UK Government Ridiculed for ‘Archaic’ German Translation of Brexit Plan
A botched translation into German has been added to the controversies surrounding British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, while inviting ridicule of the British government.
May’s Chequers plan on Brexit has already caused plenty of issues in Britain as it has forced her to reshuffle much of the Cabinet after the resignations of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
The Brexit White Paper, which has just been criticized as problematic on a number of counts by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, was translated by the UK government in the 21 other official languages of the European Union (as well as in Welsh).
The move has been construed by some in Brussels as an attempt by the UK government to circumvent the European Commission, the EU executive, and negotiate the terms of Brexit directly with the member states, The Independent reports.
What is more, however, the White Paper’s German translation is described as botched, and inviting ridicule from German-speaking Brussels officials and diplomats. It is said to be “unreadable” and written in strange “archaic” language featuring made-up compound words.
Even the headline description of the white paper on the British government’s official website contained a grammar mistake, describing it as being written in “Deutsche” instead of “Deutsch” (the original mistake was corrected later).
A German speaker who had read the paper said the language used was “old school to the max” and made Brexit sound “very mythical” because of the “archaic and needlessly complex” language.
“It’s written really weirdly. It reminds me of Old German texts,” they said.
The document faced ridicule on social media, too. Twitter user Oscar D Torson branded the “Weisspaper” as “awful to read” and “not German”.
“It was translated by someone who learned German in school to a decent level but who never really spoke it, and who is also not a professional translator,” he said.
“What does ‘Fischergemeinden’ even mean? People praying for fish?” he added.
The Independent comments that the lack of foreign language skills in Whitehall remains a long-standing issue for the British civil service.
It recalls that in 2015, Sir Tony Brenton, a former UK ambassador to Moscow, told a House of Lords inquiry that the British Foreign Office lacked enough Russian speakers to understand in full the situation during the Ukraine crisis of 2014.
In another inquiry, the foreign affairs committee of the British House of Commons found that only 38% of the “speaker slots” at the Foreign Office were filled by someone who could speak the language to the specified level.
(Banner image: UK government’s website)