Wikipedia:Translation/German/Translation advice

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The process of translating German Wikipedia articles into the English Wikipedia involves many tedious details. The German language has over 30,000 core vocabulary words, and the German Wikipedia uses them all (and more). However, there are several tricks that can make the translations easier. Some issues:

Format issues[edit]

Typesetting[edit]

  • If you don't have a German keyboard, keep a list of the German Sonderzeichen (to copy) and paste: Ä ä Ö ö ß Ü ü or use the Alt key, e.g. pressing "Alt-129" generates "ü".
  • Because German words average about a third longer (by number of letters) than English, the margins of German quotations should be adjusted to allow more words per line.

Interwikis[edit]

  • Remember to code the bottom interwiki line "[[de:xxx]]" for the deutsch link.
  • German Wikipedia bots edit its articles to backlink interwiki "en:" (within 5 hours); once "[[de:xxx]]" is added to an English article, the German article "xxx" is later bot-edited to backlink (with "en:") by various bots such as Alexbot or Grouchobot.

Punctuation[edit]

  • German nouns are always capitalized. Only the first letter of a compound word is capitalized. Compound words are generally written in one word and are not hyphenated. In hyphenated compound nouns, the first word and each component noun is capitalized: Fluss-Schifffahrt. Most pronouns are not capitalized, except the second-person pronouns "Sie" and "Ihnen" (the "formal you"), while the first-person pronoun "ich", unlike English "I", is not capitalized.
  • In German titles, capitalize only the first word and subsequent nouns (as in "Also sprach Zarathustra" with the verb "sprach" in lowercase).
  • All German words in English text should be set in italics, except those which have entered the English language as loan words (such as "zeitgeist" and "Gestalt").

Wikitables or infoboxes[edit]

  • Some tables copied from German Wikipedia may not look the same due to differences in margin alignment or width.
  • German Wikipedia may use different class names in its CSS styles.

Translation issues[edit]

Auto-translation help[edit]

  • Google translate can cross-reword paragraphs into another language, but "proper word order often it doesn't". All automatically translated text must be revised before use.
  • Google translate may garble wiki-coding, for example by putting illegal spaces after the slash in closing tags (as in illegal "</ ref>").
  • By hand-splitting long German sentences into shorter parts, some computer-translation programs might generate better wording than others, but all automatically translated text must be revised before use.
  • Once the first article on a theme is translated, similar articles can copy parts of it, so the translation of idioms can become easier in related articles.
  • Many articles on English Wikipedia have some awkward, broken English, but German Wikipedia is heavily patrolled by editors to alleviate rough or awkward wording.

Dictionaries[edit]

Common words[edit]

  • German articles use "Datei" for "Image" or "File" (replace "Datei:" with "File:").
  • German templates are not called "Template:" but "Vorlage:".
  • In German, the term for "web page" is "Webseite"; English "website" is "Website" in German.
  • German word "links" means "left" (as in left-hand), but "Weblinks" are hyperlinks.
  • Examples are noted as "Beispiel", also with the abbreviation "Bsp."
  • References are sometimes called "Quellen" (sources), mostly "Einzelnachweise".
  • Wikipedia is feminine: die deutsche Wikipedia; die englische Wikipedia.

Headers for Notes/References/etc.[edit]

The German Wikipedia uses "standard headings" for the See-also, Notes, References and External links sections:
  • Siehe auch   [Bearbeiten]       – "See also"
  • Literatur   [Bearbeiten]           – "Bibliography" or "Literature"
  • Einzelnachweise [Bearbeiten]   – "References" or "Notes"
  • Weblinks   [Bearbeiten]           – "External links"
Each section can be edited separately by clicking on the link "[Bearbeiten]" in the section header. Also, contrary to the English Wikipedia, the section headers named above may appear in any order, so that Einzelnachweise ("Notes") may be the final section of an article.

Proper names[edit]

Wikipedia:WikiProject Germany/Conventions is a valuable guide to the Wikipedia conventions for translating proper names. In particular, beware of compound nouns, some of which need a partial translation e.g. Maintal = "Main Valley" Rappbodetalsperre = "Rappbode Dam".

Practical differences between German and English[edit]

  • Many German articles contain very long, complex sentences, which is a long-term German cultural issue. Consider splitting the English into short sentences, as is preferred in modern English.
  • Similarly, for stylistic reasons, some German words or phrases may be longer than absolutely necessary. Modern English style tends to prefer concise expression in general.
  • Formal German makes heavy use of impersonal subjects and passive verbs, both of which are considered detrimental to understanding and to reading pleasure in English. Translate using active verbs and concrete subjects. For example, translate Es wurde nach einer Lösung gesucht (literally comparable to "There was a solution searched for") as "Engineers [or whatever subject fits the facts] sought a solution." Note that a personal subject must be provided where the German sentence had none!
  • A number of abbreviations are common in German at all stylistic levels, including z.B. for zum Beispiel ("for example"), bzw. for beziehungsweise (like "respectively", but with different placement in the sentence), u.a. for unter anderen ("among others"), and more. Your first impulse may be to substitute "e.g." for z.B. and "i.e." for d.h. (das heißt), but English does not use the corresponding abbreviations except in very formal academic style. Hence it's usually better to write out "that is" (between commas) than to use the Latin "i.e." Furthermore, English does not use the corresponding expressions, whether abbreviated or not, anywhere near as frequently as German. So consider translating z.B. as "including" or "such as".
  • The German beziehungsweise or bzw. is a special problem: it is often misused for und ("and") or oder ("or"), and should be so translated. Even where it is correctly used in German, you should restructure the sentence in your translation rather than use "respectively" in English. For example, translate Peter Weiss' "Hölderlin" und "Der Prozeß" wurden 1971 bzw. 1975 uraufgeführt as "Peter Weiss's Hölderlin premiered in 1971, and Der Prozess in 1975." Modern use of the term in English is very limited.
  • Beware of "false friends". For example, Handy means "mobile phone"; aktuell = "current"; eventuell = "maybe"; Fotograf = "photographer"; irritieren = "confuse"; Lack = "paint"; Roman = "novel"; sensibel = "sensitive".
  • German uses many little adverbs like schon, doch, eben, zwar, dabei, daher, etc. ad inf., which often should not represented by any word at all in an English translation. Adverbs of this sort simply provide emphasis, tone and flow, which are achieved by completely different means in English.

Template coding[edit]

Several templates are portable to the German Wikipedia, including {{Cite web}} & {{Cite book}} (but NOT {{Citation}} ), and dates should be coded in ISO format as "YYYY-MM-DD", and the extra attribute "language=Englisch" should be added for those sources.
Beware the same-name-but-different templates:
  • {{dts}} is a date template with the parameters reversed. Hence it is not portable.
Because German Wikipedia (DEWIKI) has its own MOS style guides, which are different from those of ENWIKI, many German users might object to the style and formatting of translated articles. It's a whole separate target group to consider.

Typos[edit]

  • Typos: beware mixing of "and" for "und" (in hundreds of articles).
  • Typos: beware dashes between German words not typical for English; German: "Lewis-und-Clark-Expedition".
  • Typos: beware the German preposition "an" appearing to be the English article "an".
  • Note minor differences, such as "oben" meaning "up" while "ober" means upper, and such.
  • Remember typical use of idioms, such as "an der Strasse" (for "in the street") or "Eingabe/Ausgabe" (for "input/output"), etc.

Content issues[edit]

German Wikipedia stubs[edit]

There are very few German stub articles, because, by early 2009, many articles were often contested before allowing short contents. Articles that are nearly perfect, but only 99% correctly translated, might be hated, because they must pass the verification-step for style & content, which is almost like passing a test as semi-featured articles. There seems to be a compulsion (or obsession) to get German articles verified, as if the non-verified articles would be considered harmful trash. The push or drive to verify articles causes frequent severe mindsets on German Wikipedia. Imagine the horror if a new article were to need 3 volunteer days of source verification: Mein Gott! Whereas a 98%-accurate article might be considered, in the real world, as fairly good information (for free), in DEWIKI instead, they would rather it be deleted or hidden.

Unsourced content[edit]

Although the German Wikipedia has been heavily patrolled for "recent changes" to enforce grammar (or translations), many articles lack specific sources or footnote citations. Some of the German articles seem to contain insider knowledge or folksy text, which often gets challenged when translated into an English article. In accordance with policy WP:VERIFY, when text cannot be traced to sources, it must be removed from articles, even though found in German Wikipedia (which has been heavily guarded for accuracy). Local people might be writing what "everyone knows in Germanic culture", but perhaps it cannot be used in the English Wikipedia for lack of published sources.

Use of sources[edit]

However, most articles in the German Wikipedia do have sources, though sometimes fewer than would be considered ideal in the English Wikipedia. The articles will naturally emphasise German language sources, but articles here are expected to emphasize English language sources. It is very highly advisable to find equivalent English language sources for at least the basic material. For points where only a German source is available, it should be retained, and where the best sources are in German, they should also be included, especially for topics relating to German history or culture. It is not appropriate to eliminate sources merely because they are in German or some other language without replacing them with English sources. If German books have an English translation available, that translation should be added.
Even for the roughest translation never eliminate the sources totally. If you cannot find equivalents, or do not have the time to look, leave them as is for someone to improve subsequently.

Other concerns[edit]

There are many other common issues to consider.

See also[edit]

[ This essay is a draft to be vastly expanded later. ]