(Translation) Notes from the Homeland

by Karen Leube (Originally published in the Summer 2013 edition of interaktiv)

This past year one topic in particular has provoked discussion, debate and dissent behind the scenes on the BDÜ’s member platform “MeinBDÜ” and in various translators’ newsgroups in Germany: the updating of the “JVEG” (Justizvergütungs- und Entschädigungsgesetz: Gesetz über die Vergütung von Sachverständigen, Dolmetscherinnen, Dolmetschern, Übersetzerinnen und Übersetzern sowie die Entschädigung ehrenamtlicher Richterinnen, ehrenamtlicher Richtern, Zeuginnen, Zeugen und Dritten). The most relevant changes to the act involved raising the line prices for translation and hourly rate for court interpretation (go to ADÜ-Nord’s Infoblatt newsletter for an overview of the changes).

For the latest translation-related news from Germany, I highly recommend the website of the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer (BDÜ). Click on “Aktuelles.”

While the Bundestag and, later, the Bundesrat adopted the changes, to take effect August 1, 2013, the run-up to the decision revealed Germany’s relatively fractured translation association landscape. BDÜ, the largest association, is divided into 12 state chapters plus a separate chapter for conference interpreters (VKD). Several parallel associations exist (ADÜ-Nord and ATICOM in northwestern Germany, Vereins öffentlich bestellter und allgemein beeidigter Dolmetscher und Übersetzer Bayern e.V. (VbDÜ) in Bavaria, and the association of literature translators (VdÜ), to name just a few). Attempts were made to unite the associations’ efforts to update the JVEG with the foundation of the “Berliner Kreis ”, whose activities included a petition calling for policymakers to adopt the act and retain elements of the current act such as a separate line price for especially difficult translations of EUR 4.00/line.

In the end, the line pKaren Leube, freelance translator and seminar facilitatorrices and interpreting rates have been raised, albeit with the elimination of the EUR 4.00/line category. What many actually interpret as the step backward here has been the failure to bring about unity among the various associations – a sentiment alluded to in the Infoblatt article. And in an editorial in BDÜ’s MDÜ member magazine, one member described the debate taking place in translator forums as reminiscent of the Polanski film God of Carnage. With Germany hosting the FIT conference in 2014, this author feels the array of German translators and interpreters missed its opportunity to model the battle cry: “Translators of the world, unite!

Karen Leube grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in German in the United States and obtained a Ph.D. in English and German as a Foreign Language (DaF) from the University of Heidelberg. She taught translation at the universities of Heidelberg and Mainz (Germersheim) and now works as a freelance translator and seminar facilitator from her office in Aachen.