Bundesrat in English

The Bundesrat, sometimes called the Federal Council, Germany’s second house of parliament, has published texts describing itself in French and English. They can be downloaded as PDFs but are also available as small pocketable booklets.

Der Bundesrat (German)

The Bundesrat (English)

Le Bundesrat (French)

This came up on twitter yesterday and I wondered what its purpose was. I don’t know what its dissemination is either. I do know a similar booklet by the Bundesverfassungsgericht, similarly with a description of the building and artworks, though that may be largely online now. But do English- and French-speaking people visit the Bundesrat? What do I know?

In fact I then accidentally discovered that there is a Bundesrat app – in German though. So this booklet calls the Länder federal states but has to crosslink to “Länder” in the app.

We have argued about “federal state” in the past – is Germany not a federal state? then it can’t contain sixteen federal states, and in fact the text does get tied up in this connection. But I think it’s become standard and is understood. I am usually asked to write Land and Länder in British English texts, which would make the following sentence clearer.

The federal states participate in shaping federal legislation through the Bundesrat. 

I am not going to take time to analyse the translation in depth. I just skimmed it. It is very good English, a bit literal (perhaps non-native?) – a bit heavy reading, as is the German – the text is descriptive rather than analytical and probably intended for schools. I wondered if the following was a dig at the House of Commons (it comes up again later):

. Their debates are very fact-oriented – loud interjections or applause are rarely heard.

I did find a Germanism, apparently not in the German original but perhaps in an earlier version – my emphasis:

Mitglieder sind die Ministerpräsidentinnen und ­präsidenten und die Ministerinnen und Minister der Länder beziehungs­weise die Bürgermeisterinnen und Bürgermeister sowie Senatorinnen und Senatoren der Stadtstaaten.

The Bundesrat is made up of the Minister Presidents and ministers from the federal states, along with their pendants in the city states, the mayors and senators.

I imagine the translation is American English. I have never understood federal bills as a translation of Bundesgesetze – to me, a bill is a draft – but I suppose it’s US.

Zustimmungsgesetz – an Act of the Bundestag requiring the consent of the Bundesrat – is strangely abbreviated as consent law.

I do wonder whether the title of the brochure, “16 Länder – Ein Ergebnis” translated as “16 Federal States – one conclusion” is right. Maybe “one result”?

Thanks to Charles Eddy.

9 thoughts on “Bundesrat in English

  1. In the U.S., a bill at the federal government level is also a draft. A Gesetz would be a statute a/k/a as a public law. At the state level, everything tends to vary.
    The state v. Laender usage would appeal to American readers.
    The word pendant would seem a bit odd here as well.
    (PS: Since Jurablogs disappeared, I am reading and enjoying Transblawg through my little https://gen.ius.tv collection. Thanks for keeping Transblawg alive.)

    • Thanks, Clemens. Good to read you again (I thought I had already replied but apparently not). Yes, Jurablogs was a loss.

  2. As an American, I agree generally with usanwalt. However, I would like to add that Land (Bundesland too?) sometimes remains untranslated in EU documents. I don’t know the reason, but suppose it has something to do with a worry that a translation might cause problems somehow. But that’s pure speculation on my part.

    Of course, you’re right that the translation ’16 federal states – one conclusion’ falls flat. But ‘one result’ runs into the same difficulty, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t something along the lines of ‘a single outcome’ be better? In any event something with ‘outcome’? But what do I know? Yet there is this, I suppose: the translation ‘federal states’ is simply too clunky to be pithy.

  3. I agree that ‘outcome’ is a good idea.
    It is actually standard in EU English to write Land or Länder, usually italicized. I always write Länder.

  4. Perhaps they could have simply copied “E pluribus unum.”

    The Germans obviously don’t want to use “province”, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t in translation, although the Dutch, who had provinces and states and now just have the former, also tend to “Länder” in translation. In English we used to use “circle”, mindblowing “Kreis” out of all proportion. It is apparently untrue that Article 59.3 of the Nord Stream contract specified the substitution of “Land” with “oblast”.

  5. “But do English- and French-speaking people visit the Bundesrat?” When I was a teacher with the MOD in Northern Germany we used to take German A level pupils there. Although that source of visitor has now dried up, perhaps pupils on school exchanges still go there.

  6. Canada like Austria has – by (Vienna Uni.) translational convention – Provinces.

    Again, according to an English woman partner of a well-known firm of City of London Solicitors in a lecture many years ago to London Uni. law students – ‘Germany re-unified now has 16 Cantons’, so making the translation of “16 Länder – Ein Ergebnis” far easier:16 (non-Swiss) Cantons that can’t …. live apart.

    Otherwise, pendants is obviously (a native Austrian translation for) counterparts and Zustimmungsgesetz – as a consent law – a pale imitation of the consent process of the UK House of Lords (pre-Royal Assent) for House of Commons Bills or of the US Senate for Congress Bills (Drafts) before turning into non-Denglish federal statute.

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