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Achtung

English translation: Important/Caution

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14:59 Jan 28, 2004
German to English translations [PRO]
Tech/Engineering - Engineering (general)
German term or phrase: Achtung
Hi folks,

This is one of those omnipresent words in engineering manuals that we all translate automatically without much contemplation and scrutiny. All of my German-speaking clients insist on the commonplace 'Attention' although I've always harbored the suspicion that this sounds unnatural.

I've always thought that you wouldn't say (or write) 'Attention' when calling attention (pardon the pun) to something important in a technical manual.

But first let me premise this rambling discourse by making qualifications. Our context here is confined only to instances when "Achtung" stands alone as a section title or a header, usually accompanied by the appropriate graphic icon, under which the important issue is discussed.

A native English speaker would most probably write 'Important' or 'Take Note' even 'Reminder' or 'Notice'.

Would the register differ slightly from engineering to software manuals? What I mean is, one would normally shout out loud 'pay attention' when a large metal structure is about to crash on your head than, say, paying attention to configuration codes when installing or programming software. A 'softer' 'pay attention' would then be more appropriate in a software context?

I guess I'm nitpicking here. What I want is a discussion on the subtleties of language register and what comes out more naturally when calling attention to something important in technical manuals.

Input from experienced technical writers, unimpeded by linguistic interference from German, would be most welcome.

Achtung, and you better believe it!

Marcus
Marcus Malabad
Canada
Local time: 23:56
English translation:Important/Caution
Explanation:
Both of these are common in manuals, user-guides of all sorts.

I'm looking at my video camera manual right now, and it has both! (But not "attention", as you say.)

Looking in another manual, I also see "Cautions") plural, and also "Warnings" plural.

I think a good safe bet in many instances is "Important:..."

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Note added at 2004-01-28 15:33:20 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

My suggestions specifically refer to headers/titles in manuals. :-)

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Note added at 2004-01-28 15:56:57 (GMT)
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In answer to your extra question:

From looking at some manuals in front of me, they don\'t seem to have a clear system for deciding between the different options. Of your three options, the order of serious seems to be:
1. Warning(s) - where physical dangers are involved
2. Caution(s) - where you might damage the equipment
3. Important - where the user, for example, is referred to a different section of the manual or told about other useful features.

You\'ve raised some interesting points here!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2004-01-28 15:57:04 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In answer to your extra question:

From looking at some manuals in front of me, they don\'t seem to have a clear system for deciding between the different options. Of your three options, the order of serious seems to be:
1. Warning(s) - where physical dangers are involved
2. Caution(s) - where you might damage the equipment
3. Important - where the user, for example, is referred to a different section of the manual or told about other useful features.

You\'ve raised some interesting points here!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2004-01-28 15:57:50 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sorry, meant to write \"order of seriousness/severity\"!
Selected response from:

Dr Andrew Read
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:56
Grading comment
Ok, all of you gave great answers and I learned from each of them. Can't split points. Giving them to Andrew because of this additional answer. Thanks to all of you! Andrew, please don't enter anything in the glossary.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
3 +6care / caution should be taken / exercised
Jonathan MacKerron
5 +3Warning / Important / Caution
David Moore
5 +3Important/Caution
Dr Andrew Read
5 +2Danger!
Gareth McMillan
5 +1Caution!
Textklick
5Answer
Manfred Mondt
4Note (NB):
Robert Schlarb
4Caution / Warning
Ulrike Lieder


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


20 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Note (NB):


Explanation:
This is what I am most familiar with. "NB" is perhaps a little obsolete but is still used fairly commonly. It simply means "nota bene" i.e. "take good note" which is what you are saying when you want to attract the reader's attention (Achtung!) to something significant yet not necessarily hazardous.
"Attention" sounds somewhat militaristic and is reminiscent of Sgt. Schulz in "Hogan's Heroes".

Robert Schlarb
Local time: 23:56
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 40
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8 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +6
care / caution should be taken / exercised


Explanation:
a couple more possibilities

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 10 mins (2004-01-28 15:10:26 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

be careful when... / make sure that / ensure that / it is important to note that.. / consideration should be give to / it is imperative that / you must not (thou shall not? heh heh)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 20 mins (2004-01-28 15:20:23 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

\"dos\" or \"donts\" as the case my be?

Jonathan MacKerron
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 123

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  roneill: This sounds right. I like caution.
3 mins

agree  Katrin Suchan: I would prefer only "caution"
4 mins

agree  redfox: Just "caution"
27 mins

agree  Lori Dendy-Molz: yes to "caution"
37 mins

agree  gangels: beware/caution/attention/important/please notice in declining order of emphasis
43 mins

agree  xxxBrandis
1 hr
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31 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Important/Caution


Explanation:
Both of these are common in manuals, user-guides of all sorts.

I'm looking at my video camera manual right now, and it has both! (But not "attention", as you say.)

Looking in another manual, I also see "Cautions") plural, and also "Warnings" plural.

I think a good safe bet in many instances is "Important:..."

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2004-01-28 15:33:20 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

My suggestions specifically refer to headers/titles in manuals. :-)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2004-01-28 15:56:57 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In answer to your extra question:

From looking at some manuals in front of me, they don\'t seem to have a clear system for deciding between the different options. Of your three options, the order of serious seems to be:
1. Warning(s) - where physical dangers are involved
2. Caution(s) - where you might damage the equipment
3. Important - where the user, for example, is referred to a different section of the manual or told about other useful features.

You\'ve raised some interesting points here!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2004-01-28 15:57:04 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In answer to your extra question:

From looking at some manuals in front of me, they don\'t seem to have a clear system for deciding between the different options. Of your three options, the order of serious seems to be:
1. Warning(s) - where physical dangers are involved
2. Caution(s) - where you might damage the equipment
3. Important - where the user, for example, is referred to a different section of the manual or told about other useful features.

You\'ve raised some interesting points here!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2004-01-28 15:57:50 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sorry, meant to write \"order of seriousness/severity\"!

Dr Andrew Read
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:56
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
Ok, all of you gave great answers and I learned from each of them. Can't split points. Giving them to Andrew because of this additional answer. Thanks to all of you! Andrew, please don't enter anything in the glossary.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jonathan MacKerron: yes, "warning" is another good one
1 min

agree  Textklick: Sorry - wrote mine before reading yours
12 mins

agree  Gareth McMillan
3 hrs
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33 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Caution!


Explanation:
Always in manuals and documentation. Seems to be the universal favo(u)rite.

Attention would lose me customers.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 42 mins (2004-01-28 15:42:22 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Having said that, I would use Caution\' in the context of \"this would make things go seriously wrong\" in an IT/Engineering context. If it were, say, a camera manual, then there would also be be places where \"Important\" would be more appropriate.
If the customer were overdoing it with his \"Achtungs\" I\'d translate them separately according to the level of danger involved and tell him what I\'d done. HTH

Textklick
Local time: 22:56
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 18

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Gareth McMillan: If there is a "one word fits all" this is probably it IMO. The exclamation mark is very important here IMVHO.
46 mins
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Warning / Important / Caution


Explanation:
would be the three headings I think I would use for your added posting; they would probably depend on the remaining context anyway. This, then from a BE NS.

David Moore
Local time: 23:56
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 572

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxCMJ_Trans: and another....
4 mins

agree  Gareth McMillan: Me too.
9 mins

agree  John Jory: As a heading: definitely
3 hrs
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Caution / Warning


Explanation:
Let me add my 2 cents' worth: I translate a lot of manuals and IFUs for surgical lasers and other medical instruments. These manuals are all written here in the US, and they all use a 3-tier system: Note, Caution, Warning

Note being the most benign, just to draw the users attention to something. Kind of making a special point of something.
Caution usually indicates that care must be taken in order to avoid unwanted/unintended consequences, but it's definitely a step below Warning.
Warning is the one I'd equate with Achtung in a German manual; it is used if there is a risk of personal injury or irreparable damage to the equipment.


I've also frequently seen "Warning" in software help files, again with the intention of drawing the user's attention to an important point.

HTH...


Ulrike Lieder
Local time: 14:56
Works in field
Native speaker of: German
PRO pts in category: 28
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +2
Danger!


Explanation:
I never use one standard word in technical translations. The term must be in keeping with the situation being described, for me.

Danger! (with exclamation mark). Top of the list, as one would say, used when describing a displayed sign in a text for exposed high voltage cables for instance (Extreme danger).
Could also be used as a pop-up when a member writes a lewd, personal, sarcastic, or humorous remark on a Kudos answer without paying due lip service to the question.

Caution! (weaker)

Important notice! (noch weaker)

Attention! (paying attention is optional)

Notice (nbody will notice)

USA has a very different concept to UK regarding all this, as failing to draw peoples attention to a latent danger can result in getting your backside sued off for astronomical sums.
If you "take a walk" through an American factory you will see that the machines are plastered with all kinds of signs- a collection of these would make an excellent Dico for just this problem. IMHO

Gareth McMillan
Local time: 23:56
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 42

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Trudy Peters: I think danger would be "Gefahr," possibly also used in M's manual
31 mins
  -> 'Course it is "Achtung-Gefahr!". This problem cannot be solved by "word-swapping" IMO. It's also about the "perception" of latent danger etc. varying from one country to another-see my note re- American factories above.

agree  Textklick: Gareth's certainly summarised it well. (re your comment - you and others have made it clear that there can/should be several answers. Marcus will figure it out.
1 hr
  -> Ta, Text tingy. Wait a minute, summarised what well? Supposed to be an answer, not a summary. ADD: Sure hope he can figure it out- I can't.

agree  jerrie: A comprehensive range of solutions IMO
2 hrs
  -> Thanks Gunther- solutions are often marked "Danger!".
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Answer


Explanation:
To the original question, don't look for a single solution for "Achtung".
I generally agree with Andrew and David, the choice depends on the context. Here are some suggestions to frequently mistranslated terms:

warning: use Achtung except for Warnungen und Vorsichtsmaßnahmen, Warnungsaufschrift, Warnzeichen
Hazard: as in pinching hazard becomes Warnung vor Quetchgefahr, in fact Warnung is almost always followed by some form of vor...gefahr.

Vorsicht: rarely caution except caution label for Vorsicht-Aufkleber, more commonly Attention, Caution or Warning (think of Vorsichts Lebensgefahr)
Vorsichtsmaßnahmen: safety precautions

Re: my rusty trusty data base.

Manfred Mondt
United States
Local time: 17:56
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
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