I studied German translation. And with some authority, I can assert that German is a beautiful language. When I first started learning it, I won’t lie, I was hating bits and pieces of it. Akkusativ, dativ, genitiv, trannbare verben, the articles… It was driving me crazy. There was so much to learn and also so much to memorize. Then I realized one thing which completely changed my life: it wasn’t the language, it was the methods of study that I hated the most. So, quite humbly, I decided to give it another shot.  I used a different method and I saw the beauty of German. I started to read and work on the texts of Goethe, Schiller, Nietzsche and many other amazing pieces of literature from German masters. I even worked on German translations of some authors that I had previously read in English.

Then I fell in love.

Challenges in German Translation

There are probably more challenges than I can ever mention for German translation. These are the ones that I faced when I was a student at the German translation and interpretation faculty.

1) The Language

Well, I already mentioned that the German language is a hard nut to crack. So I will not mention it any longer. I will just give you the longest word in German: “Donau­dampfschiffahrts­elektrizitäten­hauptbetriebswerk­bauunterbeamten­gesellschaft” one more fact to underline: English translation of this German “word” consists of 15 words.

2) German Culture

Language is very much connected to the culture of the countries that speak it. Without knowing the culture of the countries who speak that language, it is not possible to translate most of the cultural elements. Since German has a long history it takes lots and lots of time to get along with those tiny, little elements which give the fingerspitzengefühl to the translation.

3) Terminology

I always enjoyed translating medical texts. My parents were both working in the medical field so I somehow knew some bits of the medical terminology. Until I started to translate medical texts to or from German. Most of the medical terminology is, as everyone successfully guesses, in Latin. But not in German. It has different words and verbs for literally everything. We are talking about a nation which is so proud of the engineering and technique. So good luck, if you are willing to work on translating patents and technical documents. Trust me, you will need to learn a lot of things.

4) German Dialects

According to North Dakota State University, there are as many as 250 dialects in German. These 250 still exist today. According to the same source, this amount was between 1,000 and 1,500 just only 500 years ago.

The standard German, as known as Hochdeutsch, is not the language everyone uses all day. People are still connected to their dialects and they like using them. So it creates a challenge for the translator and/or the interpreter and makes German translation and also German interpretation more difficult.

5) The Alphabet

German has special letters in the Alphabet such as Ö, Ü, ß and Ä. When you are translating something, let’s say from English to German, you need those special letters. If you are using an English keyboard, it might get a little tricky, and time-consuming.

6) Word Building Ability

This is what I really love about German and also it is one of the biggest challenges that you will face if you ever decide to work on German translation or interpretation. I have already mentioned the longest word in German, so you know how tricky it can get. Do you know what is so special about German? You can easily create new words. But for translators’ or interpreters’ sake, please have some empathy.

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