüssig.

Controlling/DE>EN Übersetzung

A colleague’s query:
Controlling is a German word. One suggestion for the English equivalent was purchase controlling/personnel controlling. But that isn’t English either!

This isn’t my speciality, but for Controlling I have recorded management accounting. That doesn’t work for the other two, though, which are departments of German companies. A colleague recommended procurement tracking and personnel tracking, found at, which sounded good to me – but on checking the link, I got the impression they were tracing / following the personnel in a GPS-like way.

Another colleague recommended a discussion at LEO, which is helpful – not all the LEO discussions are.

Martin Crellin at False friends, good and bad translation is usually good on this kind of thing, but he doesn’t seem to have tackled this word yet.

I am inclined to use purchasing management and personnel management. There’s some support for this at ProZ, where personnel management or human resources management is suggested.

Ancillary copyright/Leistungsschutzrecht

Urheberrecht (the right of an author, which under German law cannot be assigned): copyright
Leistungsschutzrecht (the right protecting commercial activity in connection with copyright, for example publishing): ancillary copyright

Leistungsschutzrecht, literally ‘right protecting performance’, is not easy to translate into English. It’s sometimes called a neighbouring right, which is OK if you realize it’s neighbouring copyright. Ancillary copyright is commonly used, but perhaps misleading, in that the right is not actually copyright. Uexküll’s dictionary has wettbewerbsrechtlicher Leistungsschutz: accomplishment-related protection under German law. It’s a form of industrial property right, not really a form of intellectual property right.

The term has been in the news recently because a draft bill has been presented to the Bundestag for an amendment of the German Copyright Act (Urheberrechtsgesetz) giving (mainly newspaper) publishers a year-long right protecting their publications from commercial online use, and it obviously affects bloggers. This was part of the coalition agreement of the present German government.

‘Hobby bloggers’ are OK. However, I am not a hobby blogger under this bill, because I blog on translation, which is what I earn my living from. Even though I no longer display Google ads, nor even links to amazon, I am therefore a commercial blogger. If this bill becomes law, I will be allowed to link at will, but if I copy even the smallest part of a newspaper article, I will have to get a licence to do so, or presumably action may be taken against me. And there have been lawyers in Germany in the past who earned part of their living from sending warning letters to webmasters, for instance for not having an Impressum.

It’s true that section 51 of the Copyright Act allows quotation to some extent, but it’s probably safer simply not to quote newspapers at all if the bill becomes law.

What isn’t clear to me is whether as a commercial blogger I actually become a publisher so that I could sell licences myself. I don’t regard this as likely to interest anyone, I am just not clear on the point. What about a service like jurablogs? I find it useful because it shows me the topics of a huge number of German law blogs which I might not otherwise see. Presumably it would be threatened by this law. And what about Perlentaucher?

Fortunately it’s rather late in the parliamentary session, so maybe this won’t come to anything.

Books and bookshop/Bücher und Buchhandlung

1. Fabio Said recommends Five Great Books on German Legal Terminology. I particularly recommend the first two: Ulrich Daum’s Gerichts- und Behördenterminologie, and Corinna Schlüter-Ellner’s Juristendeutsch verständlich gemacht/Treffende Verben in der deutschen Rechtssprache.

The former is a book I discovered when I was doing the Bavarian state translators’ exam in Munich – there used to be a fill-in-the-gaps etc. exam on Gerichts- und Behördenterminologie at that time, since whatever your main subject, the exam qualifies you to translate for the courts. The book has been updated since then.

The latter starts with a list of heavy German legal vocabulary and explains it in simpler language. You won’t find all these terms in dictionaries. The Treffende Verben may be of more use to those translating into German.

The other three books I don’t possess because I have others they overlap with, but a good recommendation.

2. Wildy & Sons is a great legal bookshop in London. They also have an online shop. The London shop has a good selection of second-hand law books too, both students’ books and antiquarian stuff. On their website you can see a virtual tour of the shop (to find their link, scroll down at the left). This needs navigating in Google Maps. You can see the books, but also leave the corridor-like part of the shop with new books and navigate through to the office and second-hand departments.

Bratwurst Röslein discrimination/Englische Übersetzung lückenhaft

I was a bit surprised after lunch at Bratwurst Röslein to find a woman collecting tips for the lavatory. But at least I should have read the German, which says that bona fide restaurant customers don’t have to pay. That bit hasn’t been translated into English.

I realize they must get a lot of people dropping in just for the lavatory, but how about a notice to the effect that we’re happy to let you use our facilities even if you don’t eat the sausages if you pay 50 cents?

EU translations 3/EU-Übersetzungen 3

I see that Richard Schneider at calls the Saarbrücker Zeitung report a Falschmeldung – an incorrect report. He also enjoys himself making a dig at ‘blogs’, presumably mine.

Falschmeldungen haben ein langes Leben

Erfahrungsgemäß lassen sich von den Medien verbreitete verzerrte Darstellungen und Fehlinterpretationen nur sehr schwer wieder aus der Welt schaffen. Man wird sicherlich auch in zehn Jahren noch Artikel lesen können, in denen fälschlich behauptet wird, der Deutsche Bundestag habe 2012 die schlechte Qualität der EU-Übersetzungen bemängelt.

Deshalb sollte man zumindest auf den Websites der Übersetzungsbranche darauf achten, den Sachverhalt korrekt darzustellen. So kann jeder, der künftig zu dem Thema recherchiert, auch die wahrheitsgemäße Darstellung finden.

Just to clarify this point: it was discussed on a translators’ mailing list yesterday and that is why I wrote this at the end of my second post:

On another point: there are two grounds of complaint by the Bundestag: one, where documents are not available in German at all – here’s a German article on that from 2008 – and the other, where they are badly translated. It’s the latter we are discussing.

Here’s the original Bundestag announcement.

Someone pointed out that this could be taken to mean that the Bundestag was complaining about the lack of German versions – which is a serious problem, but a different problem. However, one colleague contacted the journalists on the Saarbrücker Zeitung and they confirmed that Bundestag members had complained about the quality of the translations.

LATER NOTE: This matter is apparently being discussed in the BDÜ translators group on Xing, and Richard Schneider is involved in that discussion, and has also been discussed on Facebook, I gather.

German equators/Deutsche Äquatoren

I’ve discussed things like the Weißwurst Equator before – see earlier entry, with diagrams.

Now Strange Maps has a new post on Germany’s Equators.

Scroll down for a map showing the Aldi equator, Weißbier/Weizenbier equator, Schaf(s)kopf equator, Guten Tag/Grüß Gott equator and two Weißwurst equators. I live in the Grüß Gott area, between the two Weißwurst equators. My feeling is that although I can buy Weißwurst everywhere here, it’s only south of the Danube that it is regarded as a big deal.

Badly translated EU documents 2/Schlecht übersetzte EU-Dokumente 2

A note about outsourcing – see also the comments to the last entry.

Here, under Closed calls for tender, the DG-T gives information of some past tenders. I’m looking at the PDF file for Translation — Legal and judicial documents of the EU for 2008 translations into English. They look like agencies on the whole, although Viesel Legal Translations in Trier are three members of the same family who do all their translations in-house. I haven’t checked further though.

At the top of that file you can see that the price range was from 14 to 55 EUR/page. A page means 1500 characters without spaces. I just checked a judgment I was translating, and in the English translation 1500 characters without spaces equalled 1808 with (in the German original 1723 – words are longer, especially in legal texts). That’s nearly 33 lines (55 characters including spaces) by normal German reckoning, so line prices ranged from 42 cents to 1.66 euros.

The question then arises to how much an agency’s translator gets, and how you price yourself – if you are at the 1.66 end, will you get offered no work? (I regard 1.66 as rather low for a demanding legal translation). A person might be happy to get 1.66 if regular work could be expected, but I don’t think that’s the case.

If I understand it right, the translation department creates a list ranking the translators who have been accepted. This is based on expected cost-effectiveness (price-performance ratio). But every translation returned is evaluated and the ranks change. For example, you might make a fairly low offer and be ranked at the top of the list, but if your translation is rated B+ rather than A (or whatever scale they use) you could slide down the list, and finish getting scarcely any work at all, especially if you ask for normal rather than low payment.

Here are Lists of contractors. This PDF shows all the translators and agencies used in 2011, how many contracts each was awarded and how much they earned during the year.

On another point: there are two grounds of complaint by the Bundestag: one, where documents are not available in German at all – here’s a German article on that from 2008 – and the other, where they are badly translated. It’s the latter we are discussing.


I don’t work for the EU and never have (I had a short experience of the CJEU, but that was different at that time and is another story). Hence what I am writing here is based on what I’ve heard. I did once bid on a tender (hope I’m getting the vocabulary right), but I missed the posting date because I was waiting for some document or other.

I should have mentioned that in order to bid for a lot, you have to put a lot of paperwork together. If you are accepted and are found useful in the course of the year or two or whatever period the contract runs, this has no effect on you having to put all the paperwork together for the next bid. So you have this effort to make again and you can never be sure of the work in the long term (if you could be sure of it even in the short term).

It’s been written elsewhere that the lowest price wins out. That is not actually true, because there’s a ranking system, as I wrote above. I gather that the ranking system is weighted in favour of price, but it isn’t completely about price. Translators complain a lot about agencies which give work to the lowest bidder irrespective of quality and then try to get more experienced translators to correct that work. Clearly the EU ranking system is an attempt to improve on this price-only system, but I don’t know that it works very well.

It should also be noted that the range of prices from 14 to 55 euros mentioned above includes people or language combinations for low-wage countries, so one shouldn’t conclude that translators living in Germany get the 14 euro figure.