Hamsters have been emptying shop shelves across Germany and now seem set to cross borders as other countries take up the telling term Hamsterkauf. Wise advice to stock up on essentials before being confined to home by an anti-coronavirus diktat, combined with an angst attack in the face of a pandemic, has seen runs on toilet paper, pasta, flour and hand gel – snatching away all available wares. The German language term for this buying more than you need is Hamsterkauf, meaning literally hamster buying, or buying like a hamster. The tiny hamster with its puffy cheeks full of nuts is a lovable symbol for sensibly storing what you need for later, like its bigger cousin the squirrel, but neither actually pay for what they accumulate and have never been seen panic buying. Read more
Are capitalists hoping to harness unicorns to lead the charge to a zero carbon economy? Some experts think so and are calling for investment in unicorn incubation programmes with the promise of great returns. Recently the unicorn has lent its name to the elite group of billion dollar startup tech firms, and now looks set to sire a whole new breed of firms focused on facilitating low carbon living. As icecaps melt, sea levels rise, and global overheating threatens human extinction, can a magical horse with a pointed hat save the human race? Some hard-headed technologists are advocating this, so is it time we understood this beautiful beast and its future a bit better?
The unicorn has captured the human imagination since the earliest days of India, appears in the Christian Bible, in medieval bestiary books illustrating beasts of every alleged kind, and has often been harnessed as a symbol. Typically understood to be a forest-dwelling white horse with a single, spiralling and pointed horn sticking out of its forehead, it might initially have been the ancients’ remote misinterpretation of actual one-horned animals such as the ibex or rhinoceros, or of profile representations of cattle, but it developed a mythical presence in the Middle Ages in Europe which lives on to this day.
Could you just translate this web page please? Well…
It’s easy you say, but a simple request that sounds like a snap can turn into a translation trap. Web pages are where we read these days, so why not start the job there and just translate what you see on the website? Well, web pages are actually made up of not just the words and images you see on the surface, but also technical code you don’t see, and styling you do, so you may regret your words when you find yourself swimming in a simmering sea of alphabet soup. And what if the result can’t be served up in a way that can be readily consumed? So before just jumping in and translating web pages, let’s look at what really is on a web page and how the text there might, or might not, mesh with the professional translation process to deliver a successful result – in a final format translator and client can readily use.
2019 sees centenary celebrations for Germany’s groundbreaking Bauhaus design school, whose 14 year lifespan influenced art, architecture and design worldwide throughout the twentieth century and beyond. On 8 September The Bauhaus Museum opens in Dessau, and HE Translations have added the word Bauhaus to our growing list of German words used in English, many of them highly influential terms. Read more
The German economy owes much of its success to the country’s Mittelstand, a uniquely German term used to refer to Germany’s highly developed and export-oriented mid-sized business sector. Mittelstand is roughly translated into English as SME or Small and Medium Enterprise sector, but the Mittelstand is characterised by more than just the simple number of employees or the size of the annual turnover. Due to its ethos and importance, and focus on manufacturing, the Mittelstand has been the subject of considerable study and discussion, as well as concerns for its future when facing the challenges of technological change and international competition. Clearly it can’t afford to stand still if the German Wirtschaftswunder is to continue, so what is the Mittelstand and where is it going? Can small business and manufacturing survive in a world of globalised giants and the feverish flow of investor funds into speculative startups? Read more
As the UK faces EU elections some promised to end, Germany offers us the lesson of the Dolchstosslegende, a myth much used to paint defeat as the work of backstabbing traitors, rather than failed leaders. After First World War defeat in 1918, Germany’s militarists promoted the Dolchstosslegende, or Stab-In-The-Back Myth, contrafactually claiming that they could and would have won the war if weak-kneed pacifist politicians had not undermined them and stabbed them in the back, robbing the country of a great victory.
What is Energiewende and where does it come from?
English is getting a new word as energiewende creeps in and cleans up. No, not energy for a Wendy house, but the turning point and transition to renewable energy without the cost of nuclear. The most concise word for this today comes from German, where the national energy policy of Energiewende is leading the way towards… read more…
Imports are making English rich, and HE Translations are assembling an online treasure-trove explaining words that English has imported from German. Technology, sustainability, psychology and even food are fueling our appetite for new terms, and Germany is serving them up freely. Lost for words? Try some
new ones and go with the zeitgeist!
When you need a translation of a technical text or manual, what you really are looking for is a specialist expert in this field to do the job right. A serious translation ensures the accurate and usable rendering of descriptions and instructions into the target language, preventing time-consuming and expensive misunderstandings which could arise later. To achieve this an effective translator needs to understand not just the words on the page, but the technical processes and functioning of a technology or product.
Mastering this technical task calls for specialist understanding and experience, as well as an ability to be clear and unambiguous. And of course a well-written and clear original text is the best starting point, so here we offer a few tips from our long experience to get you going in the right direction. Just as you would not print blurred instructions just to save on ink, you wouldn’t want your meaning to be lost in translation.
The five Es for excellence in translation:
How social media partner Mike Gayler cycled into an Open University French degree
By Mike Gayler
I shared this story with an email contact recently and thought it might be interesting for readers of the HE Translations blog to know a little about my journey in language. It’s an unconventional tale, but I hope that you find it interesting, and, perhaps a little motivating if you’ve ‘failed’ in a skill at a younger age. At school I had a persistent French teacher. I was an enthusiastic but clueless language student, and I failed French ‘O’ levels in both 1971 and twice in 1972!
I started work for the National Health Service in the autumn of 1972 and the following summer I took my bicycle on the ferry and cycled through France for a fortnight. Being on my own, and staying in Youth Hostels it was very much a case of “speak French or starve”! I did survive, and the following year cycled round the coast of Brittany. From that point on I was aware that I could ‘get by in French’. And ‘get by’ I did – we took family holidays to France, and I took part in many cycle-tourist events in France and Belgium where my rudimentary language skills came in very handy.
German technical texts tend to be liberally littered with the abbreviation “ca.” to indicate that what follows should be read as an approximation. Usually our preference has been to render this Latin term for “about” or “around” as “approx.” when translating into English. This can, however, be awkward, as that may appear too long in tables and other contexts. Is there an alternative? If we seek an expert opinion, The New Oxford Style Manual has this to say on the matter:
“The Latin circa, meaning ‘about’, is used in English mainly with dates and quantities. Set the italicized abbreviation c. close up to any figures following (c.1020, c.£10,400), but spaced from words and letters (c. AD 44). In discursive prose it is usually preferable to use about or some when describing quantities”.
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