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Categorizing German Translation

The process of categorizing German translations is useful to translators because it helps them to evaluate the properties of the source text and decide how the target text should be presented. The process by which this is done is relatively simple. First, the translator reads the source text and notes its characteristics, content, and aims. From here, the translator can place the source text within a common genre of the source language. This allows the translator to place the target text within a genre that is common in the target language, and plan the best way to transform one into the other. These genres need not be literary; all texts can be placed into a broad category, from financial statements to corporate contracts, death certificates and marriage licenses. By categorizing German translations, the translators are hoping to produce a text that functions in the target language in a similar fashion to the way the source text functioned in the source language.

Different Genres

For the sake of categorizing German transitions, we can say that all texts will fall into one of five genres: empirical texts, philosophical texts, religious texts, persuasive texts, and literary texts. Empirical texts, as the name suggests, are characterized by an objective representation of the real world. This genre can include a vast number of other sub-categories, such as scientific texts, legal documents, and financial agreements. The second broad genre, philosophical texts, comprises documents that fall into the realm of pure thought, such as mathematical inquiries, speculative essays, etc. Religious texts describe the author’s faith, and present a worldview where the belief systems therein are presupposed to be true. Persuasive texts can include anything from didactic materials, such as instruction manuals, to advertisements, from propaganda to Op/Ed articles. The aim of these texts is to get readers to behave how or believe what the author wants them to. Finally, there is the literary genre, in which the author’s inner subjective world, a personal creation, is presented and described. By categorizing German translations into one of these five discrete groups, a translator can determine how best to conduct the translation, and what qualities the target text should have.

Inductive Method

When categorizing German translations, it is important for a translator to use inductive, rather than deductive reasoning. Although a German translator might no ahead of time into which genre an assignment will fall, he or she should by no means read the generalities of the genre onto the text. Instead, the translator must work the opposite way, taking the specific details of the source material and using them to place the text within a broader category. A translator must be adept at categorizing German translations in the target language as well, deciding how and to which target genre the source text corresponds.

This process can help a translator to assess the aims of a source text and select an appropriate way of presenting the target text, thereby preserving them.


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