6 takeaways from an introduction to the German legal system

Last Saturday I attended a full day workshop in Birmingham on the German legal system. ‘Einführung in das deutsche Recht’ was aimed at all translators (we all have to sign contracts after all) not just those specialising in legal texts and Heike Simon, a lawyer, lecturer and translator from Bayreuth, took us through some of the basics.

Some of the main takeaways from the day were:

  • Having a look at the relevant law will often help since many contracts will use the terminology from the BGB
    • Action point: buy a copy of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) available on Amazon Prime for £6.60
  • The BGB is also online (http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/index.html) as are all other laws and there are even translations into English to get you started at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_bgb/
  • Be very wary of translating ‘fair and reasonable’ as ‘Treu und Glauben’ and vice versa as these terms to do not encompas the whole meaning of each other
  • Different terms for the same thing are used in different areas of the law – this will help you find out which area of the law is applicable – you need to check you’re using the correct terminology for that area
  • A ‘simple’ Kaufsvertrag’ is not actually all that simple! In Germany it’s not one but 3 different types of transaction rolled into one…
  • Fun fact: German lawyers’ usual response to anything is identical to lawyers in English (only in German, obviously!) ‘es kommt darauf an’

It was a great workshop (thanks to Cherry for organising!) and lovely to see some familiar faces and new ones too.

Probably would’ve been useful to have more clue about the English legal system first though! *adds to CPD plan*

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