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31st Oct 2020

Berlin declaration's 'fortune' is lost in translation

  • Is good fortune lost in translation? (Photo: German EU presidency)

The Berlin Declaration presented by German chancellor Angela Merkel last weekend uses the German word "Glück" – meaning fortune or happiness - but the word has been avoided in other language versions of the declaration. That is "political translation," says one professor.

The declaration, adopted during the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaties in Berlin on Sunday (25 March), says in German that "We, the citizens in the European Union, are united zu unserem Glück " - which means "united in our fortune/happiness."

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However, in the other versions of the text the word Glück has been given a less solemn treatment.

"We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better," the more down-to-earth English version says.

The word has also disappeared from the Danish version where Glück has been replaced with "'vor fælles bedste" meaning "for the best" and further down the declaration the word has been lost in translation.

There are so many deviations in the Danish version that it cannot possibly be a coincidence, Henning Kock – a professor in constitutional law at Copenhagen University - told Danish daily Politiken on Monday (26 March).

"It would come as a big surprise to me if the translators are bad at German. So then it's a political translation," he said about the Danish version.

According to Mr Koch, the German word Glück – used in the declaration to describe the good fortune of 50 years of peace and unity – is too big a word for the Danes to use.

"Great, gushing and emotional terms are something the Danes fear," he said, adding that "Danish pragmatism cannot handle that we are happy for the EU. But you cannot deny reality by turning around the words."

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