Translation tips and strategies
One way to achieve a more natural-sounding translation is to be aware of grammatical forms, sentence structures and individual terms that are more common in German than English and to have strategies for translating them. The following are just a few examples from our translation manual.
1. Noun constructions
German is much better at encapsulating ideas in a single noun than English. Paraphrase if possible/appropriate rather than trying to replicate the idea in a single noun in English. German also uses nouns in many cases where it is more natural to use a verb construction in English.
Vielen Dank im Voraus für Ihr Verständnis und Ihre Unterstützung.
I am sure you appreciate the need for this request and I would like to thank you in advance for your assistance.
Problems can arise because the use of a noun in German often obviates the need to specify the subject or object, which can make it difficult to formulate a verb construction in English if it is not clear from the context who is doing what to whom. In the above example, the broader context of the preceding letter was critical to the appropriate translation of Verständnis.
2. Anglicisms (aka 'Denglisch')
Where English words are used in German, the default assumption should be that they need to be 'translated'. It is a feature of anglicisms that the borrowed word tends to be adapted to reflect the usage or structure of corresponding German words and phrases, and conseuently metamorphoses into something slightly different. In some cases, the words are pure inventions – ‘Handy’ being the best known example of this. ‘Homepage’ (for an entire website) is a good example of a shift in meaning. The English word used in German is invariably inappropriate in translation - in terms of register, part of speech or connotation in the specific context.
Example: Zweistelliges Plus aus Top Ten-Märkten >>> Double-digit growth in key markets
A literal translation would have suggested growth in all the top ten markets, whereas in fact – as becomes apparent from the context beneath this heading – only three of the top ten markets had growth in excess of 10 per cent. 'Top ten' has effectively become a single adjective in German, whereas in English only the 'top' element is an adjective.
3. Use of 'auch' without reference to an initial item
Example: Unser oberstes Ziel ist es, unseren Kunden auch in Zukunft Produkte in höchster Qualität und Leistungsfähigkeit zu marktgerechten Preisen zu liefern.
It doesn‘t work in English just to say 'also in the future' or 'in the future as well'. Additional information needs to be included:
Our primary objective is to supply our customers with top-quality, efficient products at competitive prices, now and in the future.
In this particular example, another way of paraphrasing around the 'auch' would be to write "to continue supplying….'
4. Source text interference
For the translator, with the source text fresh in mind, the potential ambiguity or ability of a translation to mislead may not be immediately apparent. Take the following example:
Allerdings ist bei anhaltendem Vertrauensverlust an den Finanzmärkten mit negativen Auswirkungen auf die Refinanzierungsmöglichkeiten dieser Länder an den internationalen Finanzmärkten zu rechnen.
However, if there is a sustained loss of confidence in financial markets, this could be expected to have a negative impact on the funding options for these countries in international financial markets.
Problem: because the translator has the meaning of the German sentence clearly in mind, he/she fails to notice the ambiguity of the English sentence (have people lost confidence in the financial markets or have people in the financial markets lost confidence?).
However, if confidence fails to return to the financial markets, there is likely to be a negative impact on the funding options for these countries in international financial markets.
5. Subject – Verb – Object
English adheres to this standard word order in a sentence far more rigidly than German, which should be reflected in our translations (while always allowing for variation).
Als Administrationsplattform nutzt die Gesellschaft SimCorp Dimension
The company uses SimCorp Dimension as its administration platform.
As its administration platform, the company uses SimCorp Dimension.
The latter is not wrong, but certainly sounds less natural to the English-speaking reader.
6. The Golden Rule
If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t.
If you read back to yourself what you have written and it makes no sense, look at the source text again more closely and/or get a second opinion.