Translation Fun

March 21, 2010

Nice article. In German. First paragraph:

“Es ist allgemein bekannt, dass es in Deutschland nur eine interessante Stadt gibt, und das ist selbstverständlich Berlin. Jede Menge Stuttgarter, Kölner oder Freiburger ziehen nach Berlin und benehmen sich dort alsbald so, als seien sie Berliner. Die größten Probleme Berlins sind nicht die Armut, der Bürgermeister oder die Hundekacke, sondern vielmehr die Berliner. Berlin ohne Berliner wäre eine wunderbare Stadt, ungefähr so wie Siena ohne Touristen oder der Prenzlauer Berg ohne kinderwagenschiebende Schwaben.”


Everyone knows that there’s only one interesting city in Germany, and that city is, without question, Berlin. Observe: the crowds of people from Stuttgart, Cologne, and Freiburg who move to Berlin and immediately start acting like “Berliners.” Indeed, the biggest problem Berlin has isn’t the poverty, the mayor, nor the dog poop, but rather the Berliners. Without the Berliners, Berlin would be a wonderful city, like Siena without the tourists or Prenzlauer Berg without the stroller-pushing yuppies.

So here’s the translation issue. In this essay, Berlin is what New York is to Americans. But I can’t just replace “Berlin” with “New York.” That’s taking free translation a bit too far. But then, what to do with that last sentence? It says “Berlin would be [..] like Prenzlauer Berg without the stroller-pushing Swabians.” Well, asks the American reader, what the heck is a Swabian? And what is Prenzlauer Berg? The answers are easy: Prenzlauer Berg is exactly like Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Swabians are just like the Park Slope yuppies that everyone loves to disdain.

Okay that’s it. As a former Berliner, I liked this article.


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