A new legal German-English dictionary

I haven’t seen Rinscheid/Miller yet but only heard of it today, though it came out in June. It’s also available as a digital dictionary through Acolada and there is a link where you can select this dictionary and do some searches. However, I don’t know if that search would show the non-dictionary part. Thanks to Hans Anschütz for the newsletter.

Beck Verlag has a description of the book, (see below), which is not yet available. It seems that the Unilex version is available, as far as I can tell at this moment.

The Beck Verlag description indicates that the dictionary aims to offer more than individual word equivalents. The vocabulary alone, they write, is not correspondence with clients or drafting of a pleading. If you just look up words, you simply use the equivalents suggested by the dictionary and make mistakes. (But that’s the whole point: legal and other translation dictionaries should be used to remind you of what you know, not to give you unfamiliar words you don’t know how to use). This work has three parts: an alphabetical glossary with example sentences, definitions and context examples; a thematic arrangement of the terms; aids to formulations and text building blocks – emails, pleadings, phone conferences etc.

I’m really curious to see how this is done. I know a couple of legal glossaries which are divided according to subject matter, for example contract, crime, administrative law. It usually takes longer to find things. And will the Unilex digital version reflect this organization?

Personally, I have always been excited to see collections of phrases and sentences for specific legal areas, but I have not found them much use for myself in practice. At the moment of translation, fishing through other people’s collections of sentences creates too much stress. Usually I did not have time to read the dictionary at the moment I needed it. So I would tell myself that I would take time to study an area of German law and compare it with English law, then I would have the information in my head at the future time when I needed it. This never worked either.

I am particularly interested to see (German) judges in English-language chambers in the list of potential users. What was the word they couldn’t handle? Grundurteil.Ah, I see that is not contained in the Unilex version. I find this there under judgment:

Once he has a final judgment, he will be entitled to collect damages.
The structure of a German judgment foresees a dedicated part that labeled the statement of facts.
Due to section 313b of the German Code of Civil Procedure, there are circumstances under which a judgment need not address the facts and the merits of the case nor must the judgment cite reasons on which they are based.
Under no circumstances shall the debtor be informed of the pending freezing order because the enforcement of the judgment would be frustrated otherwise.
The judgment was upheld on appeal.
→ Häufig wird der Begriff “judgment” mit “e” (judgement) geschrieben. Das ist nicht korrekt, wird allerdings soweit ersichtlich zunehmend geduldet.
→ Nicht verwendet werden sollte der Begriff “verdict”, da es sich hierbei um die Entscheidung einer Jury handelt, welche es in Deutschland naturgemäß nicht gibt.
↔ arbitral award (= Schiedsspruch)

Oh dear, not quite English. ‘foresees a dedicated part that labeled the statement of facts’. Obviously an ‘is’ is missing, but is the rest English? ‘Due to section 313b…’ Maybe ‘under section 313b’? ‘Shall the debtor…’ We don’t really use this contractual ‘shall’ outside contracts and judgments – the style of the sentence is a bit rocky.

From the Beck Verlag site:

Zum Werk
Die fachgerechte Formulierung deutscher Rechtsberatung in englischer Sprache erfordert mehr als lediglich die Übersetzung einzelner Rechtsbegriffe. Die schnell zugänglichen Online- Wörterbücher scheinen nur auf den ersten Blick eine verlässliche Hilfestellung bei der kontextgerechten Verwendung eines Rechtsbegriffs zu bieten. Mit der Vokabel allein ist schließlich noch keine Korrespondenz mit dem Mandanten geführt, kein Schriftsatz geschrieben und auch keine vernünftige Anleitung für eine Telefonkonferenz gegeben. Konsequenz ist eine häufig unreflektierte Verwendung von Übersetzungsvorschlägen mit in der Folge fehlerhafter Darstellung.
Die Autoren des vorliegenden Werkes schließen eine wichtige Lücke, in dem sie dem international arbeitenden Juristen eine umfassende Arbeitsgrundlage zur Verwendung der englischen Rechtssprache liefern. Hierzu ist das Werk auf drei Säulen aufgebaut. Erstens enthält das Werk ein alphabetisch sortiertes Glossar mitsamt Beispielssätzen, Erläuterungen und Hinweisen zur kontextgerechten Verwendung (Deutsch-Englisch). Zweitens sind die Begriffe zusätzlich thematisch sortiert – so kann sich der Rechtsanwender mit den in einem speziellen Sach- oder Rechtsgebiet geläufigen Vokabeln vertraut machen, beispielsweise vor einer Mandantenbesprechung. Die dritte Säule bilden Formulierungshilfen und Textbausteine für die Praxis (Emails, Schriftsätze, Telefonkonferenzen etc.).

Vorteile auf einen Blick
Das vorliegende Buch bietet

ein klassisches zweisprachiges Nachschlagewerk/Wörterbuch mit Beispielsätzen, Erläuterungen und Hinweisen

zusätzlich die Möglichkeit einer nach Sach- und Rechtsgebieten geordneten Suche

Englische Formulierungshilfen aus der Praxis

Für international tätige Anwälte und Unternehmensjuristen, Richter in englischsprachigen Kammern, Juristische Fachübersetzer, Studierende der Fachspezifischen Fremdsprachenausbildung, Universitäten und Forschungseinrichtungen.

F for Frankfurt

Richard Schneider at uepo.de reports that there is a new DIN proposal for a German phonetic alphabet.

It seems a good idea to me to know the German phonetic or spelling alphabet and the international one, but nevertheless I usually get confused when speaking to Germans on the phone and needing to spell something. Wikipedia has a lot. I notice I’ve even been making mistakes spelling out my postcode in the UK, saying Romeo Michael instead of Romeo Mike.

I was not aware that in 1934 the German Buchstabiertafel was arianized. Thus David became Dora, Jacob became Jot, Nathan Nordpol, Samuel Siegfried, and Zacharias Zeppelin.

There was a plan to restore David, Jakob and Nathan – Samuel and Zacharias were changed back in 1948 – but this latest plan simply replaces all first names by town names, so D for Düsseldorf, J for Jena, N for Nürnberg, S for Stuttgart and Z for Zwickau.

It was pointed out that the Nazi changes were only partially reversed, and there were 16 male names and only six female ones. Other countries had good results using city names, it was said.

This DIN 5009 draft is now open for discussion. It has an appendix showing the original, mainly Weimar Republic, phonetic alphabet. The final version is likely to appear in mid-2022.

I can’t picture myself achieving any kind of consistency now.

Cleaning up bird names

There’s been an initiative in the USA to change the names of birds named after historical figures, some of whom were racist. The only example changed as yet seems to have been McCown’s Longspur, now called Thick-billed Longspur. The American Ornithological Society made the change.

The Bird Names for Birds site proposes that birds should not be named after people, whether they were white men (usually) or not. Here is a list they created of all the persons named: Historical Bios Index.

Birdwatching (Your source for becoming a better birder) writes:

The practice of naming species after people was common in the 1800s, when white naturalists honored their friends, family members, or colleagues (often other white naturalists) with eponyms — birds or other animals or plants named in their honor.

Today, many of those names are fraught with ethical problems.

McCown’s Longspur, for example, was named for an officer of the Confederacy who defended slavery and also battled multiple Native American tribes. Townsend’s Solitaire and Townsend’s Warbler bear the name of John Kirk Townsend, a naturalist who stole human remains from graves of Native Americans. John James Audubon, revered for his art, nevertheless also owned enslaved people and collected skulls of Mexican soldiers from a Texas battlefield* — a fact that casts a shadow over the oriole and shearwater named for him.

The topic was taken up in February 2021 by Titus Arnu in Süddeutsche Zeitung, in Skandal im Anflug, although the names in German are not so much those of white ornithologists, but more ones using Mohr, Hottentot and so on. The examples of actual changes are few. The Mohrenlerche (literally Moorish lark, English black lark) has been renamed Schwarzsteppenlerche (literally black steppe lark) and the Ziegenmelker (literally goat milker, English nightjar, but also goatsucker) renamed Nachtschwalbe (literally night swallow) – this last change was more because the bird is not thought to suckle goats.

The journalist gets rather carried away, understandable:

Stehen nach den Skandalen in der katholischen Kirche bald auch Papstfink, Purpurkardinal, Türkisbischof und Dompfaff auf der Abschussliste? Sind alle Neuntöter Serienkiller? Darf man noch Türkentaube sagen und erwähnen, dass der aus Asien stammende Vogel einen Migrationshintergrund hat? Auch der Stummelschwanz-Zwergtyrann, der Raubwürger und der Basstölpel wären wohl nicht undankbar für harmlosere Bezeichnungen. Manchen Vögeln würde man imagemäßig Auftrieb geben mit einem frischen Namen. Die Hottentottenente kann ein Lied davon klicken.

Machine translation and legal translation

Every time I think I might write about this it seems a drop in the ocean, but then the topic comes up again. Machine translation has become very much better since it was first based on neural networks. In fact, I thought we had departed from rule-based MT and arrived at statistical MT, but we are now on neural MT, excuse my ignorance.

In my experience of using DeepL and DeepL Pro and Google Translate a few times, these systems are very good but not 100% reliable. Which means that sometimes a negative sentence may be rendered as a positive. I have no experience of revising MT output or preparing texts for MT.

But what strikes me specifically about legal texts is that when I put a German text through DeepL, the standard or ‘official’ translations of court names and statute titles are missing, although in Linguee they are present. In the old days, a law firm wanting to use rule-based MT was able to adapt its MT system by filling it with the standard translations into English. Now it is not so, and I would spend a lot of time revising the versions.

This was remarked on in a short article in MDÜ 6/2019 by hans Christian von Steuber. He refers to a talk by Patrick Mustu “Was DeepL & Co. im Zeitalter von 4.0 (noch) nicht können”:

Ein Beispiel aus eminer Erfahrung: Die beliebte “Datenschutzgrundverordnung” wird als “basis data protection regulation” übersetzt, “DSGVO” überhaupt nicht”.

This is the GDPR. It’s always surprising when this is not recognized. And when the translation of a statute title varies within one text.

Another reference was mentioned by colleagues this week. The Swiss Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzlei) was going to buy licences for 2000 DeepL users in 2019 (UEPO December 2018) and had a review of the effectiveness done (PDF Bericht DeepL-Test). Here an example:

Original text: loi fédérale sur les prestations
de sécurité privées fournies à
l’étranger (LPSP)

DeepL translation: Federal Law on Private Security
Services Abroad (LPSP)

Post-edited text: Federal Act on Private Security
Services Provided Abroad

I always wonder when I see English versions of abbreviations of statute names recommended. Leaving it in German is odd and so is creating an English version such as PSSA (obviously the work of a human post-editor).

That’s all I have to say about MT and legal translation, but the Swiss test contains a classification of MT problems.