| a few musings || May 7, 2004 |
If the German names are anyhow to be announced, it seems to me that in principle you should as a matter of principle translate everything that is *descriptive* and leave the truly proper names as is, since if the listener can understand the German he or she has no need for the English version, and vice versa (although it may not always be easy to apply the principle...)
Thus, to use your examples:
Dessau S├╝d: depends on whether the name refers to a district of Dessau or the geographic location of the station -- in the first case it should be South Dessau, in the second it should be Dessau South or Dessau South Station.
Hannover Messe: I would suggest 'Exhibition' instead of 'Fair' (a fair is a specific event)
If there are commonly used English names for German cities, naturally you should use them, but there won't be that many (only the large, historically significant cities) -- and those you should be able to get from a good atlas or gazetteer (Dicdata also has translations of a lot of geographic names)
The only other thing I can suggest (should be obvious) is exactly as you said: the idea is to promote understanding and help travellers get to where they want to go. There's not much point in translating everything possible if all the signage and other orientation material remains in German.
08/05 further thoughts:
On further consideration, although I wouldn't categorically say 'don't translate anything', it may be best to translate as little as possible. Leaving aside all cultural and political considerations, the purpose of the announcements is to help travellers get to their intended destinations. By far the most important thing is to translate the phrases that convey the information, such as 'train xxx will be departing from platform yyy at xx.xx with destinations aaa, bbb and ccc', 'now arriving at aaa, transfer point for passengers travelling to bbb; next stop ccc', etc. As for place names, the best rule is probably to translate the German names as little as possible (certainly if they are truly proper names), since the traveller is presumably looking/listening for the actual name, not the translated name. As exceptions I would suggest translating the names of German cities that are commonly know in English by other names (of which Cologne and Munich are the only examples that occur to me); for cities outside of Germany you should definitely use the English names, not the German names -- e.g. Vienna, Milan, Liege, The Hague. You could arguably consider translating Nord, S├╝d, and Ost if you are sure they refer to the geographical location of the station instead of the name of district or region, but on the other hand, presumably the signs in the stations will have the German names, so this might not actually help travellers very much. Similarly, you could consider translating descriptive names such as 'Hafengebiet' (if such terms actually occur); the same onsiderations apply. It's questionable whether it's a good idea to transate the names of the L├Ąnder (if a traveller needs to ask directions, how many Germans would know where Rhineland-Palatinate is?), and it would be totally inappropriate to translate common elements of names such as Ober-, Nieder-, -heim, etc.
good luck -- ken
[Edited at 2004-05-08 21:03]
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