Mistranslation mit Romney

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports on mistranslations from the English in German media: Pädagogischer Betrug (with comments – in German). I got this from Sprachlog, where Anatol Stefanowitsch is also uncertain as to what the article is saying:

Mit sinnentstellenden Übersetzungsfehlern (bundes-)deutscher Qualitätsmedien befasst sich die Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Aus „Arabern“ werden da einfach „Ausländer“, aus einem „geselligen“ gar ein „genialer“ Mitt Romney. Sicher richtig, aber erstens bleibt unklar, was uns der Autor damit sagen will (außer, dass Fehler eben vorkommen), und zweitens ist die Handvoll Beispiele über einen Zeitraum von mehreren Jahren verteilt, sodass unklar bleibt, wie systematisch die Übersetzungsprobleme tatsächlich sind.

On top of that, the translation of ‘genial’ Mitt Romney as German genial (brilliant, haha) was reported on by Martin Crellin in false friends, good and bad translation a couple of weeks ago. And there, of course, something useful was made of it.

Genial (auf Englisch) heißt so viel wie „sympathisch“. Es ist komisch, aber wir haben kein richtiges Adjektiv für das Substantiv Genius – oft wird genius selbst genommen („he is a genius architect“) – aber schön ist das nicht. Besser ist in der Regel was ganz anderes aber ähnliches („brilliant“ zum Beispiel).

Ending a contract/Einen Vertrag beenden

Translegal.com teaches legal English, and this week they had an entry on the verbs used for ending a contract: How to End Things, by Peter Dahlen.

I’m rather obsessed about this topic because it’s something I was never satisfied with when I was teaching legal translation. Indeed, contract is rather a big beast to teach translators because on the one hand there are the elements of the law, but these need to be followed up by a long consideration of the texts used in practice.

Back to Translegal: obviously these drafting tips are elementary information for those drafting contracts in the USA. Translators into English need to know which verb corresponds to the verb in their source language. This is a recurrent problem – worst of all to teach, I think.

The Translegal list is a good starting point, defining four nouns:

Termination typically refers to the ending of a contract, usually before the natural end of the anticipated term of the contract, which may be by mutual agreement or by exercise of one party of one of his remedies due to the default of the other party.

Cancellation refers to the ending of a contract by destroying its force, validity, or effectiveness. Generally, cancellation puts an end to a contract by discharging the other party from obligations as yet unperformed, usually because the other party has breached or defaulted.

Expiration (or expiry) signifies a coming to an end of a contract period.

Rescission generally refers to the act or process of rescinding (i.e. undoing or unmaking) a contract. More specifically, it refers to the right of the parties involved within a contract to return to the identical state they were in before they entered into the agreement.

Repudiation refers to the refusal to perform a duty or obligation owed to the other party. It consists of such words or actions by the contracting party as indicate that she is not going to perform her contractual duties in the future.

Let me start by saying that expiry is the common term in British English, rather than expiration. And throwing out the term repudiation for translation purposes, at least from German. Repudiate is the verb commonly used when a minor seems to have entered into a fairly weighty contract and is permitted to get out of the contract within a certain time after reaching the age of majority. This is a narrow sense and not one I’ve ever needed in translation from German. It implies not only rejecting one’s own contract, but being legally able to do so (under English law).

Expiry is also an easy one – if a contract expires, it does so automatically. It’s the other three verbs – terminate, cancel and rescind – which describe an act by a party to the contract.

Now, let’s consider the German. I’ll just start by listing some of the collocations in Romain’s DE>EN dictionary:

Einen Vertrag
als ungültig behandeln: to repudiate
anfechten: to avoid
aufheben: to cancel by mutual agreement
kündigen: to terminate

I’ll add Rücktritt

The situation varies according to the kind of contract – for example, a lease of land is an ongoing contract which sooner or later may be terminated/gekündigt by one of the parties, whereas a contract of sale is a one-off arrangement which will normally just be completed with no particular irregularities.

I don’t see great problems in linking kündigen and terminate (I seem to remember that some non-law translators on a UK mailing list got rather excited about the idea of terminating employment – presumably they had read more science fiction than law – and wanted to use dismiss. Dismiss is OK (or not OK) if the employer does it to the employee, but the employee can’t dismiss the employer). One can also get tied up in knots about termination and notice of terminationkündigen can mean both – but I think most translators can sort that out.

Rescission (to rescind) usually means putting an end to the contract and putting both parties back into their original positions, as far as possible (ex tunc). But it doesn’t always!
Cancel, I gather, tends to mean ending it from the present point (ex nunc).

I was going to pursue this topic further, but I think it has reached the point where no one would have the energy to read any further. I think what might be good would be for me to make a list of legal terms with their meanings as relevant to translators into English. But not today.

Football season begins/Anfang des Fußballjahres in Fürth

This is a bit worrying. With Bayern Munich coming on Saturday – we’re already out of the cup – I wonder if this initiative to wrap the Rathaus tower in an image of turf bodes ill.

This is the artist, Thor van Horn. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very green from the distance, which is all we have.

But still, the prospective image looks greener. Maybe he’ll do more tomorrow.

In more good news for Fürth, it turns out that Lionel Messi has been keeping masses of cats in a back building here. Now they’ve taken them away from him, maybe he can play for us on Saturday. That would send fear into the hearts of those Schweinsteigers.

Here’s a picture from a few weeks ago. I was very taken with the fan’s green crutches.

Pronouncing the Supremes/Aussprache: Entscheidungen des US Supreme Court

Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States

Although the United States is famously a nation of immigrants, Americans often struggle with the pronunciation of foreign words and names. Mispronunciation of even common foreign words is ubiquitous (Eye-rack and Eye-ran spring to mind). Foreign names in legal matters present a particular challenge for legal professionals. The purpose of the Pronouncing Dictionary of United States Supreme Court cases, compiled by YLS students Usha Chilukuri, Megan Corrarino, Brigid Davis, Kate Hadley, Daniel Jang, Sally Pei, and Yale University Linguistics Department students Diallo Spears and Jason Zentz, working with Florence Rogatz Visiting Lecturer in Law Eugene Fidell, is to help conscientious lawyers, judges, teachers, students, and journalists correctly pronounce often-perplexing case names.

They link to a PDF of the article explaining how the pronunciations were found. In some cases there are audio files of the cases.

There are plenty of audio examples, and where a surname is German, they have an American pronouncing it and often a German too. For example, in an 1891 case there was an Oelrichs, and here the American and German pronunciations diverge. I don’t know whether the person in question was a recent German immigrant.

Here, by the way, you can see the distribution of German surnames in Germany.

And here are the real Supremes: Where did our love go?

House in Upminster – mystery solved/Haus aus den Dreißigern in Havering

At Christmas 2010 I posted about this Bauhaus-type house I had seen on a walk in Upminster (London Borough of Havering).

Now I have found someone to ask about it. David Anderson has a website called Modern London Houses. I had a look at some other houses in Havering, in Heath Drive and Brook Road in Romford, and there was a definite similarity. But the Upminster house, in The Fairway, is quite a one-off building surrounded by others in a garden suburb style.

I wrote to David and he found one reference which was obviously to this house:

It’s obviously a thirties house, and I do have one reference, which is presumably to this house:

The Twentieth Century Society, Journal No2, p120 lists a house built in Fairway, Upminster in 1934 without naming the architect. It was called ‘Oronsay’ and was commissioned by an engineer of the P&O ship SS Oronsay.

Olympics book/Olympia Handbuch

The Olympic Games are ending today, but I was well prepared with this book I got at the Grafflmarkt, in which someone has entered all the winners in Munich in 1972. The author was Heribert Lechner and it’s full of diagrams and photos. I think some of the sports have changed since then though.


I’m not really ill but I did finish up in the ENT department of the Klinikum Nord in Nuremberg for five days last week. I had what was described as Neuropathia vestibularis, which could be a virus infection of the ear which attacks the centre of balance. What you see on the photo above is not two pickled cucumbers.

A breakfast:

What looks like a German Saturday lunch, but it was Friday.

Leberkäse (which contains neither liver nor cheese):

Mother Teresa opposite the room where they put warm and cool water in your ears. She may still be regretting being overshadowed by Diana.

What flower? intercultural garden/Blume gesucht – interkultureller Garten

Does anyone know what the red flowers are? The yellow are Rudbeckia. I was looking for this but had no photo, then I found them again by accident in the Interkultureller Garten in Fürth (about 19 nationalities have bits of allotment). Latin name would be enough. (Not the one on the left, the multiple daisy-like ones)

LATER NOTE: I am told it’s a form of bergamot – not the one they make tea out of. This looks exactly like the description I had: Monarda didyma, aka scarlet beebalm Indianernessel or Goldmelisse).

Left, tomatoes, centre bitter melons, right fuzzy melons:

Comments on this post have been closed as it is under spam attack!