Category Archives: Translation

Goethe and Shakespeare

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“We’re doing Romeo and Juliet,” my daughter told me yesterday.
“Oh yeah?” I said. “Is it part of your English class?”
She looked at me and shook her head. “No. German.”
Auf Deutsch? Seriously?
“You’re kidding? Why would you be doing it in German?”
“I don’t know. We just are.”


That the Germans have a love of Shakespeare is a well known fact, but that he is integrated into the high school curriculum in translation suggests their love is as profound as any recounted by the bard himself. Even the one in question. It also suggests that besides Goethe, whose poems seem to occupy a 90 share of the syllabus, and have to be learned ad infinitum and recited ad nauseum, there are no German writers – dead or alive – worthy of presentation to the Facebook generation. Impossible. Or should that be Unmöglich!

Google, the translator’s funeral

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the looming death of the translator. “Redundant,” he assured me. “Who needs them when Google can do it all much faster and for free?” It was my turn to assure him that he was mistaken, and that there’s life left in the profession yet, because even though an off-shoot of the mighty search engine can locate a rusty shed  in the Australian outback, it probably can’t find the right prepositions to describe that location.

To prove my point, I let Google translate the above passage into German. The result was wonky to say the least. But being fair, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and asked it to translate the translated lines back into English.

This is what it came up with: Hmmm.

I had a conversation with a friend who. Recently about the impending death of the translator “Redundant”, he assured me. “Who needs them when Google can do everything much faster and free?” It was to be my turn to assure him that he was mistaken, and that it can find life in the profession not yet, because even if an offshoot of the powerful search engine can is a rusty shed in the Australian outback, it is not necessarily the right to describe prepositions mentioned place.

It seem, then, that there is more at stake than mere prepositions. And on that note, I rest my translator’s case.