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Presenting you the most interesting translation solutions


Why Like-Blog? Now, first of all, this blog is a blog that you should like (and read regularly) – at least, if you are interested in translation. Then, the topic discussed here is one in which the meaningful likeness between a text and its translation in the language pair English-German plays a key role. On this page, I will take a close look at some interesting translation solutions that I have come across in the course of my work as a translator and translation scholar.

A translation solution is only as good as the arguments that support it. This means that any translation criticism, whether positive or negative, needs to be justified. The quality of a translation solution shows only when we compare it to other possible translation solutions in a given translation situation. Therefore, a translation critic should not only say why a translation solution is bad, but also demonstrate what a better solution might look like. I will try to stick to these principles of translation criticism. So if you have any questions regarding my line of argument or if you disagree, please, let me know your opinion by phone at +49 4171 6086525 or by e-mail to bittner@businessenglish-hamburg.de. So much for the introduction. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this blog!

Negating what you think (May 2024)

The story “Wer du bist, verändert etwas” by Helice Bridges is one in a collection of stories called “Hühnersuppe für die Seele”, published by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark.

The story is about a method that people use to show recognition to other people. The way the method works is described using a concrete example – a chain of recognition in which a boss, who has been recognised by one of his subordinates, finally reveals his appreciation and love to his own son at home, apparently for the first time. The son then cries and says, “Ich hatte geplant, morgen Selbstmord zu begehen, Dad, weil ich nicht glaubte, dass du mich liebst. Jetzt brauche ich das nicht zu tun.”

The corresponding English original can be found on the Internet (https://blueribbons.org/history). Here, the story finishes: “He walked over to a drawer, pulled out a gun, stared at his father and, through his tears said, ‘I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me. Now I don’t need to.’”

Perhaps you are now wondering what the problem with the translation is. Well, the problem is admittedly a somewhat subtle one, but nonetheless one that translators from English into German should be aware of. The relevant rule, here, is that when verbs such as “glauben” or “denken” or their English equivalents are used in combination with “dass” clauses and the proposition is to be negated, this negation is formed in English with the verb “think” or “believe”, whereas in German the negation is included in the “dass” clause. This rule is not a clear grammatical rule, but rather a stylistic rule – although, as will be shown below, semantic aspects can also play a role.

A more appropriate German translation would be: ..., weil ich glaubte, dass du mich nicht liebst.

Strictly speaking, there is even a difference in meaning. In the more idomatic version, as in the English original, the implication is that the father did not show love towards the son – which is the intended meaning. However, the version from the German translation could be interpreted to mean that the father did show something like love, but that the son thought this was insincere and, therefore, could not believe his father.