Category Archives: In the News

Freelancers and upper management

Most freelancers value the freedom to set their own hours. Finding time to run errands, exercise or travel are things that employees complain about more so than freelancers. But those in the know, know that freelancers work more than most. In fact, the Berliner Morgenpost recently reported that upper management and freelancers work more overtime in Germany than any other groups. Though 48 hours is the absolute maximum that an employee can work per week by law in Germany, some still put in more than 60 hours per week. Again, the majority of those people belong to upper management or are freelancers.

Germany has laws in place to protect employees and workers from abuse, but I am prone to ask myself just how many freelancers abide by those laws. Freelancers do not have bosses leaning over them, ensuring that they follow the rules. As a result, it is not uncommon for freelancers to work 8 hours at a time without a break, whilst it would be illegal for an employer to expect anything of the kind from an employee.

Freelancers may be interested in knowing that employees in Germany are not allowed to work more than 8 hours a day.  All workers are required to take at least a 30-minute break after working 6 hours. And at the end of the work day, employees must have 11 hours of uninterrupted rest time.

Freelancers may want to read Germany’s complete working hours law here (in German).

Pardon me, did you say witterungsbedingte Gleisverwerfungen?

Two words with a combined total of 25 letters, and what does it spell?

It means that the tram tracks in Berlin buckled due to the extreme heat. As a result the normal tram operation was replaced with bus service. It happened this weekend and it will certainly happen again.

I had never come across this phrase before and it certainly gave me pause. It will also give you an idea of what Berlin is dealing with in terms of weather at the moment!

Can you say doorknob?

“Here’s a one-word language test to measure whether someone really knows a foreign country and culture: What’s the word for doorknob? People who have studied a language in a classroom rarely know the answer. But those who have been embedded in a country know. America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate “doorknob.” I would bet that those people who know how to say doorknob in Farsi almost invariably oppose a military strike on Iran.”

Reported by Nicholas D. Kristof in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (March 10, 2010). He then went on to mention my alma mater, Goucher College, which was the first American college or university to make study abroad mandatory for all students.

“American universities are belatedly recognizing how provincial they are and are trying to get more students abroad. Goucher College in Baltimore requires foreign study, and Princeton University has begun a program to help incoming students go abroad for a gap year before college.”

You can read the full article here.

The results are in

The results are in. “Translating Berlin” has been declared one of the Top 100 International Exchange & Experience Blogs of 2010 by bab.la and Lexiophiles. I would like to thank all my readers and those who voted. Here’s to the start of a great year!
To see a complete list of the winning blogs click here
.

Just Germanize it!

While tourists in Berlin complain about the lack of signs and information in English, the Germans are now starting to complain about all the Anglicisms in the German language, or more specifically in the Deutsche Bahn’s (German Railroad) language.

It all started when a former school principal made a complaint to his representative in Parliament about the “Kiss&Ride” sign that appeared at the short term parking area at a train station in Bavaria.

The complaint was heard and the Deutsche Bahn made an announcement that they would move away from the Anglicisms they have been using. The list of offenders is not short either:

Call a Bike
Kiss&Ride
flyer
counter
hotline
highlights
Service Point
InterCity Express

Some can stay (Intercity Express), some have to go (hotline) while others will be amended (Call a Bike).

The Call a Bike service will be amended with a German explanation:
“das Mietrad-Angebot der Deutschen Bahn.” I cannot help but wonder why so many German institutions are capable of dreaming up short and snappy English phrases and yet are only able to offer long and cumbersome German alternatives. Perhaps a short and snappy German phrase would make the people more enthusiastic about their own language.

Read more about it in today’s articles on Spiegel Online (German)
or the The Local, Germany’s news in English.

McDonald’s Loses the Linguistic Battle

A Federal Court in Malaysia decided today that “McDonald’s does not have a monopoly on the prefix ‘Mc'”.

After reading on the NPR website that McDonald’s had lost their lawsuit against McCurry in Malaysia, I could not help but think about all of the ‘Mc’ businesses in Berlin. I wonder, for instance, what McDonald’s would have to say about the McClean public restrooms scattered around Berlin!

I recently wrote a post about the growing number of ‘Mc’ businesses in Berlin, which now also include a dry cleaner, McHemd, and an outdoor sporting good store known as McTrek. The ‘Mc’ prefix has come to be associated with cheap, fast and good in Germany; I can only guess that it all started with McDonald’s.

It looks like the ‘Mc’ prefix may have similar associations in Malaysia as well, where McCurry is a very popular and growing restaurant chain.  After 8 long years, the federal court decided that McDonald’s does not have a monopoly on ‘Mc’.

The trouble all started when McDonald’s decided that McCurry was their direct competitor- in that case it looks like McFit in Berlin will not have to worry about a similar lawsuit.

McDonald's Loses the Linguistic Battle

A Federal Court in Malaysia decided today that “McDonald’s does not have a monopoly on the prefix ‘Mc'”.

After reading on the NPR website that McDonald’s had lost their lawsuit against McCurry in Malaysia, I could not help but think about all of the ‘Mc’ businesses in Berlin. I wonder, for instance, what McDonald’s would have to say about the McClean public restrooms scattered around Berlin!

I recently wrote a post about the growing number of ‘Mc’ businesses in Berlin, which now also include a dry cleaner, McHemd, and an outdoor sporting good store known as McTrek. The ‘Mc’ prefix has come to be associated with cheap, fast and good in Germany; I can only guess that it all started with McDonald’s.

It looks like the ‘Mc’ prefix may have similar associations in Malaysia as well, where McCurry is a very popular and growing restaurant chain.  After 8 long years, the federal court decided that McDonald’s does not have a monopoly on ‘Mc’.

The trouble all started when McDonald’s decided that McCurry was their direct competitor- in that case it looks like McFit in Berlin will not have to worry about a similar lawsuit.

The untranslatable now available in translation

Half-a-million words, 1600 pages, 6 years and  50,000 euros later the impossible has been done. The untranslatable has been translated. Wait- that doesn’t sound like very much money for 6 years of full-time labor!

Without some side translation jobs from the financial sector, 2 stipends and an allowance from Dad, it would have never been possible for Ulrich Blumenbach to translate David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece.

Thirteen years after publication in the USA, Wallace’s original title, “Infinite Jest”, is now also available as “Unendlicher Spass”.  The German-speaking audience finally get their fair share of herds of hamsters as well as the best play on the English language since James Joyce –  except of course in German.

Whether the translator, Ulrich Blumenbach, was successful in his Germanisation of the complex text will probably not be known for many years. If it took Wallace a lifetime to write the book, and it took Blumenbach 6 years to translate it. How long do you think it will take to read it?

*For more on the writer David Foster Wallace read the touching article published in Rolling Stone magazine shortly after his death: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/23638511/the_lost_years__last_days_of_david_foster_wallace

Spies and their Translators

Translators in the news again and this time it involves high treason: Interpreters and translators often have access to sensitive and confidential information, which is why it is quite common to sign a confidentiality agreement before starting a project. But what if the client is an agent working for a national intelligence agency and what if the translator is working in intelligence too, as a spy?

Translation is sometimes jokingly referred to as the ‘second oldest profession in the world.’ It is certainly as ancient as language itself. But spying is also sometimes called the ‘second oldest profession in the world’ since hiding and sharing of information is also as ancient as language. So how old is the combination of the 2? The question is whether he is a spy who translates or a translator who spies?

Yesterday Spiegel Online reported on a man, who while working undercover as an agent for German intelligence (the BND: Bundes Nachrichten Dienst) passed on very sensitive material to his translator with full knowledge that the translator had ties to organized crime and possibly other foreign intelligence agencies. The intimate relationship between the 2 men is allegedly the explanation for the breach. Either way it is known as treason and both men have now been taken into custody.

Click here to see the full article in German.

Hillary Clinton Gets it Wrong

Another translation fiasco and this one reflects poorly on the entire American government body. You would think that the American government would be able to find at least one qualified, English – Russian, professional translator to handle the one-word translation necessary for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a statement with a bit of humor while visiting the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey V. Lavrov. She was after a laugh and a laugh is what she got, but it probably wasn’t quite what she had in mind.

The gift, a red button on a yellow base, was a play on a statement that Joseph R. Biden made calling on the two countries to “press the reset button” on their relationship. Clinton presented the “reset” button to Lavov with these words: “We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” The word printed on the button read “reset” in English. The Russian word was printed below, “peregruzka.” Lavrov’s could only answer with the truth, “You got it wrong.” He went on to explain that the word “peregruzka” actually means overcharged, which gives the red button a whole new meaning.

To read the entire New York Time’s article click here.