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Do you translate instruction manuals (into German) in the 3rd person (Bedieneranleitung) or not?
Thread poster: Pristine
Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
Feb 27, 2007

English manuals are clear. They usually approach in short and clear sentences the customer directly.

German instruction manuals are something else. Many do not approach the reader directly but in the 3rd person.

I rather like to be directly approached in my manuals, e.g. like better: "Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" instead of "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."

My question is: Is there a German rule that I violate when I translate a manual from English into German but instead of approaching the user indirectly, approaching him directly?

Let me know what your thoughts are.

Kindly,

Pristine


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:21
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Your posting is not very clear Feb 27, 2007

To my experience English instructions are not very straightforward. Instead of clearly forbidding something they tend to explain why and when it is not desirably to to something.

But there are also German authors that write very lengthily. Here one nice exemple from one of my customers:

"Es ist zu empfehlen und nach einschlägigen Bestimmungen auch Vorschrift, das Sicherheitsventil anlagenspezifisch von Zeit zu Zeit durch Anlüften zum Abblasen zu bringen, um sich von der Funktion des Sicherheitsventils zu überzeugen."

So what do you really mean to say, are German instructions not clear enough? It all depends on the author. But usually Germans tend to address the user directly: "Bitte drücken Sie auf den Knopf oben links!"

Cheers
Heinrich


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Cetacea  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 10:21
English to German
+ ...
Confused Feb 27, 2007

Pristine wrote:
I rather like to be directly approached in my manuals, e.g. like better: "Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" instead of "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."


Actually, if you'd rather be approached directly, it's "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose" that you should prefer, because that's the imperative.

"Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" is something I'd never use in a manual anyway. What is customary for this kind of text in German is the infinitive, i.e. "Den Stecker aus der Steckdose ziehen".


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Daniel Meier  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:21
English to German
+ ...
Things have changed in the last years Feb 27, 2007

and today most German manuals use the direct approach, e.g. "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."

So in my opinion you can use this approach.
Personally I do like "Stecker aus der Steckdose ziehen" even better, but I do not use this form any more.

If the manual is written for end users, I think it is (now) better to address the user directly.
Only if the manual is written for professionals, indirect approach could be used, but this should be discussed with the client.


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Klaus Herrmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:21
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Very polite to do so. Feb 27, 2007

Pristine wrote:

German instruction manuals are something else. Many do not approach the reader directly but in the 3rd person.

I rather like to be directly approached in my manuals, e.g. like better: "Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" instead of "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."

Hmmm, isn't 3rd person „Ziehe Er den Stecker aus der Steckdose?“? Very polite

Seriously, there is no clear rule. Both forms are common:

• Stecker aus Steckdose ziehen
• Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose

For explanations and descriptive text, I usually prefer the second approach, for step-by-step instructions I think the first approach is more appropriate. Usually, clients have their preferences, so that's the first criterion.

If you're free to choose, the first one sounds more factual and is more straightforward while the second version sounds friendly but may be considered verbose.

Anyhow, the most important thing is to use one style consistently.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:21
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Direct and indirect Feb 27, 2007

Hi, Pristine!

Yes, technically speaking the "Sie" form is third person, but it has a second person function. For this reason, it is considered a direct form of address and is experienced by the reader as such.

"Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" is, on the other hand, in effect a passive and distant form. Thus, as one or two others have noted in this thread, if you wish to achieve the effect of addressing the reader directly, then you can best do so by using the "Sie" form (whether it is, technically speaking, "third person" or not).

Astrid

[Edited at 2007-02-27 23:01]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:21
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Translators write their own style Feb 28, 2007

I have searched through my TM for German-Finnish in order to get real life exemples on how German authors (not translators!) deal with this exemple. First I searched for "steckdose", but later I searched for the Finnish sequende for "aus der Steckdose ziehen".
Here are the results of the Finnish jury:

Bei längerer Abwesenheit oder Gewitter ziehen Sie den Netzstecker des Gerätes aus der Wandsteckdose.
Vor der Reinigung ziehen Sie bitte den Netzstecker aus der Steckdose.
ziehen Sie bitte die Netzteile aus den Steckdosen.
Ziehen Sie den Netzstecker aus der Steckdose.
Entfernen Sie das Netzteil aus der Steckdose.
Reißen Sie dabei den Stecker nicht anhand des Netzkabels aus der Steckdose. Nutzen Sie den Stecker.
Bei längerer Abwesenheit:Trennen Sie den Netzstecker von den Spannungsquellen (Netzsteckdose).
Entfernen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose
Zuleitungskabel aus der Steckdose ziehen
Ziehen Sie stets das Netzteil aus der Steckdose, bevor Sie das Gerät reinigen.
Ziehen Sie stets das Netzteil aus der Steckdose, bevor Sie das Leuchtmittel wechseln.
Bei längerer Abwesenheit oder Gewitter ziehen Sie den Netzstecker des Netzgerätes aus der Wandsteckdose.

Ziehen Sie immer den Netzstecker, bevor Sie den Tank des Gerätes befüllen!
Ziehen Sie stets den Netzstecker, wenn das Gerät nicht in Gebrauch ist oder gereinigt wird.
Schalten Sie das Gerät vor seiner Installation aus, und ziehen Sie den Netzstecker!
Vor dem Reinigen des Gerätes ziehen Sie den Netzstecker.

As you can see, the "steckdose" is not always mentioned. But of course a translator, when translating into German, would always mention it. Translations are usually better and more standardised than original texts.

Both forms, simple imperative and addressing the user with "Sie" are possible.

Cheers again!
Heinrich


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Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
I like the English intructions better. Your example from a German manual says it all. Feb 28, 2007

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

To my experience English instructions are not very straightforward. Instead of clearly forbidding something they tend to explain why and when it is not desirably to to something.

But there are also German authors that write very lengthily. Here one nice exemple from one of my customers:

"Es ist zu empfehlen und nach einschlägigen Bestimmungen auch Vorschrift, das Sicherheitsventil anlagenspezifisch von Zeit zu Zeit durch Anlüften zum Abblasen zu bringen, um sich von der Funktion des Sicherheitsventils zu überzeugen."

So what do you really mean to say, are German instructions not clear enough? It all depends on the author. But usually Germans tend to address the user directly: "Bitte drücken Sie auf den Knopf oben links!"

Cheers
Heinrich


This example of yours is what I mean, Heinrich. I read this kind of complicated instructions often in German manuals, and the writer avoided to approach the person directly.


Pristine


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Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
No longer confused Feb 28, 2007

Cetacea wrote:

Pristine wrote:
I rather like to be directly approached in my manuals, e.g. like better: "Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" instead of "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."


Actually, if you'd rather be approached directly, it's "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose" that you should prefer, because that's the imperative.

"Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" is something I'd never use in a manual anyway. What is customary for this kind of text in German is the infinitive, i.e. "Den Stecker aus der Steckdose ziehen".


Seems there was a mix up. Anyway, my point is that I rather approach the user directly in a manual than indirectly.

"Den Stecker aus der Steckdose ziehen" - seems avoiding the direct approach of the user.

But you are not wrong, I saw this kind of approach in numerous manuals.

Pristine


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Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Daniel Feb 28, 2007

Daniel Meier wrote:

and today most German manuals use the direct approach, e.g. "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."

So in my opinion you can use this approach.
Personally I do like "Stecker aus der Steckdose ziehen" even better, but I do not use this form any more.

If the manual is written for end users, I think it is (now) better to address the user directly.
Only if the manual is written for professionals, indirect approach could be used, but this should be discussed with the client.


Yes, I think, you are right, we live in other times now and should approach the end user in manuals directly. Right, in case of doubt, discussing it with the client is the way to go.

Thanks,

Pristine


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Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Klaus! Feb 28, 2007

Klaus Herrmann wrote:

Pristine wrote:

German instruction manuals are something else. Many do not approach the reader directly but in the 3rd person.

I rather like to be directly approached in my manuals, e.g. like better: "Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" instead of "Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose."

Hmmm, isn't 3rd person „Ziehe Er den Stecker aus der Steckdose?“? Very polite

** Lol. That is in the 11th century air conditioner manual for knights! I saw it with my own eyes.

Seriously, there is no clear rule. Both forms are common:

• Stecker aus Steckdose ziehen
• Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose

For explanations and descriptive text, I usually prefer the second approach, for step-by-step instructions I think the first approach is more appropriate.

*** Exactly, Klaus, we pretty all seem to prefer the second approach - but the old one seems still the ruler and I find the first style kind German correct but kind of dusty and oldfashioned.

Usually, clients have their preferences, so that's the first criterion.

*** Right.

If you're free to choose, the first one sounds more factual and is more straightforward while the second version sounds friendly but may be considered verbose.

*** Yes, that is true.

Anyhow, the most important thing is to use one style consistently.


*** Absolutely, Klaus, thanks for your posting and advice.


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Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Astrid! Feb 28, 2007

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Hi, Pristine!

Yes, technically speaking the "Sie" form is third person, but it has a second person function. For this reason, it is considered a direct form of address and is experienced by the reader as such.

"Der Stecker ist aus der Steckdose zu ziehen" is, on the other hand, in effect a passive and distant form. Thus, as one or two others have noted in this thread, if you wish to achieve the effect of addressing the reader directly, then you can best do so by using the "Sie" form (whether it is, technically speaking, "third person" or not).

Astrid

[Edited at 2007-02-27 23:01]


*** Thanks for your posting and advice, Astrid.
Right. I like the direct approach to the end user, I think it is modern and not distant. In doubt, I will ask the customer for his/her preference.

Pristine


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Pristine
Local time: 02:21
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Heinrich, again! :) Feb 28, 2007

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I have searched through my TM for German-Finnish in order to get real life exemples on how German authors (not translators!) deal with this exemple. First I searched for "steckdose", but later I searched for the Finnish sequende for "aus der Steckdose ziehen".
Here are the results of the Finnish jury:

Bei längerer Abwesenheit oder Gewitter ziehen Sie den Netzstecker des Gerätes aus der Wandsteckdose.
Vor der Reinigung ziehen Sie bitte den Netzstecker aus der Steckdose.
ziehen Sie bitte die Netzteile aus den Steckdosen.
Ziehen Sie den Netzstecker aus der Steckdose.
Entfernen Sie das Netzteil aus der Steckdose.
Reißen Sie dabei den Stecker nicht anhand des Netzkabels aus der Steckdose. Nutzen Sie den Stecker.
Bei längerer Abwesenheit:Trennen Sie den Netzstecker von den Spannungsquellen (Netzsteckdose).
Entfernen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose
Zuleitungskabel aus der Steckdose ziehen
Ziehen Sie stets das Netzteil aus der Steckdose, bevor Sie das Gerät reinigen.
Ziehen Sie stets das Netzteil aus der Steckdose, bevor Sie das Leuchtmittel wechseln.
Bei längerer Abwesenheit oder Gewitter ziehen Sie den Netzstecker des Netzgerätes aus der Wandsteckdose.

Ziehen Sie immer den Netzstecker, bevor Sie den Tank des Gerätes befüllen!
Ziehen Sie stets den Netzstecker, wenn das Gerät nicht in Gebrauch ist oder gereinigt wird.
Schalten Sie das Gerät vor seiner Installation aus, und ziehen Sie den Netzstecker!
Vor dem Reinigen des Gerätes ziehen Sie den Netzstecker.

*** Nice collection, Heinrich.

As you can see, the "steckdose" is not always mentioned. But of course a translator, when translating into German, would always mention it. Translations are usually better and more standardised than original texts.

*** Which means that anything that was ever written should be translated.

Both forms, simple imperative and addressing the user with "Sie" are possible.

*** Yes, and I like the direct approach in these samples.

Cheers again!
Heinrich


Pristine.


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Chiara Righele  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 10:21
English to Italian
+ ...
Thanks... Feb 28, 2007

...Pristine for posting this interesting thread.

I've always had the same doubt

Chiara


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:21
German to English
+ ...
Observations from a non-native Person Feb 28, 2007

Klaus Herrmann suggested:

Seriously, there is no clear rule. Both forms are common:

• Stecker aus Steckdose ziehen
• Ziehen Sie den Stecker aus der Steckdose

Anyhow, the most important thing is to use one style consistently.


I'll drink to that and to much of what was posted since.

One of the beauties in German - in a technical step-by-step guide - is that you can say "Object - what to do with it - how to do it" in a much more logical sequence than in English. If I want to know when to remove the plug I'd sooner be told that way, being a logical thinker and technically disadvantaged.

(A propos of nothing, working into Italian must be useful in such cases, because they have an imperative tense.)

But here's an exception in German. O.K. - it's not a manual, but it's supposed to be a guide. As you know, in English we have an expression "Don't go there" meaning "Don't talk about it."

All I can say is "Don't go there."

"Zur Ebene x und damit zu Deutschlands größtem xxx kommt man über den hinter dem in der Mitte der xxx Halle gelegenen xxx Café liegenden Aufzug oder der direkt neben dem Aufzug (*1, *2) liegenden Treppe. Von hier aus geht es über den selben Aufzug oder die Treppe weiter zur Ebene x, die aber auch direkt mit der zentralen Rolltreppe (*3), in der x Halle erreichen. Oben angekommen hat man hier den Blick über die ganze Halle mit ihrer imposanten Architektur – oder einem Kaffee von xxx.

Absatz vorsichtig lesen!

Cheers
Chris


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