24 Sep /12

German to English translations, confessions of a translator or out with outwith

German english translation scottlandAs a matter of general course, translators translate using standard vocabulary from the target language, or the regional variant of the target language (e.g. British or US English for a German to English translator). This is what anyone searching for a “translator German to English” on the internet would tend to expect when they ultimately receive their translation. Being familiar with at least their own regional variant of their mother tongue, this does not represent a problem for the translator.

At times, however, it does occur that translators have to make certain sacrifices in terms of words or expressions that they would most naturally use. Of course, this sometimes happens when a translator translates into a regional variant of the target language other than his own (e.g. when a British translator translates into US English). However, on the odd occasion it can also occur even when translating into one’s own regional variant of the language. This is because certain words and expressions that a translator would most naturally use belong to the standard vocabulary not of his own regional variant of the target language, but to that of the very part of the country he is from.

As a German translator from Scotland, I recently had such an experience with one particular word. The word in question is “outwith”, a word in common usage in Scotland. For those who do not know the word (which, as I now know, is pretty much everyone who neither is Scottish nor lives or has lived in Scotland), outwith basically means outside (of) or beyond. It is a word I sometimes use myself and for a long time I never had any inkling that it was not a standard English-language word used everywhere in the English-speaking world. However, this year I found out that the word is in fact little-known outwith Scotland, although that was not before using it a few times in my German to English translations. My proofreader joked with me, saying “That was not a German into English translation, but German into Scottish!” Realising that the target audience would not be only my fellow Scots, I now, with regret, do not use outwith any more, but within has teamed up with outside.

However, discussions within the German to English translator team at EVS Translations resulted in further “anomalies”. A colleague from southern England (who, as it emerged, had never heard the word outwith in his life), commonly used “somewhen” (a word that I had never heard before). In his translations, he had to change to standard sometime.