Writing two blogs, one in German and one in English, is a lot of work. Not quite twice the work as writing one blog, because I can use the same photos twice. But it’s more work than some might think. Because my articles in English cannot be a simple translation of the German original. No, I need to change the links, reinvent the jokes, come up with new metaphors and alliterations, and explain things for one group of readers which another part of the esteemed readership might already know. After all, readers from the Bayou come with a different background than those in Bavaria.
Some articles – or parts thereof – are practically untranslatable. There are things that only work in one language, and not in the other. Knowing two languages very well is also to know the limitations of each and not to try brute force, as machine translation would do.
One example is the episode for February 1922, which I wrote on my German blog: one 2,180-word sentence, which would read completely stilted, unnatural and horrible in English, but which in German sounds as melodic as the birdsong of sultry sirens. (The Greek sirens, not air-raid sirens, mind you.) I guess it’s no coincidence that the occasion for it, the Day of the Convoluted Multi-Clause Sentence, celebrated or, I should, in line with readers’ justified expectations regarding this blog, be completely honest, open and forthcoming, mostly ignored on the 25th day of the, for reasons having to do with misgivings between Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII and their respective ways of measuring time, unusually short month of February, hasn’t been adopted worldwide.
Lastly, I often simply lack the time (or energy) to write two versions of the same article. After researching, thinking and writing about a topic for several days, it can feel tedious or tiring to spend another day translating it. Especially when my mind is already toying with ideas for new stories instead.
For these reasons, there has been quite a gap in the English-language episodes of this little history series “One Hundred Years Ago …”. For those of you who either speak German or are not intimidated by the mediocre qualities of machine translation, I shall point you to the episodes that you may have missed in 2022.
In April 1922 (or really in April 2022), I covered the long, slow and arduous history of trying to decriminalize homosexuality in Germany, as ever slightly complicated the existence of quite a number of different Germanys in the past 100 years. Although already debated in 1922 (and before), including in parliament, homosexuality was only decriminalized in West Germany in 1994. (East Germany had long ago legalized it, and reunification talks almost collapsed over this issue. In the end, East Germany negotiated an exception from federal criminal law.)
In May 1922, Germans were outraged not so much about French and Belgian occupation of parts of their country (which would widen in January 1923), but by the occupying powers using – oh, gosh! – African soldiers.
Of course, Germany had also used African soldiers in its colonies and in World War I. But when did logic ever stop racism?
Germans started a nationwide, and indeed international, racist campaign, inventing many of the stereotypes that are still around today: Africans bring disease, Africans rape women, Africans are generally inferior, bla bla bla. Maybe the worst thing about this campaign was that it was not some losers on Facebook, but actual government agencies who orchestrated it. They printed racist pamphlets and newspapers, they ran racist movies, and they tried to rally international opinion. Not quite unsuccessfully, sadly.
And maybe there is a direct line from there to November 1922, when a certain Adolf Hitler made his first appearance. Noticed by the domestic and the international press, he was initially dismissed as a loudmouth, a rabble-rouser, an agitator with no substance, a mere local and passing phenomenon.
How wrong they were, as we know now. Not for the last time, either.
Come to think of it, maybe I didn’t deem it worthwhile to translate these articles, because I thought that German history wouldn’t attract too much interest beyond this little country. (Now considerably littler than in 1922, for reasons not wholly unconnected.) Sadly, though, in the early 1920s, Germany was where the action was. And, naturally, it’s the country that I know most about.
But in December 1922, when I covered the polar expedition of Fridtjof Nansen, there was really no excuse, except that by the end of the year, I had run out of time to translate that article jumping back and forth between Yetis and passports, Mongolia and climate change.
For 1923, I hope to cover more international topics again, of interest to readers on all continents, from Sumatra to Suriname, from Alaska to Australia, from Buenos Aires to Baikonur. – Or machine translation will become so good that I will simply ask you to subscribe to the blog in German. ;-)
- All articles of the series “One Hundred Years Ago …”.
- More history.
- Oh, and if you do want to learn German, here is one way.
Poor you. 😉All this brillant work in English and German. Ich würde es vermissen, wenn du einen davon einstelltest.
Vielleicht müsste ich einfach mal wieder in einem englischsprachigen Land leben. Dann stellt sich das Sprachempfinden automatisch um, sowie der Wunsch, sich in jener Sprache auszurücken, automatisch ein.
Aber als Blogger-Kollege kannst du das sicher nachvollziehen, dass man, wenn man tage- und nächtelang an einem Text feilt, so erleichtert ist, wenn er endlich veröffentlicht ist, dass man sich nicht sogleich wieder mit der Übersetzung des selben, gleichen und identischen Textes befassen möchte.
Noch dazu, wenn man weiß, dass die Fein-, Schön- und Besonderheiten der deutschen Sprache nicht ohne große, in Umfang, Ausmaß und Dramatik durchaus an Schlachten an der Somme erinnernde Verluste ins Englische zu übertragen sind.
Ja, kann ich verstehen. Schreiben ist Arbeit, auch wenn man sich was von der Seele schreibt. Um die Möglichkeit, zwischen Deutsch und Englisch zu wandern beneide ich dich allerdings.
First off, apologies for not being around. We’ve had two cats and a dog die in the past three weeks, so I haven’t really been up to being social.
Second, a very weird question. Did you try to call my wife’s cell phone today? She received two calls from Berlin (Germany. not Ohio), but her phone is set up to block unfamiliar numbers. You are the only person I know who might even be in Berlin, much less trying to call me. If it wasn’t you, well, we’ll just have to live with the mystery. (If it WAS you, please contact me via my Email, and we’ll set up a time you can actually get through to us – on the unlikely chance you were trying to call me.)
Sorry for the silly interruption. :)
I am terribly sorry to hear about the cats and the dog. :-(
But no, I didn’t try to call anyone.
(I am the opposite, by the way. I am much more likely to answer unfamiliar numbers than those that I know already.)
Thanks for the sympathy. I knew the phone call was a long shot, but figured I’d check. We have a dual problem with her phone number – it used to belong to a deadbeat, and we STILL get collection calls, almost a decade later; and the phone spam here in Ohio is absolutely atrocious – and they use unlisted numbers to try to get people to answer. It;s a case of screen calls or go nuts trying to answer them all – and you can vouch for the fact that I don’t need to get any crazier than I already am! :D