Translating the Konjunktiv into English
Thread poster: PaLa

Local time: 17:55
German to English
Mar 28, 2003

A question to German-English translators: how do you deal with long passages of indirect speech like the following? A writer - let\'s call him Schmidt - is describing Turkey\'s historical transformations:

\"Dazu gehöre auch der Übergang zu einem Mehrparteiensystem nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Keines der Länder im islamisch geprägten Nahen Osten sei der Türkei hierin gefolgt. Selbst in die „kurdische Frage“ sei mittlerweile Bewegung gekommen. Die politische Klasse habe sich in einer Reihe gesetzgeberischer Schritte zielorientiert auf europäische Standards zu bewegt.\"

Etc. (It goes on like this for ever.) How do you deal with this kind of thing in English? It\'s inelegant, and difficult, to keep repeating \"says Schmidt\" and the like; at the same time, the translator has to indicate that these are Scmidt\'s views and not somebody else\'s.

It\'s not the first time I\'ve come up against this problem, and it won\'t be the last; so I\'m wondering how the rest of you deal with it. Thanks for any tips!


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:55
German to English
+ ...
... says Schmidt Mar 28, 2003

If it\'s any consolation, you\'re not the first to have faced the problem.

Part of the problem is that where a large chunk of text is being reproduced, English (like German and any other language) normally has the option of simply quoting the original writer\'s/speaker\'s words. In a translation, you don\'t generally have that option, though there are exceptional cases where it might be accpetable.

I find the solution is generally to pepper the translation with \"...says Schmidt\", \"Schmidt argues that...\", \"in Schmidt\'s view\", etc., just often enough to remind the reader that this is Schmidt\'s opinion and not the writer\'s. It does require skill, but English-speaking journalists do it all the time, so I think translators should also be capable of doing so.



Brigith Guimarães  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:55
Member (2003)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
hope it helps Mar 28, 2003

you should translate it in the present tense all along, indicating int the beginning of the speech that \"Mr. Schmidt said...\" or \"according to Mr. Schimidt\'s own point of view, description, opinion, etc and soforth\".

As you know, and as far as german is concerned, the Konjuntik is used in the indirect speech precisely to indicate that it is someoneelse\'s speech.

hope it helps you

best regards,



English to German
If I was a younger man.. Mar 28, 2003

I am not translating in this direction (as you will understand), but if I were forced to do it, I followed the famous song:

Wenn ich ein jüngerer Mann wäre - If I was a younger man..

as opposed to:

Als ich ein jüngerer Man war - When I was a younger man icon_wink.gif


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:55
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Post any topic, in German. Mar 28, 2003

Das obige Zitat stammt von der Übersicht der Foren.

Ich verstehe nicht, wieso Übersetzer, die das Sprachpaar Deutsch-Englisch in Anspruch nehmen, nicht Deutsch schreiben wollen. Auch auf Job-Angebote, die in Deutsch abgefasst sind, bekommt man immer einen Haufen Antworten auf Englisch, die natürlich automatisch in den Kompost geschoben werden.


Terry Gilman  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:55
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Heinrich, nur wer nicht arbeitet, macht keinen Fehler Mar 28, 2003

Hi PaLa, für längere Texte in indirekter Rede benutze ich die gelegenlichen \"she said\", weil in meinem Arbeitsumfeld Klarheit wichtiger ist als die Länge des Textes. Manchmal rücke ich den Text ein. (Man muß manchmal, aber nicht immer das Format und die Interpunktion der SL 1:1 übernehmen.) ++++Was natürlich auch für Anführungsstriche gilt. Oft kenne ich die Leute und weiß, daß ich sie ohne weiteres auf Englisch zitieren darf, was in Ihrem Fachgebiet vielleicht nicht der Fall ist.)


[ This Message was edited by: Terry Gilman on 2003-03-28 15:20]


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
If I were a younger man Mar 28, 2003

Egon wrote:

I am not translating in this direction (as you will understand), but if I were forced to do it, I followed the famous song:

Wenn ich ein jьngerer Mann wдre - If I was a younger man..

as opposed to:

Als ich ein jьngerer Man war - When I was a younger man

Strictly speaking (though not everyone speaks that strictly), \"Wenn ich ein jüngerer Mann wäre\" should be translated \"If I were a younger man\", which I think is an example of the subjunctive, a mood not often used nowadays.


Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
Caution with "says Schmidt" Mar 28, 2003


As a translator of reported speech you are in the difficult situation of reporting what somebody else reported about what Schmidt reported about his topic. (= chinese whisper)

In German, if someone uses quotes for reported speech, he is obliged to report absolutely exactly what Schmidt said.

But if someone uses the Konjunktiv for reported speech, he is using is own words to express what he understands what Schmidt said or wanted to say. This way Germans are able to produce \"translation errors\" even without the need of a translation icon_eek.gif And you are granted the opportunity to add your own errors icon_lol.gif

Different words have at least a little bit different meanings, and in the field of politics and journalism a small difference can (and often does) cause a big trouble. icon_mad.gif

So you would probably be better off with using phrases like \"Schmidt is pointing out\", \"explained Schmidt\", \"according to Schmidt\" etc. permitting space for interpretation.


You probably wanted to point out the problem of \"shifting tenses\" in translation of reported speech and mixed up the subjunctiv and Konjunktiv, because they look the same in German. I recommend recapitulating the corresponding chapter of a good grammar book about this complicated matter icon_confused.gif

[ This Message was edited by: Harry_B on 2003-03-28 20:35]


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Translating the Konjunktiv into English

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