Word for Word

Posted on: 25. Mai 2009

Hi folks!

You might have wondered why the updates were so sporadic, well, truth be told I was on vacation! But fortunately enough, I had time to find new topics to talk about, so I hope you can forgive my self-important week off.

The first topic that came to mind is this – as a German native speaker with a few American friends, I noticed that there a quite a few words in my language that have no equivalent in English – you will always have to explain what exactly it means. A good example of this (and the one I stumbled upon this weekend) is „Schützenverein“ – it is a club where we shoot at targets, competitively. The whole idea dates back to the lawless times before the German reunification, and the Schützenvereine rallied to be a political enemy to nationalistic ideas – they vied to be somewhat of a local militia, but Bismarck’s „Revolution von Oben“ superceded that, rendering their political function useless. However, they are still around as an competitive shooting club, and much of the traditional culture in any given village derives from its Schützenverein, and the annual festival, the Schützenfest.

I’ve strayed a bit off topic (well, I had to since that has been what I was surrounded with the last 8 days), but you know what I mean – words like Führer (referring to Hitler) are hard to translate (leader is not a good approximation, so Führer is just substituted in English), and some English words that convey more than one meaning are split up into different words in German („home“ can mean „daheim“ or „Heimat“, for instance) which makes it difficult for a German speaker to translate since he has a different word for each concept.

I’m sure you can think of more words and why they are difficult/impossible to translate – I’ve actually left out a fair share so I can get a few comments on this one!


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