Study Shows German Translators Should Eliminate Small Talk

Professional translators have a difficult job. In addition to being able to accurately translate each word in a given piece of work, they must also understand the cultural context of both languages to make sure idioms are not misrepresented. They must also understand the cultural usage for individual words, as some words might not have a direct translation. In that case, they still must translate to the best of their ability using other combinations of words. This difficult task is always an issue when conversations are translated into German, because speakers of the German language don’t have much patience for small talk.

Research Shows Germans Don’t Like “Empty Verbiage”

In a study that was considered politeness research, the results showed that people who speak German as their native language don’t generally make small talk, or “empty verbiage.” For example, two Germans starting a conversation would not toss around phrases such as, “How are you doing? The weather is nice today.” Instead, they get straight to the point of the conversation, as they deem it more polite. German translators need to know this about the language so that they can omit any unnecessary parts of the conversation that might actually be deemed impolite by the German-speaking recipient of the translation.

Small Talk is Even Eliminated in Children’s’ Books

People who speak many different languages all use small talk as a way to connect and show respect before entering into an actual conversation. In some instances, small talk is even the conversation in its entirety with no real substance to follow. German-speaking individuals are so ambivalent to the polite chatter that they actually removed it in the German translation of A Bear Called Paddington. In the book, small talk such as, “Hello Mrs. Bird,” and, “It’s nice to see you again” was omitted. This book is only one of many books wherein the translation properly removed the small talk from the scenario.

Small talk is usually not that important to a conversation’s meaning, and it is more a show of respect. If a German professional translation of any work did include empty verbiage, its readers would be unimpressed and bored by the unnecessary additions. This is yet another reason that hiring a professional to translate serious and important conversations could save you embarrassment when trying to connect with someone who speaks another language. By including mindless chatter, you could easily offend them.

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