Translating for a Swiss German Audience
February 10, 2016, Boston, MA –Language Connections, a professional translation and interpreting services company, has recently worked on the project that required Swiss German translation from English. Translation companies encounter the need for translation services into German at a much higher rate than that of Swiss German. Needless to say, there are fewer Swiss German translators available too.
Despite the fact that there are many spoken dialects, Swiss Standard German is the unifying written language. However, this written form used in Switzerland is actually a variant of Standard German. “Translating for a Swiss German audience thus requires knowledge of these differences,” says Leo Galperin, President of Language Connections, “Even when there are subtle differences, they will ultimately determine whether or not the translated version is accurate and effective for the target audience.” Mr. Galperin explains that ensuring the translator is not only a native German speaker with a background in the subject matter, but also that the translator is aware of differences between Swiss German and the German spoken in Germany – that is to say that the translation is localized for the particular target audience for which it is intended – is crucial.
A look at vocabulary strongly suggests that there are significant differences between these two languages. For example, the phrase “Good day, may I help you?” is translated as “Guten Tag, kann ich Ihnen behilflich sein?” in German, but is “Grüessech, chani öich behiuflech si?” in the Swiss German translation. Additionally, many words or expressions in the Swiss German vocabulary have been adapted from French due to the country’s proximity both geographically and culturally to France and French speakers. For instance, in the Swiss German phrase meaning “Thanks a lot” the first word is borrowed from the French “Merci vilmal”, while in German the phrase is “Vielen Dank”.
Another thing to consider about a Swiss German translation are the many grammatical differences between the two languages. One of the most significant differences is that there is no simple past tense in Swiss German. When referring to the past, Swiss Germans only use the perfect tense. Another element unique to Swiss German is the absence of the genitive case. There are other grammatical peculiarities in Swiss German. For instance, depending on the article, numbers are gender-dependent in Swiss German. In the Bernese Swiss dialect, for example, the number changes with the gender of the noun: zwo froue (two women), zwe manne (two men), zwöi chind (two children). In contrast, in German the number two, zwei, remains the same regardless of the gender of the noun. Other differences apply with regards to gender articles, for example, E-mail is neuter in Swiss German (das E-Mail), while it is feminine in German (die E-Mail).
Language Connections has experienced Swiss German and German translators across different industries. Our linguists are skilled in translating texts ranging from highly technical research articles to children’s books, and into over 100 languages…
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