German speakers and using ‘will’ in contracts

Ken Adams drew my attention to his post on German speakers and the use of ‘will’ in contracts. The subject is why some Germans don’t like the use of ‘will’ as opposed to shall.

The theories seem to be:

1. ‘will’ and ‘wollen’ have completely different meanings (I’m not convinced by the wordreference definitions, or rather by the examples it gives, which to me seem to be ‘also rans’ rather than good illustrations.

2. Germans think ‘will’ is a ‘simple future’ (horrible term) and expect ‘shall’ for compulsion (this is the view I incline to)

Apropos ‘simple future’: there are at least five ways of expressing the future in English and they overlap with modal meanings. ‘Will’ often implies a promise.

Ken refers to ‘will’ in contracts as ‘language of policy’, which I need to investigate further.

In my experience, contracts of insurance often use ‘will’ for the insurer and ‘shall’ for the insured. I take the two verbs both to mean an obligation, although stylistically (but not legally9 there is a sense of ‘will’ being an act of grace and favour from the more powerful party.

In translations, I sometimes use ‘will’ mixed with ‘shall’ myself, but I may avoid it because I fear the German client may not like it. At one of the conferences I attended some weeks ago, someone mentioned the phenomenon where translators simplify the English language in order to avoid arguments with clients.

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