On Translation: The German-language Synod Discussion Group

As I’m sure you’ve seen all over the web, the bishops at the synod in Rome have completed their first week of work, and the summaries of the discussions groups’ work have been published.

The German-language group has in its report an interesting criticism of the overly literal, and hence misleading translation of the Instrumentum Laboris they were given. This sounds eerily like a criticism of Liturgiam authenticam on liturgical translation – but I don’t know if they had that in mind or not.

Below is my translation of the German speakers’ comments, followed by the German original. I include the original because there is no such thing as an absolutely accurate translation, and all translation is interpretation. Some may wish to improve upon my translation!


The German translation follows the Italian text rather closely, which, however, at times makes the German text often hard to understand. Reasons for this are the overly long sentences, which demand shorter sentences in German. The convoluted style also presents difficulties. In general, shorter sentences and a better structuring of the contents is called for in this. In the translation of the final texts, good style, easy readability, and a clear line of thought is called for. The translation should not be interlinear, but rather in accord with the meaning.


Die deutsche Übersetzung folgt relativ genau dem italienischen Text, was aber bisweilen den deutschen Text oft schwer verständlich macht. Gründe dafür sind oft die überlangen Sätze, die im deutschen kürzere Sätze erfordern. Auch der verschachtelte Stil macht zu schaffen. Hier ist generell auf kürzere Sätze zu achten und bessere Strukturierung der Inhalte. Bei der Übersetzung der endgültigen Texte ist auf einen guten Stil, angenehme Lesbarkeit und klaren Duktus zu achten. Die Übersetzung sollten nicht interlinear, sondern sinngemäß sein.


  1. Interlinear is a good word to describe the current ET of MR3. That is, its genre veers more towards study than proclamation. And that needs to change.

  2. How much of this is criticism of the translation and how much is criticism of the original document?

    If the original Italian contain “overly long sentences” and “convoluted style” then it seems reasonable that the translations would also. The Italian document may indeed need a good editor, but I don’t think the translator should be that person.

  3. Clearly the German-speaking bishops need to abandon their insistence upon ideals and come to terms with the real world in which many people do in fact write long, convoluted sentences. Rather than employing a vocabulary of condemnation and judgment they ought to focus on all that is good in the translation as it stands.

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