I remembered that this blog started on 15 April 2003 so it is now over twenty years old.
But looking older. There were other translation blogs and legal blogs (blawgs) at that time, although I think even then blogging was a bit old hat. When I was teaching legal translation at the IFA in Erlangen (which is 75 years old this year), I made my own material and I used to answer other translators’ questions on legal translation in a number of forums. In those days, people were not shy to show their ignorance online, as I think advertising one’s expertise on the internet was a newish thing. I certainly built my business on internet contacts, some of which even preceded the WWW and were made in Unix. I remember the noise of my first modem connection in the mid-90s with excitement.Today I follow a lot of blogs through Feedly, but really there is so much else to read online that I don’t usually feel like researching the background to new items. This blog is almost dead. But I do think it was a good idea to take a narrow focus, on legal translation rather than all kinds of translation.
What is on my radar today?
1. The German Federal Ministry of Justice has published a draft bill to introduce English-language commercial courts in Germany.
I’ve blogged on this issue on and off since 2010.
A number of Länder have introduced English-language courts, but this is the first federal initiative I can remember.
One problem with the bill is that appeal to the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) is always to be possible, and that court may decide either in English or in German. This is unlikely to be attractive to international parties. Decisions at all levels are to be translated into and published in German.
I’d just like to say something about the ability of German judges to speak English. I recall hearing that some judges think their English is very good or are married to native speakers of English, and being very keen to be involved in an English-language case, possibly for reasons of prestige. In the only case I have heard a detailed report of (by a translator colleague who sat in on it), none of the lawyers or parties were native speakers of English, and they weren’t all Germans either.
At the end of a post in February 2014, I mentioned a case where the court was talking about the term Grundurteil in English. They decided to use the German word, a good idea. It does seem very strange for non-native speakers who have a good understanding of German law to talk in a foreign language about something intrinsically German.
It was a good idea to keep the German term, and I don’t think every judge in that position would have decided to do that. It’s part of the kind of technique that experienced translators and interpreters develop. Another part of that is deciding whether Dietl’s English version is good. (I always prefer Romain, but that doesn’t solve every problem). I got the impression that the judges did not have a critical approach to bilingual dictionaries. You don’t have to be a professional or particularly qualified translator to know these things, but it might help if someone in court does not just “speak good English”, whatever that means.
2. Here (again) is one of my photos of Dominic Raab, the second time and hopefully last that he was Lord Chancellor. October 2021.