By Marion Rhodes
Being aware of linguistic trends is crucial for translators. To avoid language atrophy, those of us who have traded our native home country for a foreign country home need to find ways to continually immerse ourselves in our mother tongue.
A German expatriate myself, I have to make a conscious effort to keep up with the evolution of my native language, which is being shaped by immigration and pop culture. Luckily, the Internet and modern technology offer plenty of opportunities for reading, watching and listening to German – and many other languages, for that matter – on a daily basis.
With the help of my colleagues in the ATA’s German Language Division, I have collected an exhaustive list of resources to share with my fellow expatriates at this year’s ATA Conference in San Francisco. My presentation, German Immersion Strategies for Expatriates and Other Deutsch-Fans, will explore some of the main influences on the German language and offer helpful ideas on how to stay immersed in the German language when you’re living outside a German-speaking country.
Considering the fact that a fifth of the German population has a migration background, meaning they are either immigrants themselves or descendants of immigrants, it is not surprising that everyday speech is changing. In a 2010 study, 84% of Germans said they had noticed significant changes in the German language, such as new words or a tendency to use simplified grammar. Without regular exposure to newspapers and magazines, TV shows, advertisements, radio banter, and of course conversations with other native speakers, expatriates are no longer exposed to such developments.
This is particularly problematic for marketing and PR translators or those of us who specialize in transcreation. Good marketing and advertising copy is designed to evoke emotions, and recreating that effect for a different country requires familiarity with idiomatic expressions and tone of voice used by various target groups in the local market. Marketers and copywriters need to connect with their audiences at eye level, talk the way they talk and use the words they use. So if you’re translating an ad campaign targeting Generation Z consumers, you’d better be up to date on your youth lingo. Likewise, if you are translating a B2B website, you should know which Anglicisms and neologisms improve your copy – and when you’re overdoing it.
My presentation will demonstrate the fluidity of modern German with examples that highlight the importance of staying in touch with its linguistic development. Drawing on my own experience and the input from my colleagues, I will share immersion strategies to keep your native language alive and fresh even if it is no longer your primary language. Whether you are looking for ways to watch German TV abroad, need help connecting with other German speakers in your area or are interested in the best podcasts to keep up your German skills, you are sure to walk away with some useful tips that can help improve the native style of your translations.
Header image credit: Pexels
Marion Rhodes is an English-German translator and copywriter specializing in PR & marketing communications and transcreation. A native of Germany, she has lived in the United States for more than 15 years and currently resides in San Diego County, California. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska and is finishing her master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at West Virginia University this fall. In April, she was elected president of the Colorado Translators Association, for which she previously served as social media coordinator.