Knowing Chinese makes you sexy, rich and happy :)


August 30, 2011 – 9:31 am

Occasionally I translate some text from English to German. This year I’ve been struggling with translating one certain word: SOCIAL

Personally I don’t believe in the social hype. What does social really mean? I’m talking about social in the context of the new Web 2.0 websites and certain products. Does it mean: We give you some crap and therefore we take ownership of all your private data and then sell it? That’s how I see it.

I once learned, that a translator has to try to achieve two objectives:

  1. Stay true to the original text
  2. Translate in a way the meaning is NOT lost during the translation process.

Making a translation true to the original is easy. Making sure the meaning of the original is not lost is more difficult. Whoever set up those rules probably meant: Translate in a way the meaning as intended by the original author is NOT lost during the translation process, even if the original meaning is a intended to mislead the reader. Yay!

Here is the original bugger:
Music made social – BBM Music is a cloud-based, social music service that allows you to share and discover music with your friends, creating a continually evolving music library:

and a few lines later they state how SOCIAL they are:

Monthly fee: $US 4.99

  1. 8 Responses to “SOCIAL”

  2. Well in our beautiful new world translators can have an easy life by not translating difficult terms at all – the term “social network” can perfectly be used in a German text. Any try to translate it either ends up with a wrong meaning (e.g. “soziales netzwerk”, which sounds more like some kind of welfare network) or in a term that nobody understands (e.g. “gesellschaftliches Netzwerk”) or that just transports totally wrong emotions (e.g. “geselliges Netzwerk”).

    Thus, I’m an advocat of using anglicisms in German.

    However, social networks themselves seem to me like a great idea – they make my life really easier, as most of my fellow students don’t use any professional time or task planning solution but everyone knows how to access the internet through a web browser.
    I’m not the kind of guy who spends hours online looking at other’s pictures, but I often use sites like (usually along with doodle) for scheduling meetings and managing tasks.

    Cloud computing is something that I’m more worried about. While I like the idea of outsourcing my data management to save time and money, I don’t trust most cloud computing providers. I don’t worry about that they could access my data (as I encrypt it anyway) but I am afraid of losing it if the company goes bankrupt or stops its cloud computing business.
    Thus, I am still using my own servers (I have some virtual windows 2008 servers as my company allowed me to use their hardware and microsoft gave me some free licences cuz I’m a student), although that is quite time consuming… but at least I learn a great deal about the latest microsoft software :)

    Perhaps in the future, there will be some reliable cloud computing providers, but unless they get as reliable as banks I won’t entrust them with my precious data.


    By Aremonus on Aug 31, 2011

  3. It’s not that easy. While you and me understand Anglicisms, many people do not. Personally I couldn’t care less about Anglicisms, but when I translate something, I have to think about the target audience.

    Eine repräsentative Umfrage über die Verständlichkeit von zwölf gebräuchlichen englischen Schlagworten für deutsche Kunden ergab im Jahr 2003, dass einige von ihnen von weniger als 10 % der Befragten verstanden wurden. Acht der zwölf untersuchten Unternehmen hätten ihre Werbefloskeln seitdem geändert. 2008 störten sich in einer Umfrage der Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache 39 % der Befragten an Lehnwörtern aus dem Englischen. Die Ablehnung war in den Bevölkerungsgruppen am größten, die Englisch weder sprechen noch verstehen konnten (58 % Ablehnung bei der Gruppe der über 59-Jährigen, 46 % Ablehnung bei ostdeutschen Umfrageteilnehmern).

    But apart from that more general problem with Anglicisms, the word SOCIAL implies a certain meaning, but when you look at it you realize, there is not much social about social.

    Yes, some people need 1 week or more to answer an email, and at the same time they answer their facebook messages within 1 hour. I still have my facebook account just because of these people.

    I have the same issue with cloud computing as you, but it feels so cozy, so I just use it :D

    By Hendrik on Aug 31, 2011

  4. I’m sure that marketing departments know what they want to achieve with certain buzzwords – but I’m not so sure that there is an accurate translation for stuff like social networks to be found at all.
    If we approach social networks from the supposed intentions of users, maybe karrierefördernde internetbasierte Kontaktplattform could work – but so would kampagnenbegleitende Internetplattform when it’s a political website.
    Either way – before thinking about an adequate translation, intentions on the supply- and demand-side need to be considered.

    By justrecently on Aug 31, 2011

  5. Lovely translations :)
    Yes, I need to look at the intent of everyone, if the price per translated word is high enough.

    By Hendrik on Sep 1, 2011

  6. Personally, I don’t give a damn about people whose education level is too low to understand certain basic expressions, as they wouldn’t understand the direct translation either. Probably, this kind of people wouldn’t understand the Wiki-Text you’ve quoted, as it contains words like “repräsentativ” :)

    I believe that English should be the official language in Europe and that not every single expression needs to be translated into (often made-up words in) 20 diffrent languages.
    Chinas’s approach of having one single standard language facilitates communication all over the country – and boosts economic ties. Why not introduce this advantage also in Europe? Are we too decadent and assertive to accept that our native language isn’t necessarily the most important in the world? Can’t we see the advantages of knowing several languages?

    By Aremonus on Sep 1, 2011

  7. I have thought about that, but it deserves a complete new article. I have another article prepared on a different topic for tonight, but I’d like to write about language diversity in my next post.

    By Hendrik on Sep 1, 2011

  8. Are we too decadent and assertive to accept that our native language isn’t necessarily the most important in the world? Can’t we see the advantages of knowing several languages?
    To know yourself isn’t about decadence. Europe is certainly in need of a common economic and fiscal policy, but not to abandon its national languages. English is the lingua franca anyway, and a growing number of eurocrats are now bypassing translation services and speak English right away (yes, even the French and Spanish).

    Languages and mindsets are inter-related – “Die Grenzen meiner Sprache sind die Grenzen meiner Welt” (Wittgenstein). If we harmonized Europe with some kind of putong-english or putong-esperanto, this continent would become culturally and economically weaker, rather than stronger.

    By justrecently on Sep 1, 2011

  9. I agree that language diversity can also be a chance, but let this diversity just be in our culture, not in our laws.
    If I have to write laws and even product descriptions in 20 diffrent languages, I won’t gain cultural diversity or broader philosophy – I’ll be merely struggling with further costs and more narrow markets.

    My purpose is not to ask everyone to only talk english – I just want everyone to be capable of speaking english fluently and understanding it easily.
    When they even dub movies in cinemas, cultural goods seem to be rather distroyed than improved.

    By Aremonus on Sep 1, 2011

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.