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Author: Anja Peschel

Quality management with ISO 9001 – added value for translation services

Peschel Communications first obtained its ISO 9001:2015 certification in 2021.

Preparing for the international certification for quality management systems was no easy feat, but it helped us further improve our tried-and-tested internal processes. So we are proud of the result, particularly because not many language service providers of our size are able to boast a certified quality management system.

ISO 9001 – tried and tested

ISO 9001:2015 is the world’s best-known quality management standard for companies and organisations, such as schools or hospitals. Particularly in technical industries, the standard is widely used to qualify suppliers by requiring them to present an ISO 9001 certification. The standard covers more than just the products or services offered: Rather than just looking at the value creation itself, it also covers management and support processes, such as strategic product development, IT security and onboarding.

ISO 9001 in a translation company

The lion’s share of our quality management is dedicated to value creation, which in our case is the creation of translations, or the coordination of a multilingual team of interpreters. For each of our services, a clear process has been identified and documented. If you are looking to have your website translated from German into English, for example, the process starts with a consultation with one of our project managers. This is to identify which version of English (British, American or even “globish”) you require to communicate with your customers, and which keywords may be relevant for your search engine optimisation (SEO). Or maybe what you need is transcreation, a creative marketing translation. Once you have placed your order, your project manager will plan each individual process step, such as file management, translation, revision, DTP, etc. According to ISO 9001, each of these steps must be documented.

Let me give you another example: You would like to have a medical letter translated so that your doctor abroad knows what is going on. Here, our quality management system takes effect long before the medical text is actually translated into another language: Quality management also means that we treat sensitive documents with the utmost confidentiality. Another quality aspect guaranteed under ISO 9001 is that all players along the process chain – from the project manager and translator to the revisor – must have an adequate (academic) qualification for the job. Our QM system also has a set process for the selection of linguists, and this process is regularly reviewed.

Risks and opportunities

The recurring theme of ISO 9001 is risk analysis at every step of the way. So, who needs to be able to read confidential documents, who needs access to business secrets? How can we ensure that we can continue working even if our servers should fail? How do we plan our personnel resources so that we always have sufficient capacities – even during a pandemic? Thoroughly understanding our customers’ needs and putting ourselves in the position to be able to meet them is an intrinsic element of our QM system.

This is what our ISO 9001 certification means for you:

You can rest assured that…

  • we have a functioning quality assurance system
  • we are qualified to help you if your own processes require an ISO 9001-certified supplier
  • quality is the essence of everything we do
  • our project managers will document your particular requirements and make sure that they are met;
  • we will document and take heed of your feedback
  • our business processes are subject to a continuous improvement process
  • we carefully analyse and weigh risks and opportunities.

Do you still have questions? We will be happy to explain in person what our ISO 9001 means for you. Call us or use the contact form on our website.

An American in Freiburg

My summer internship with Peschel Communications

Marshall Montner in Freiburg

As an American exchange student who had never been abroad before, I joined Peschel Communications for a summer internship. I was in for a few surprises.

My biggest takeaway since being in Germany is the importance of language skills. In typical American fashion, I came here without any prior German knowledge, relying on the fact that my classes would be in English and that allGermans would speak English. To my naïve surprise, since arriving off the plane and asking for directions at the Frankfurt airport, language posed the greatest barrier and still remains the largest factor of “culture shock” I experience.

English is not spoken here

For whatever reason, I had a preconceived notion that every tram announcement would also be in English, as would every menu and sign. But this was not the case. For the first time outside of a language class, I was expected to speak a language other than English. While it is a privilege for my native language to be the global language, I now truly believe that no foreign market outside the US will ever be identical, no matter how globalized our world becomes.

Language and Culture

While the German language was my biggest barrier, I inevitably witnessed many differences beyond language – without having to even leave the Western part of the world. Again, in typical American fashion, I will make grandiose, stereotypical assumptions from my glimpse into German culture in contrast to American culture. Many Germans tend to be more direct in communication and can be more formal than Americans (hence du and Sie). Evident of a more collectivist society, Germans rely on social welfare programs and public transportation. German culture seems more traditional through shops being closed on Sundays, the dominance of cash payment and normalized adherence to rules and punctuality.

The need for translation will never disappear

As someone who hopes to work for a multinational company after graduating, I have come to the conclusion that English may dominate the world, but the need for translation will never disappear. Despite studying global markets in the US, it was attending university and interning in Germany that would made the various cultural, historical, political, and economic nuances of the world apparent to me.

Translation encompasses more than just words

American culture, values, and history will never become the homogenous world market and audience. Businesses cannot operate from a framework that merely transfers their specific content into more than one market. Perhaps, my biggest takeaway from my time at Peschel is that translation encompasses far more than linguistics but that products, strategies, references, puns, branding, and visuals have to be translated too when successfully entering new markets (a creative process called transcreation).

Leaving American Waters

This experience has solidified my desire to explore more parts of the world. In doing so, I hope to immerse myself to learn the sui generis aspects that define every culture. I will undoubtedly carry on with me a new perspective and appreciation for translation services that make the world seem so much smaller than it really is.

I had to cross the pond to realize everything I had ever learned was simply American water (culture and social norms). Translators have the task of crossing pond to pond for you so that your entity’s presence can thrive in all target markets.

Contact Peschel Communications for a quote or inquiry.

Opportunities and Limitations of Multilingual SEO

Why a dictionary won’t get you very far when it comes to true localisation

SEO und Übersetzen

For translators, search engine optimisation, better known as SEO, is becoming more and more pertinent to their work. With a growing number of businesses aiming to ensure that customers the world over can find them through search engines, requirements have shifted. But how can translators best implement SEO and incorporate relevant keywords? And what can your business expect from them? We have summarized the most important opportunities and limitations of multilingual SEO for you.

What SEO keywords are there?

SEO refers to all activities aimed at improving the organic search ranking of a specific website by search engines such as Google. One of the most common strategies to achieve this involves incorporating so-called keywords, i.e. heavily searched terms. Experts distinguish between two types of keywords: short-tail and long-tail keywords.

Short-tail keywordLong-tail keyword
usually individual words quite general high search volume heavy competitionphrases more specific lower search volume better chance of a good ranking

The challenges of multilingual SEO

“We’ve been working on our German website. Could you just translate those keywords for us?” More and more companies have woken up to the fact that potential customers generally prefer searching for and consuming information in their native language. However, giving them access to just that is not as straightforward as the above question suggests.

This is because SEO activities are specific to both markets and languages. Your tried and tested keywords that have caught the attention of so many customers in your home market will not necessarily work the same magic in a different language. So what do you need to know?

Why multilingual SEO is not simply a matter of translation

Take the word “mobile phone”. Even in English, this term will require a market-specific search – because depending on where you are in the world, you might be looking for a “cell phone” instead. Similarly, although the word “Mobiltelefon” exists in German, it’s unlikely to be the word that most Germans use in their search. “Handy” is, of course, the much more commonly searched term and the one likely to reach your potential customers. You’ll find that nearly every term has more than one potential translation, making your dictionary a less than ideal go-to tool for multilingual SEO.

  • Search behaviour differs from language to language and from market to market
  • Search intent differs from language to language and from market to market
  • Direct translations may have little or no search volume
  • Not every possible keyword is a good keyword
  • Everyday language and technical terminology don’t always correspond
  • SEO is more relevant for some sectors than for others
  • SEO keywords are constantly changing and must be regularly updated

So how do you best tap into multilingual SEO?

None of this is to say that potential customers in new markets will not be interested in your products and services, and it also doesn’t mean that SEO efforts in other languages will automatically be in vain. Just don’t rely on your dictionary, but rather on language and market-specific synonyms and keywords that have been determined through dedicated keyword research based on background knowledge of the relevant market.

When looking for the right partner to provide you with linguistic support in achieving this, you should ask the following questions:

  • Will my keywords work in a different language?
  • Which additional, language-specific keywords are there?
  • What do search behaviours and search terms in my target country/market look like?
  • How can these keywords be used most effectively?
  • Does SEO even make sense in my target market?
  • How might content need to be adapted or restructured?
  • How can I manage my keywords and keep them up to date?

What translators can offer you

How can the right translation company support you in your efforts to optimize your search results? Is a translation the way forward? Yes and no! Translators who know their way around multilingual SEO and know how to implement keywords in other languages are a valuable resource – but only if they meet specific criteria:

  • Your translation service provider is SEO-literate and has in-depth experience with your target markets
  • Your translation company is able to advise you on your SEO strategy and can conduct SEO research for you
  • Your translation company provides long-term support with managing and updating keywords
  • Your translation service provider is able to rewrite or restructure content if needed

Don’t believe anyone who advertises simply translating your keywords as an adequate strategy for success in your target markets. There’s way more to it! All the more reason to put your multilingual SEO efforts into the hands of a provider who knows what they’re doing. We’re happy to tell you more.

Online meetings with interpreters

Follow our tips to ensure that your online meeting with interpreters runs smoothly! In addition to the following requirements, we recommend initiating a test call and holding a briefing with all active participants.

Use the right equipment

  • Choose the right video conference platform. Will the conference be interpreted into one foreign language? Then you’ll need two language channels (original and translation). We will be happy to advise you.
  • If you choose to use a video conference platform without a built-in function for interpreting, participants who wish to listen to the interpreters will need to use two devices (e.g. a laptop and a smartphone).
  • Make sure your connection is stable. An internet connection via ethernet cable is more reliable than using Wi-Fi.
  • Ensure that your internet connection is fast enough. We recommend a download speed of more than 100 Mbit and an upload speed of over 40 Mbit. You can test these speeds at
  • Use a good microphone with a frequency range of 125 Hz to 15,000 Hz (USB headset recommended).
  • Don’t rely on Bluetooth connections – they can be unstable and cut out when the device’s battery dies.
  • Smartphone headphones with a built-in microphone are insufficient, but are still better than using your computer’s or webcam’s microphone.
  • Don’t use a conference phone as these pick up lots of background noise.
  • Make sure that your chosen system is equipped with hearing protection that automatically tunes out peaks over 94 dB lasting for more than 100 ms.

Choose a quiet environment

  • Find the right acoustics – small spaces, full bookshelves, carpeting and curtains all absorb sound and ensure that everyone in the conference only hears your voice.
  • Keep background noise to a minimum. Turn down your heater or air conditioner and close doors and windows.
  • Don’t get interrupted. Deactivate your phone’s notifications and hang a “Do not disturb” sign on the door.

Respect netiquette

  • Set up your platform so that all participants’ microphones are muted by default.
  • Designate a co-host who can mute any participants who have accidentally left their microphones on and who is available during the conference to handle any technical issues.
  • Ask all active participants to turn their cameras on for the duration.
  • Request that speakers enunciate, particularly with regard to acronyms and proper names.
  • Ensure that active participants’ full names appear with their video feed.
  • Encourage participants to speak in the language of the conference in which they feel most comfortable – typically this is their native language.

Keep your image professional

  • Sit in front of a neutral background with decent lighting to ensure that your facial expressions can be seen. This reinforces what you have to say.
  • Position yourself in the middle of the frame, making sure your head and torso are visible so that others can read your body language.
  • Look into the camera to give the effect of making eye contact.
  • Make sure that your camera is positioned at eye level and that it doesn’t wobble.

Share valuable information with the interpreters

  • Make all presentations, the agenda, participants’ names and video clips available to the interpreters ahead of time.
  • Hold a test run with the interpreters to clear up any questions about how the conference will be conducted.

Do you still have questions? We will be happy to offer you advice on the appropriate interpreting solution for your next online meeting!

Telephone: +49 761 380969-0

8 Questions for Andrea Unkelbach

Interview Andrea Unkelbach

Senior Project Manager Andrea Unkelbach is celebrating 15 years at Peschel Communications this year – the perfect occasion to ask her a few questions.

When you first joined Peschel Communications (then still called Übersetzungsbüro Peschel), did you expect to still be working here 15 years later?

To be honest, I did not have any expectations at all. I had just graduated, had no practical experience just theoretical knowledge – and did not have any idea what a translator’s everyday life was like. I learned so much every single day, especially at the beginning. And it quickly became clear that I didn’t really want to be a translator – that project management was what I was passionate about, working in direct contact with clients and colleagues. Over the years, Übersetzungsbüro Peschel evolved, and so did I. There was always something new happening, so I never got bored. That is probably why it never occurred to me to seek out a new challenge.

How has your typical day at work changed in the last 15 years?

The language industry has made immense technological progress in the last 15 years – and we were always at the spearhead of progress. We initially relied on Excel to organise our client and order lists, eventually switching to a simple desktop management system followed by a professional, web-based translation project management software which also “talks to” our CAT tool and email system.

At the beginning, I was able to manage all of our projects on my own. Today, there are four project managers at Peschel Communications, which means that on top of the typical day-to-day management of translation projects, I am also team leader and am involved in strategic development. Every time I think that I can finally lean back and just let things fall into place as they should, something new pops up, decisions have to be made, new processes have to be introduced. There is never a dull moment.

Are there any aspects of your working life 15 years ago that you miss?

Actually, I absolutely love managing translation projects. Today, I have a lot of additional tasks which means that I don’t often have the opportunity to manage a project from start to finish. So I am always happy when I get to step in for one of my colleagues and spend all day managing projects. Talking to clients, juggling projects and making sure every piece of the puzzle fits up until a translation is ready for print – and the feeling you get when everything has worked out – these are the things I enjoy the most and which give me the greatest sense of satisfaction.

If you weren’t a translation project manager, what profession would you have chosen?

I think if I had to choose a new career, I would probably be a pastry chef. But that’s a passion that I have only developed in recent years. And besides, I don’t think I would like the hours.

Of all the projects that you have managed over the years, is there one that has really stuck in your mind?

I remember many projects quite well – for many different reasons. But one of the most exciting challenges in recent years was a website for our longstanding client KNF Neuberger GmbH, which we translated into 11 languages. If you have 11 languages, that means that a minimum of 22 translators and revisors are involved, as well as our project managers, the client’s project managers, graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, etc. Juggling all of that was very exciting indeed.

You have a very wide range of tasks. Which characteristics would you say define a good project manager?

Keeping a cool head when things get heated, always staying on top of things and remaining flexible are definitively important traits to have. When I get to my desk in the morning, I usually have no idea what the day may bring. What may start off as a quiet morning can become really hectic in the blink of an eye. Managing to keep your cool and never losing your sense of humour are certainly valuable assets to have.

How has your typical day at work changed during the pandemic? What new challenges are you faced with as a project manager?

What springs to mind first – and this is probably the word of the year – is working from home. Before the Covid pandemic, I was absolutely convinced that project management from home was impossible. I eventually learned otherwise. Nevertheless, I find it immensely important to be in direct contact with my colleagues, and by direct contact I mean face-to-face and in person. Direct contact allows you to respond to questions much more quickly than by typing out the answer or initiating a video call. I would rather not go back to working from home full-time.

I have also noticed that people have a much greater need to talk than before the pandemic. This is something I have noticed in myself, within our internal and our external, global team as well as when talking to clients. As challenging as these times may be, they have also afforded me the opportunity to engage in many good conversions that I otherwise probably would not have had.

What changes or developments are you hoping for?

Technology is developing fast, and that’s a good thing. I am always curious about technological innovations and can’t wait to see what the future may bring. Digital technology can help us a great deal by enabling automated and streamlined processes. But I truly hope that this will not replace personal contact.

The language of the pandemic


What’s been getting you down for the better part of a year now? The COVID pandemic? Or is it Covid? (The other version seems so shout-y!) And didn’t this all start with Cardi B yelling something about the coronavirus? It’s all the same, really. Scientifically, a pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population. The disease in question, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is called COVID-19 (short for coronavirus disease 2019). In English, we like things short, so COVID-19 – or just COVID – has really taken off in our daily language use. Sometimes, we even use the disease to describe the phenomenon as a whole: before COVID, since COVID etc. The Germans do something similar, but they say “Corona.” So, what’s correct?

Nothing is more constant than change

Language is constantly undergoing change. And when national or even global events affect the lives of many within a very short period, new words and expressions can crop up in the blink of an eye. English is particularly inventive in this way, allowing users to verb a noun, so to speak, or create portmanteaus (think: “brunch”) without even having to explain to their conversation partner what they mean. And linguistically speaking, this year did not disappoint. The pandemic has given rise to words such as quarantini, covidiot, situationship, and maskne. Reducing contact with others meant staying home, so we also had to work from home (abbrev’d: WFH – “teleworking” is old hat, unless you’re French of course, in which case télétravail is indeed the preferred term). To facilitate this, employees turned to video conferencing software, and Zoom experienced a huge boom (Zoom boom? You heard it here first!), leading to terms such as zoombombing (like photobombing). Not to mention that in the age of social media, there’s a hashtag for anything and everything worth talking about, hence campaigns to #StayAtHome and #FlattenTheCurve.

Existing terms also saw a spike in usage. Coronaviruses, for instance, were already in existence, even if they didn’t receive much press. And “social distancing” is not a new concept, just thankfully not necessary under normal circumstances.

What gender does the virus take?

Does this happen in other languages, too? Of course! While French is known for sometimes being rigid and avoiding the use of anglicisms, it has seen developments of its own in the wake of the pandemic. The lockdown periods, or confinements, imposed in France were quite strict. During the first one, residents were only allowed outside for up to an hour to do the necessary shopping, and they were forbidden from traveling farther than 10 kilometers from home. Perhaps that’s why there is so much excited chatter of déconfinement, or dread of potential reconfinements. However, there is some debate surrounding other terminology, such as distanciation sociale (social distancing) versus distanciation physique or spaciale (physical/spacial distancing) – similar to the US-UK divide on self-quarantining and self-isolating. Even the grammatical gender of Covid is disputed. L’académie française as well as most Canadian French speakers prefer the feminine la covid as a description of la maladie, or the disease. French speakers in France, on the other hand, claim that the masculine le covid sounds better, as le virus is masculine.[1]

German says it as it is

German is famous for having really long words, and this pandemic has shown the flexibility the prefix of corona has to offer: Corona-Maßnahmen, Corona-Verordnung, Corona-Krise, Corona-Zeit, Corona-Party, etc. (corona measures, regulation, crisis, times and party, respectively). There is also plenty of discourse about facemasks, or Mund-Nasen-Bedeckungen (mouth and nose coverings) to be precise. But in the interest of time, even the Germans prefer Maskenpflicht (the obligation to wear a mask) to the very possible but very unwieldy Mund-Nasen-Bedeckungs-Pflicht (the obligation to wear a mouth and nose covering). Angela Merkel herself made waves earlier this year with her fabricated Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien (roughly translated: reopening discussion orgies) with regard to overhasty excitement surrounding the potential for reopening society after lockdown, expressing her concerns of second and third waves. Speaking of lockdowns and in contrast to their neighbors to the west, Germans have no fear of (certain) English phrases, often incorporating lockdowns and social distancing into their daily dialogue.

Rapidly changing times, rapidly changing language

It typically takes somewhat longer for any observable change in language to occur on the scale we have seen this year. But then again, we will long look back on 2020 as a year in which the entire world was subjected to rampant change. People had to quickly develop strategies to cope, and communication played a key role. What’s going on in the world and how does that affect me? What do I need to do to keep going? What humor can I find in this challenging situation? In our digital world, we are more connected now than ever before, and the answers to these questions lie at least in part in our constant communication and linguistic innovation and creativity. Just like the pandemic itself, this process of linguistic evolution will persist. People will continue to present and assert their linguistic preferences, whether they are logical or not. Who knows what we will be saying in a year from now?

Do you need help with your multilingual COVID-related communication? Contact us to find out more!


[1] “Les mots de la pandémie entrent dans le dictionnaire. ” Revue de la Presse, August 2020, P. 14.

Looking back on 2020

Summarising the events of a year has never been this difficult. The year started off heading in a very positive direction and we expected great things from 2020. However, expectations changed in March when we suddenly found ourselves working from home. The interpreting business collapsed practically overnight, so all we did was manage cancellations. The demand for written translations was also very low for a while – it seemed as if the whole world was paralysed.

When we finally started receiving requests for written translations again, we were ready: we had moved our daily meetings from the usual in-office gathering to video conferences, and VPN connections to the office server made working from home just as efficient as working at our desks. Nevertheless, we were overjoyed when we were able to meet again in person over the summer. We had all sorely missed those casual chats and joint lunch breaks.

When it became clear that international conferences – and even smaller in-person meetings – were not going to be an option for some time, we started working together with clients to develop digital alternatives. These range from interpreting pre-produced product presentations to online consecutive interpreting and simultaneous interpreting from interpreting hubs. Some of these formats are sure to stay with us beyond the pandemic, as they enable access to a global audience at relatively little expense. At the same time, everyone is longing to meet in person again. I think we have all come to recognise the opportunities digital methods of communication have to offer. Yet at the same time, the value of face-to-face meetings has become clearer than ever before.

Even in challenging and confusing times, things sometimes just fall into place: When our project manager Victoria Klotz decided to go back to university, Simone Ruiz Anderer returned to Freiburg after some time abroad. Job sharing was the obvious and ideal solution for everyone.

The Peschel leadership team’s project of the year was once again certification. Preparations for our first ISO 9001 audit in March 2021 are in full swing.

We also continued our commitment to sustainability, which we made official by joining WIN-Charta, the sustainability management system of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.

In conclusion, I can only say that we are grateful to have pulled through this year largely unscathed and healthy. And that we can’t wait to be able to celebrate this together in person.

On that note, I wish all our partners and friends the optimism that we all so desperately need!

When we finally started receiving requests for written translations again, we were ready: we had moved our daily meetings from the usual in-office gathering to video conferences, and VPN connections to the office server made working from home just as efficient as working at our desks. Nevertheless, we were overjoyed when we were able to meet again in person over the summer. We had all sorely missed those casual chats and joint lunch breaks.

When it became clear that international conferences – and even smaller in-person meetings – were not going to be an option for some time, we started working together with clients to develop digital alternatives. These range from interpreting pre-produced product presentations to online consecutive interpreting and simultaneous interpreting from interpreting hubs. Some of these formats are sure to stay with us beyond the pandemic, as they enable access to a global audience at relatively little expense. At the same time, everyone is longing to meet in person again. I think we have all come to recognise the opportunities digital methods of communication have to offer. Yet at the same time, the value of face-to-face meetings has become clearer than ever before.

Even in challenging and confusing times, things sometimes just fall into place: When our project manager Victoria Klotz decided to go back to university, Simone Ruiz Anderer returned to Freiburg after some time abroad. Job sharing was the obvious and ideal solution for everyone.

The Peschel leadership team’s project of the year was once again certification. Preparations for our first ISO 9001 audit in March 2021 are in full swing.

We also continued our commitment to sustainability, which we made official by joining WIN-Charta, the sustainability management system of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.

In conclusion, I can only say that we are grateful to have pulled through this year largely unscathed and healthy. And that we can’t wait to be able to celebrate this together in person.

On that note, I wish all our partners and friends the optimism that we all so desperately need!

“Fahrvergnügen” sounds echt German! … more German words that found their way into the English language

VW Bus

Two weeks ago, we addressed the topic of German words used in everyday English. In this blog article, we turn our attention to more specialized borrowings. We explore terminology used in scientific contexts, but also words used in advertising – a field in which inventing new, creative words is virtually part of the job description.

Technical, scientific, musical, and historical words

So let’s turn to another class of words imported from the German language – those used primarily in science and other areas of technical or expert knowledge. This accounts for a sizable portion of German’s influence on English. For example, almost one third of Pfeffer and Cannon’s German loanwords are from the fields of minerology or chemistry. Here is a sampling of nerdier loanwords:

Term used in EnglishMost common use
in today’s English
Term used in German
gneissa type of rockGneis
loessa type of geologic depositLöss
echtauthentic, bona fideecht, waschecht, authentisch
feldspara class of mineralsFeldspat
fusel oila by-product of liquor productionFuselöl
gedankenexperimentthought experimentGedankenexperiment
graupela type of icy precipitation similar to hailGraupel
ansatzin mathematics, an estimate that aids in the solving of a problemAnsatz (although Ansatz has other meanings and is much more common in German)
Sehnsuchta feeling of longingSehnsucht
realpolitika pragmatic political style or approachRealpolitik
rinderpesta dangerous disease that infects cattleRinderpest
zeitgeberan external factor that guides the biological clock of a living thingZeitgeber

Words for foods and traditions

Another category of words worth highlighting are those related to the food and traditions of German-speaking countries. Many English speakers are likely familiar with (Wiener) schnitzel, strudel, biergartens, and schnapps. Then there is the world-famous Oktoberfest. But perhaps more surprisingly for native German speakers: words like Tannenbaum, bierstube, and even brötchen have been recorded in English dictionaries. And the list goes on: in the Merriam Webster dictionary, for example, you will find entries for lebkuchen, leberwurst, pfeffernuss, pfefferkuchen, and stollen.

Yiddish words

English speakers have also borrowed quite a bit from Yiddish, giving English some vocabulary items that might easily be mistaken for loanwords (directly) from German. Some words borrowed from Yiddish are quite common, such as mensch (and menschy), schlep (or schlepp), schmaltz (and schmaltzy), dreck and schmutz. Lesser known ones include verklempt and luftmensch.

As Wikipedia puts it:

Since Yiddish is very closely related to modern German, many native Yiddish words have close German cognates; in a few cases it is difficult to tell whether English borrowed a particular word from Yiddish or from German.” [1]

Words from advertising

Finally, let’s look at German words used in advertising. The English language features regularly in German advertising, often with the ostensible aim of evoking coolness, hipness, or youth. But is German ever used in advertisements for English-speaking audiences? Does the German language bring a similar “cool factor” to the advertising of the English-speaking world?

Well, the answer to the first question is a clear “yes”, though it’s safe to say – at least in my experience as an American – that German is a pretty rare sight in advertising. Likely the most famous example of the German language in American advertising was Volkswagen’s use of the word “Fahrvergnügen” in a marketing campaign that started in 1989.[2] As part of this campaign, they featured the slogan, “Fahrvergnügen. It’s What Makes a Car a Volkswagen.” Volkswagen used German again in the 2000s and 2010s, branding itself as “Das Auto.”

Another trend in American advertising, noted by Felix Kronenberg, who wrote a doctoral thesis in 2007 on the “depiction of Germans and Germany in American advertising,” is the use of wunder- and wunderbar:

The most frequent German or German/English word compounds in U.S. American advertising are derived from the German word “wunderbar,” which is itself a common sight in American advertising…The German “wunder” and the English “wonder” are a minimal pair, they only differ in the second letter and look quite similar…“Wunder” and “wunderbar” are easily recognizable; they are foreign and yet not too alien, which can explain their popularity in advertising. (Kronenberg, p. 149)

Both Lufthansa and the German National Tourist Office, for example, told consumers in the 1980s that “Germany is wunderbar.”

The answer to the second question – whether German has a “cool factor” – is less straightforward. Kronenberg observes that “using foreign words in advertising has several advantages. It elicits international prestige and invokes the country-of-origin effect by choosing words that appear to be German, that are ‘typically’ German.” Kronenberg also quotes work by linguist Mary Ellen Ryder and her colleagues, who argue that the German and Japanese language – due to “their modern connotations”– can have a particular effect on consumers:

“…German and Japanese can also be used to convey an impression of scientific or engineering excellence, as in the Mazda campaign promising Kansei engineering or the Volkswagen campaigns using Fahrvergnügen.“

We’ve now come full circle, as this observation brings us back to the technical jargon discussed earlier. It is German engineering savvy that seems to have the most persuasive – or cool – advertising effect, even though Germans prefer, of course, to convey this idea with an English phrase: “Quality made in Germany.”

Sources and Further Reading

[1] Source:

[2] Source:

Online dictionaries and reference works


Cannon, G. H., & Pfeffer, A. (1994). German loanwords in English: An historical dictionary. Cambridge University Press.

Durkin, P. (2014). Borrowed words: A history of loanwords in English. Oxford University Press.

Ehlert, C. (2013). Das Wandern ist des Wortes Lust: Germanismen im britischen Englisch: German Loanwords in British English. tredition.

Kronenberg, F. A. (2007). From trade cards to the internet: depiction of Germans and Germany in American advertising [Doctoral dissertation, Universität Regensburg].

Limbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Ausgewanderte Wörter. Hueber Verlag.

Playing foosball in the hinterland – Why German is not as foreign to English speakers as you might think

Sure, English words are sneaking into German dictionaries at breakneck pace these days, but German has made its deutsche mark on the English language, too. For translators and interpreters who work between these two linguistic worlds, this commingling is important to be aware of. Loanwords (a word that is itself modeled after a German word – Lehnwort!) need to be handled with care by translators and interpreters.

If the meaning in the target language has retained essentially the same meaning it has in the source language – great! Maybe there’s no need to “translate” that word at all (bildungsroman, for example). But if the word has taken on new meanings or connotations in the target language, or sees much more limited usage than in the source language (e.g. gesundheit, which in German means “health”), then we may need to find a more appropriate term (we’ll get funny looks if we talk about public gesundheit officials, after all).

There are, of course, the classics: bratwurst, sauerkraut, lederhosen, autobahn, glockenspiel, kaput and kindergarten, to name just a few.

According to Pfeffer and Cannon, German contributions to English vocabulary picked up steam between the 1750s and the 1950s, with the peak rate – an average of 35 new German-sourced words per year – occurring between 1850 and 1900. So in other words, whether English native speakers have studied German or not, they’ve encountered at least some of the words and characteristic sounds of German, and a great deal of its etymological echoes.

Everyday words

Let’s look more closely at a few German stowaways in the English language, beginning with some words that might come up in everyday conversation or general interest writings. After each of the following words is a brief definition (describing the word’s most common use in today’s English) and possible translation(s) into contemporary German:[1]

über-prefix indicating very, extremelyextrem, super, mega, über (sometimes)
ersatzinferior (of a replacement/substitute)minderwertig (e.g. ein minderwertiges Ersatzteil)
blitza quick/sudden maneuver (often in context of American football or marketing)schnelle Inangriffnahme von einer Sache/einem Problem; intensive Werbekampagne
spielattempt to verbally persuade (often canned or rehearsed)Verkaufsmasche, Leier
hinterlandremote, rural arealändliches, abgelegenes Gebiet
kohlrabia vegetableKohlrabi
ur-prefix indicating original, early-stageur-
foosballa game played using a special table with hand-operated figures and a ball; rules resemble those of soccerKicker, Tischfußball
spritzto spray (usually a small amount of) something(leicht, schnell mal) besprühen
angsta feeling of psychological distress, often associated with moody teenagersneurotische Angst, Grübelei
wanderlustan urge to travel or exploreReiselust, Fernweh
doppelgängera person who looks strikingly similar to another personDoppelgänger, Ebenbild
verbotendisallowed or tabooverboten, untersagt; tabu

You’ll notice that not all of these words can simply slip (back) into German and serve the same purpose they serve in English—an important point for translators and interpreters. This issue of meaning change is especially pronounced for ersatz, which in German does not generally carry the connotation of inferior replacement/substitute and primarily means just replacement. Translators and interpreters are well-advised to be careful with angst, wanderlust, and verboten, too, as they can have different meanings in English.

In the case of foosball, the word never really existed in German to begin with, but its formation drew on the German word Fußball (soccer in the U.S. and football everywhere else), according to Merriam Webster. In Germany, the game is called Tischfußball (‘table football’), the shortened and anglicized foosball didn’t show up in English until 1966.

For language nerds, this linguistic cross-pollination is especially fascinating to observe. But because a word can drift in surprising semantic directions once it lands in another language, good translators and interpreters must stay immersed in all of their working languages to keep an eye (and an ear) on these transplanted terms.

Sources and Further Reading

Online dictionaries and reference works


Cannon, G. H., & Pfeffer, A. (1994). German loanwords in English: An historical dictionary. Cambridge University Press.

Durkin, P. (2014). Borrowed words: A history of loanwords in English. Oxford University Press.

Ehlert, C. (2013). Das Wandern ist des Wortes Lust: Germanismen im britischen Englisch: German Loanwords in British English. tredition.

Limbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Ausgewanderte Wörter. Hueber Verlag.

[1] The definitions are mostly sourced from Merriam Webster (via, Oxford University Press (via, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (via, or Collins online Unabridged English Dictionary (via

Accelerated approval: How urgently needed medications can be authorised for marketing more quickly

Klinische Studien

Since March of this year, if not earlier, the whole world has been watching the spread and further development of the coronavirus with bated breath. Many people are eagerly awaiting potential vaccines, for which some medicinal substances have already entered the pivotal trial phase. Remdesivir, an active substance which could potentially be used to treat COVID-19, has recently received conditional approval to be marketed in the EU. This is possible because remdesivir is the first medication to be used for treating COVID-19, thus addressing an unmet medical need. In such instances, the marketing authorisation procedure may diverge from the regular process.

Of course, despite the urgency of the situation, the safety of employing the medication must be ensured. As technical translators of medical and pharmaceutical texts, we made sure to read up on the pertinent information: Which clinical phase is affected by the acceleration of the marketing authorisation procedure? And what data does this phase deal with?

Overview of the regular clinical trial phases:[1]

Phase ISmall-scale testing on healthy volunteers Initial human treatment Tolerability and drug safety tested 20–80 participantsTime frame:Weeks or months
Phase IIInitial testing on patients suffering from the disease in question Dose-response relationship, efficacy and tolerance tested 100 to 800 participantsWeeks or months
Phase III(IIIa prior to market authorisation, IIIb subsequent to approval)Frequently comparative studies on patients who receive the treatment being tested compared with a control group who receives another treatment Efficacy and safety/tolerability tested Hundreds or thousands of participantsMonths or years
Phase IVTakes place when a medication is already available on the market Efficacy, safety and rare side effects of a medication can be assessed better on account of more patients being treated Treatment is enhancedMonths or years

As we can see from the chart above, medications are usually authorised for marketing during phase III. However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has the capacity to provide marketing authorisation for urgently needed new medications upon conclusion of phase II trials if the benefits are determined to outweigh the risks. This is called conditional approval, where the conditions include conducting the phase III trials after the medication is already on the market, i.e. testing it on significantly more patients. Typically, data on efficacy and tolerability are also compared with those from a control group who received a different treatment for the same disease.

Accelerated approval doesn’t mean less trial data

Trial results must be collected and sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) within a set time frame (often one year). This means that the clinical phase III and IV trials are not omitted but patients who are severely ill are simply afforded the opportunity to benefit from the new medication while these trials are still being conducted. If the data collected in these later trials provides evidence that the drug is unsafe or ineffective, the conditional approval will be revoked and the medication removed from the market. If, however, the results prove positive, the conditional approval will be converted into a non-conditional approval.[2]

Do you need a translation for your pharmaceutical study, request for market authorisation or other medical text? Contact us to receive a non-binding quotation!

[1] Sources:

and (in German)

[2] Source: (in German)

Freiburg – a multilingual city

Freiburg mit Münster

Freiburg: university town and local holiday destination. What’s not to like about Freiburg, with its charming Bächle (small water-filled runnels) and its sun-kissed mountain backdrop? But what makes it so exciting for a translation office to be based in Freiburg im Breisgau? As a language service provider, we are particularly fond of Freiburg’s many facets. In terms of its multifariousness, Freiburg isn’t only characterised by its high demand for multilingualism. In particular, the different industries and areas of expertise where communication has long since ceased to take place exclusively in German frequently bring new ideas and innovation to the city.

The University of Freiburg alone attracts students and young academics from every corner of the globe. To ensure that everyone involved in joint research projects is equally informed, scientific reports are frequently translated into other languages. And if international experts who don’t speak German or English are invited to symposia, interpreters can be brought in to facilitate communication.

A popular tourist destination, Freiburg flaunts a multilingual culture even outside of the university, its proximity to the French border being a contributing factor. Companies in the hospitality and retail sectors welcome guests speaking Spanish, Italian, and many other languages on a regular basis. To ensure smooth communication, restaurants and hotels often print multilingual menus and brochures for their guests. This is part of Baden’s culture of hospitality after all.

Freiburg also shows its polyglot side when it comes to culture, offering theatrical productions in English, concerts held by international performers, and screenings of films in their original language. And for those who like it a little quieter, Freiburg’s museums offer a wide range of exhibitions, and of course information brochures and audio guides in the most widely represented languages of the visiting population.

When it comes to translating certificates or official documents into German, technical terminology from an entirely different field is required. Legal texts in particular require both advanced language skills and a thorough knowledge of the specialised terminology.

Thanks to its strong commitment to sustainability, Freiburg enjoys a reputation as a “Green City”. Renewable energies are a recurring theme at leading trade fairs, exhibitions and conferences here in Baden, attracting delegates from across Europe and even worldwide. Fundamental expertise and the appropriate technical vocabulary are also necessary for the translation and interpreting work that enables this exchange.

Companies in the medical technology sector and the pharmaceutical industry which are based in Baden-Württemberg also make use of language services. And there is no limit to the areas in which companies are active beyond the borders of German-speaking countries. From contract negotiations to general meetings with international business partners, smooth communication is essential and interpreters are indispensable. Even smaller companies in Baden like to employ translators in order to address an international audience for their websites. In a time when networking and communication primarily take place via social platforms, a multilingual online presence that captures readers’ attention in more than one language is more important than ever before.

So it’s clear why Freiburg has so much to offer. The largest city in the laidback region of Baden, it welcomes people from a great many different countries and cultural backgrounds, resulting in an assorted mix of languages in numerous fields from science and culture to industry and business.

Free online translation tools – too good to be true?

Times have changed, and so have machine translation tools. Free online tools such as Google Translate and DeepL (developed by the creators of Linguee) have begun using neural technology to generate much more fluid and idiomatic translations. Just a few years ago, machine translations were something of a laughing stock — but now even language professionals are astonished by the quality they provide.

Neural machine translation (NMT) is a statistic-based method which involves training the translation tool with vast quantities of data (in the source and target languages). Since the big data approach requires significant computing power, it has only recently become possible. The older method of statistical machine translation (SMT) has existed since around the start of the millennium and is based on the frequency distribution of phrases in the training data. In simple terms, it uses the bilingual training data to determine the most likely sentence in the target language. The neural method differs from this approach in that it imitates the neural pathways in the brain using artificial intelligence and deep learning. This means that the connections between the source text and target text are identified by artificial neural networks.

Professional translators increasingly find themselves having to answer the question of whether there’s really a need for human translations any more. At the same time, we as language service providers are exploring whether we can use machine translation to our advantage. But the results of our practical experiments with these tools aren’t nearly as promising as we might have expected at first glance. Below, we’ll take a look at the major challenges involved.

Quality problems

google translate economics

The quality of neural machine translation tools isn’t nearly as reliable as you might think based on how well the translations read. While the grammar might be correct, for example, words or even whole clauses are sometimes omitted, or the meaning is distorted. This is particularly dangerous for machine translation users who don’t have a good command of the source language. But even for language professionals who are post-editing machine translations, the risk of overlooking errors is considerable. So the more important it is for a text to be absolutely accurate (for example, a leaflet in a medication package or an operating manual), the riskier it is to use machine translation (MT), even for highly standardised source texts. Moreover, MT tools are unable to identify errors in the source language, no matter how illogical the text may be as a result. Unlike a human translator, these tools simply have no idea what they are actually translating.

Some of the results can be amusing — take the machine translation of a perfectly legitimate German sentence shown below. But when part of a sentence is left out of a contract or a power of attorney, there can be serious legal consequences.

Data protection risk

Free online translation tools take all the data that is entered into them and store it on their providers’ servers to be used in the future. This means that, under the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), personal or confidential data should never be entered into these tools — that would constitute data processing in accordance with Art. 4 GDPR [1]. The logical extension of this is that you should never use online machine translation tools to translate from a language that you don’t understand at all because, of course, you can’t be sure whether or not the text contains personal data.
The same goes for all copyrighted texts. Entering these texts into Google Translate or other similar MT tools without the consent of the author is a breach of copyright, since the text will then be available to third parties. The fact that Google Translate “trawls the internet for texts that it throws into a vast database for statistic-based MT (including NMT) constitutes a breach of copyright, as it’s safe to assume that the service provider hasn’t systematically asked for permission to use each and every one of these texts.” [2]
DeepL has at least included an explicit warning in its privacy policy: “Please note that you may not use our translation service for any texts containing personal data of any kind.” [3] Google Translate and Bing Microsoft Translator don’t display any such warning to users or inform them what happens with the text they enter and with the resulting translations. The only information available is the general service agreement which applies to the use of the provider’s services. The Microsoft Services Agreement, for example, states under “Your Content”: “When you share Your Content with other people, you expressly agree that anyone you’ve shared Your Content with may, for free and worldwide, use, save, record, reproduce, broadcast, transmit, share, display, communicate […] Your Content. If you do not want others to have that ability, do not use the Services to share Your Content.” [4]


Machine translations can be improved through post-editing by human translators. Depending on the quality standards that the target text needs to meet, it will undergo either light or full post-editing. Light post-editing involves correcting grammar and spelling, as well as any errors which affect the meaning, but leaving the style and word order untouched even if the sentence sounds strange or unnatural. Even this process can involve quite a lot of work depending on the machine tool’s output. Full post-editing, meanwhile, should result in a target text which is very close or equal in quality to a professional human translation. As a result, this process is much more time-consuming and expensive. The exact types of errors which are to be corrected should be agreed with the client or translation user in advance, since the style of the translation and the use of particular specialist terminology are not equally important for all text types (and readers). Full post-editing can ultimately involve more work, and therefore higher costs, than a (new) translation by a qualified language service provider.
It’s also important to bear in mind that post-editing does not count as revision (proofreading) by a second translator in accordance with ISO 17100, the standard for translation services and quality management in translation companies. Revision would be a separate step carried out after post-editing. So the overall work involved in editing a machine translation can be significant. It’s also hard to predict due to the highly variable quality of MT — it depends on the subject area and, of course, on the quantity and quality of data used to train a machine translation tool for that particular subject and language combination. In any case, the language combination has a major impact on the quality of machine translations, as there are not enough data available for uncommon language pairs to properly train machine translation tools.

Expertise required

The ISO 18587 standard for “Post-editing of machine translation output” requires post-editors to have a university degree either in translation itself or with a significant focus on translation, or alternatively a different university degree combined with relevant professional experience. Post-editors without a university degree must have professional translation or post-editing experience equivalent to five years’ full-time work in order to meet the standard. Other ISO criteria include technical, cultural and subject-specific expertise as well as strong research skills and the ability to find and process information with ease. Post-editors also need to have general knowledge of MT technologies and the kinds of errors generated by MT systems.
This means that effective post-editing of machine-translated texts should never be carried out by anyone who is not an expert in translation; even extensive expertise in the subject matter is not enough to guarantee a high-quality final translation free of any errors which distort the meaning. So using MT does not in any way eliminate the need for highly trained translation experts.

The bottom line

Using free translation tools is a risky business and data protection concerns alone — not to mention issues of quality — mean that there are very few situations in which these tools are suitable for professional translation service providers. They can be helpful for private individuals in certain situations or for certain texts. This includes publicly accessible texts such as press releases or online articles, when the user only wants to understand the gist and doesn’t need every detail to be translated with absolute accuracy. Or texts which would otherwise not be translated at all, such as tourist information.
It would be remiss not to mention more specialised machine translation solutions which require a licence and can be trained in particular subject areas and types of texts. These are mostly used by large technology firms such as Siemens and VW, as well as by the EU institutions. The more standardised the language of the source text, the better the translation can turn out — as long as the machine in question has been fed with huge amounts of correct, subject-specific training data. But these systems aren’t yet suitable for a translation company like Peschel Communications GmbH, since we work on a broad spectrum of texts from different subject areas, including many marketing and advertising texts which require a freer translation style. For technically complex or customer-specific texts, human translations are far superior to post-edited machine translations and much less time-consuming. But we are following the latest developments in this field closely — we certainly want to keep an open mind about the potential that MT technologies might yet offer.

[1] Source: (Accessed on 21 October 2019)

[2] Source: Abraham de Wolf: Übersetzen mit Software, wer ist der Urheber? [Translating with Software: Who Holds the Copyright?] In: Jörg Porsiel (Ed.): Maschinelle Übersetzung [Machine Translation], Berlin: BDÜ Fachverlag, p. 61 et seq., our translation

[3] Source: (Accessed on 21 October 2019)

[4] Source: (Accessed on 21 October 2019)

Remote Interpreting – Live Translation for Online Events

In times of crisis, creativity is of the essence: Social distancing rules mean that more and more events are being held in the virtual space. But what can you do if the delegates at your online conference or the participants of your virtual business meeting don’t all speak the same language?

Short conversations with a few participants, also known as remote interpreting, online translation or video interpreting, have been known to work for many years. Using telephone lines or online meeting platforms, interpreters translate in consecutive mode – bit by bit – back and forth between two languages. Where meetings with a large number of participants or the need to translate from and into several languages in simultaneous mode are concerned, a reliable bandwidth and professional conference equipment for remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) are essential.

Interpreting hubs – dedicated studios for live translation – allow bringing an event including live interpreting online. Interpreting hubs are studios provided by conference equipment companies where conference interpreters can translate simultaneously in teams while observing current distancing rules. A number of hubs have already been set up and are available for rent even at short notice. Temporary hubs can be installed at event locations or on company premises.

Interpreting hubs – here’s how it works

The audience (passive participants) and presenters (active participants) can connect to the virtual event via their lap-top, PC or mobile device from anywhere in the world. Once they have joined, they can select their audio language, allowing them to listen to the language of their choice. Data security is ensured through password-protected access and encrypted transmission.

The interpreters are located at the hub, their special studio, where they receive the sound and video stream right into their interpreting booth. Their live simultaneous translation is then transmitted to the participants. Remote simultaneous interpreting from a hub is possible for live digital events with an unlimited number of participants and up to ten languages.

Benefits for event organisers

Thanks to remote interpreting, event organisers can move multilingual conferences into the virtual space. Live online translation from a hub makes planning and holding an international virtual conference easy:

  • Events where several languages are spoken and listened to can now be held online without compromising on quality.
  • The providers of interpreting hubs are at hand to help you plan the online event
  • Professional conference equipment and a stable bandwidth ensure the highest sound quality possible
  • The necessary equipment is located at the interpreting hub – no need to set up equipment elsewhere
  • A dedicated sound engineer at the hub ensures smooth operation
  • Excellent working conditions for the interpreters mean that they can provide the translation quality you expect
  • Conference coordinators are available to give technical support to participants and ensure that everything runs smoothly
  • Data and cybersecurity are ensured through password-protection and encryption
  • Less personnel, transport and setting-up time for interpreting booths saves costs
  • You can save on travel costs and expenses for interpreters and technical staff
  • Sophisticated live-streaming solutions open up new conferencing options
  • Any meeting format from panel discussions to breakout sessions is possible
  • Integration into your meeting platform means that participants do not need any special software

Are you looking for a way to provide simultaneous interpreting at your online event?

Contact Peschel Communications to learn more about interpreting hubs.

Please request a quote for your project.

An interview with Ellen Göppl

Interview Ellen Göppl

“If someone had told me in 2000 that I’d stay here so long, I probably would have fallen off my chair”

Ellen Göppl joined Peschel Communications on 15 January 2000. Her 20th anniversary here seems like the perfect occasion to ask her a few questions.

Staying with the same company for 20 years is something that’s becoming increasingly rare. Did you imagine on 15 January 2000 that you would still be working for the same company 20 years later?

No, not at all — I was 26 at the time and I didn’t tend to make any long-term plans. If someone had told me back in 2000 that I’d stay here so long, I probably would have fallen off my chair. Today, I’m proud of my decision to stay, because of course it’s become relatively rare for people to be happy with the same job for so long.

How has your typical working day changed in the last 20 years?

We now have 10 in-house employees, which has naturally led to a greater division of labour. In the early years, I did everything from project management, including drawing up quotations and billing, to translation and revision. Not to mention marketing, managing projects for private customers, and even accounting! I’m glad I don’t have to do all of that any more, although it does sometimes feel strange that I can’t jump in to lend a hand in project management so easily these days — it’s just become too specialised. Overall, we rely on technology a lot more than we did 20 years ago, just like the rest of the translation industry.

Do you ever wish you could go back to the way things were?

I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the early days, that’s for sure. Back then we shared an office with a small publishing company. Anja and I sat right opposite one another in such close quarters that we sometimes got our mugs of tea mixed up. And we translated by just overwriting the original text in Word. And we had the time to get together for a mid-morning breakfast every day. But I wouldn’t want to give up the team we’ve built since then. For instance, I used to sometimes end up completely alone in the office while the others were on holiday and now I don’t have to worry about that any more. And I wouldn’t want to work without the new tools we have, either. They make terminology work and consistency in particular so much easier.

What’s the best compliment you can remember getting from a client?

One client was so impressed by my translation of a text to do with clinical studies that he asked if I’d studied medicine. I’ve also received plenty of effusive compliments for my work interpreting weddings — although I’m sure it’s partly down to the euphoric mood!

Would you ever want to work somewhere completely different, for example for a multinational corporation?

I do think it would be exciting to work for a big multinational — collaborating with people from all over the world, maybe even travelling abroad for business. But then again, I’m so used to our relatively small company where everything is close at hand, where I have a say in how things work and a lot of flexibility, that I’d rather not switch.

What’s your favourite kind of text to translate?

I especially like working on publicity material for cosmetics, where I more or less have free rein to be as creative as I want. Of course, it depends on finding the right client, one who trusts in my style (and yes, we have one!). And then it makes a nice change when I get a medical text where I have to be really precise.

What three careers could you imagine for yourself if you weren’t a translator?

Apart from pharmacist or biochemist, I could definitely see myself as a writer, which is currently one of my hobbies. Another job that I think would be exciting is computer hacking. Lots of people associate that with crime, but hackers also help thoroughly above-board companies and authorities to track down weak spots in their IT systems and improve data security.

Which language would you still like to learn?

Among others, Romansh. I heard it a lot in Switzerland as a child and learnt to parrot bits and pieces. I’d love to study it more systematically, but I’ve never had the time. Keeping three foreign languages up to scratch is plenty of work already! Maybe I need to spend an immersion holiday in a remote mountain village in the Engadine.

What future moment in your career are you particularly looking forward to?

I’m currently looking forward to the day when we receive ISO 9001 certification, which should hopefully be this year. It’s going to take a lot of preparation, but — just like for large translation projects — striving to meet such high standards is part of the appeal for us.

20 tips to make your online meeting a success

20 Tipps für erfolgreiche Online-Meetings

I don’t know about you, but I have spent more time in online meetings in the last two weeks than I had the entire past year. Once I had chosen the right platform for my needs and mastered the technology, I was ready to go. Our morning team meeting is now held by video conference, and online discussions with fewer people and meetings with clients have kept me in operation and busy here at home. During an online presentation one afternoon, however, I realised that I kept drifting off. Why did I find it so hard to concentrate on what the speaker was saying? And how can I make sure that others find it easy to follow my presentations? Here are my thoughts:

Select a facilitator

It should be clear to everyone who is facilitating a meeting. The facilitator opens the meeting, welcomes the participants and asks questions to keep everyone on board – even the silent types.

Set an agenda

Our morning team meetings always have the same agenda: We start with general points that concern the whole team before going through the ongoing projects.

For other meetings, it may be helpful to send an agenda to everyone ahead of time.

Keep it brief

Online meetings are always more tiring than face-to-face ones. That is why it makes more sense to have shorter meetings covering individual topics than one long marathon conference.

Keep it brief

Yes, again. Don’t harp on for ages, keep your contributions brief. Avoid repeating yourself and others.

Introduce your contribution

Whenever you would like to say something – especially in a meeting with a lot of participants – it makes sense to state your name and/or announce that you are going to say something, for example: “I would like to comment on this.”

Do not interrupt

Obviously, interrupting people is never OK. But in an online session, in addition to being rude, interrupting someone guarantees that neither you nor the person who was talking first will be heard.

Stay focused

The temptation to check your emails or sharpen your pencils may sometimes be overwhelming. But multitasking never works! It is impolite and distracting. So, log out of your email account and concentrate!

Do not carry on a separate conversation

Chatting to someone while someone else is presenting was not allowed at school and it isn’t now, either. The effect is that of interrupting someone: No one will be able to understand what anyone is saying.

Mute yourself

Whenever you are not speaking, switch your microphone to mute. This will minimise unwanted background noise causing interference in the virtual conference room.

Use a good mic

If possible, use a proper headset. This ensures that your mouth is always the same distance away from the microphone and you will be able to hear better.

Speak slowly

The frequency range transmitted over the internet is much narrower than what you would hear if you were in the same room as your colleagues. So even though the sound may seem OK, listening is more tiring in this virtual space. This is why it is a good idea to speak a little more slowly than usual and to pause more frequently. This is particularly advisable if you are not communicating in your mother tongue.

Avoid unnecessary noise

If you shuffle papers or type while you speak, these sounds will be transmitted, too, making it difficult to hear what you are saying. So, try to keep all excess noises to a minimum.

Lights …

While you might enjoy the sun shining into your office from the side, or the window behind you might offer a beautiful view, this is not great for your online meeting. In the first case, you may appear unhealthily pale, and in the latter, excessive backlighting may turn your face into nothing more than a dark blob.

… camera, action!

Test out your own picture before the start of the meeting. Your head shouldn’t be as small as a pin, but you shouldn’t be too close to the camera, either. Also, make sure you are sitting at the same level as the camera, neither looking up to it nor looking down.


What’s behind you? Do you have heaps of laundry lying around or are builders walking back and forth? Your background should offer as little distraction as possible. Some platforms even allow you to blur your background.

Sit still!

If you move around, gesticulate a lot or adjust your camera during the online meeting, this is very distracting for everyone else. In the worst-case scenario, the other participants might get seasick.

Eye contact

Obviously, you can never really make eye contact during an online meeting. But remember it is much easier to have a conversation if at least you can imagine that someone is looking at you directly. So, keep your eyes on the camera!

Look good!

We’ve all seen funny videos where people get up from their desk during an online meeting and aren’t wearing trousers. So, if you like to wear your tracksuit bottoms, make sure they stay out of the picture. Wearing a smart top and combing your hair is also a good idea.

Use visual aids

Screensharing is a great tool because it offers participants visual orientation.

Looking back on 2019

Jahresrueckblick 2019

This year at Peschel Communications, we spent a lot of time working on our internal processes. To make the onboarding of new hires smoother, we sat down and defined some of our workflows in more detail. One added bonus of this was that we barely needed to do any extra preparation for our ISO 17100 audit when it came along in July. The ISO standard for the translation industry sets strict requirements for staff qualifications, translation project management and quality assurance, all of which we met.

2019 was a record-breaking year in many respects:

A guide for parents from immigrant families aimed at helping them to better understand the German school system was translated into 24 (!) languages, such as French, Italian, Spanish, Pashto, Persian and many others. Our project managers calmly navigated changes to the source text as well as communication with 24 translators and another 24 revisors and delivered the project before the deadline.

Our conference interpreting team also passed a new milestone this year. For a two-day sales conference held by a local SME, simultaneous interpretation was delivered from English into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian and Thai by an unprecedented team of 16 interpreters. The client contacted Peschel Communications nine months before the event, which made it possible to book excellent interpreters even for the more unusual language combinations.

At Peschel Communications, we are always open to trying something new, and this year we accepted an intern who was looking to complete a terminology project on storage technology for her Bachelor’s thesis. Good terminologists are always needed, so we were lucky to be able to offer her a place on our team after she graduated.

Personally, I noticed a rise in the number of consecutive interpreting assignments this year. Ranging from audits and witness interviews to patient consultations, I was able to help people communicate in a whole range of different scenarios, with the only technical equipment needed being a notepad and pen. These types of assignments can be intense and require social skills and empathy, which is why they often stay on my mind for quite some time.

The subject that has been making headlines this year has also gripped the Peschel Communications team. We have already been purchasing our electricity from a solar energy cooperative for years, and everyone who possibly can comes to work on foot, by bike or by public transport. We have also been supporting a solar energy project called Solar-Energie für Afrika, and needless to say we recycle. During climate action week we donated a day’s profits to the Plant for the Planet project. So it will be no surprise to hear that we particularly like translating and interpreting in the area of renewable energies. But beyond our personal contributions, we wanted to call for political action to protect the climate, and on 29th September the Peschel Communications team closed the office for a few hours to march for a sustainable climate policy.

In November, Ellen Göppl and I took the train to Bonn for the biannual conference of the BDÜ, the German Association of Interpreters and Translators. More than 1,000 participants from 25 countries spent three days attending lectures and workshops (two of which were held by Peschel Communications) on topics as diverse as machine translation and mindfulness. The general mood was very upbeat – a wave of positivity that’s sure to carry us into a fantastic new year.

DIN EN 15038 is dead – long live ISO 17100


Even though translating is a creative activity and translation quality may seem difficult to measure, attempts have been made to assess what makes a translation service good. After the old EN 15038 was recently replaced by ISO 17100, Peschel Communications decided to apply for an audit. In my role as an interpreter, I have quite a lot of experience with audits, albeit in other industries, so I thought I was ready for my own company to be taken under the microscope. The experience ended up being both exciting and surprisingly emotional.

So, what is ISO 17100 all about?

The ISO 17100:2015 Translation Services standard lays down requirements for the core processes, resources and other aspects necessary for providing a high-quality translation service. This includes the qualifications, training and skills of in-house staff as well as the selection of freelance translators. Processes for project management, data protection, translation and quality assurance must also be documented and followed to a T.

Preparing for the big day

The first step towards achieving certification was undergoing a pre-audit, where questions were asked about the selection process for freelancers and the relevant documentation was reviewed.

The auditor was also interested the technical aspects of our work – our IT equipment, our data backup system and our order management software. There were no complaints here, mainly because we already work with leading industry software, which makes compliance with the standard a breeze.

Project management and customer relationship management are important aspects of our work, but the core business is, of course, translation. The auditor was impressed with the fact that we maintain a dedicated style guide and terminology database for each of our clients, which help us ensure consistency across all of their translations. Every translation is revised by a second linguist – one of the main pillars of quality assurance under ISO 17100 and an intrinsic part of the translation production process at Peschel Communications.

Having interviewed me for an hour about these and several other aspects, the auditor was able to pronounce Peschel Communications ready for the actual audit.

The day of the audit

On the 3rd of July – the day of the audit – the team assembled at 9 a.m. for an introductory meeting with the auditor. Any initial nervousness was soon dissipated by the auditor’s friendly and clearly pragmatic approach.

The first interview of the day took place with the management team, exploring the selection, onboarding and training of in-house staff. The auditor was impressed with our strong focus on training and merely suggested more structured documentation in the form of a training and development plan.

Our compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the measures we take to protect confidential information received top marks. After all the work that we had put into GDPR compliance last year, it was most gratifying to hear that our efforts have paid off and the level of data protection at Peschel Communication is outstanding.

The feedback we received for the translation production process, ranging from project preparation to final quality control, was also excellent. The auditor also underscored the value of our company’s internal wiki, which we really do use for documenting anything and everything, from checklists to software handbooks to invoicing procedures.

Flying colours and unexpected praise


Having spent all day interviewing team members and asking what felt like 10,000 questions, the team reassembled for a debriefing in the late afternoon, where the auditor was able to confirm that Peschel Communications fully meets the ISO 17100 requirements. What’s more, he described our company culture as extremely customer-oriented and noted how highly we value both internal and external staff. These qualities are very close to my heart, and the fact that they stood out to someone after just a few hours spent with the team was an unexpectedly emotional moment for me. And a great end to an exciting day.

The terminology side of translation — what my internship taught me

Die terminologische Seite des Übersetzens

“Translation? I had no idea there was even a course for that. And what do you translate, exactly?” fellow passengers on the way between Freiburg and my hometown of Nagold sometimes asked.
And yes, you can actually study translation — I should know because I spent three years doing just that at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences.

From Magdeburg to Freiburg

I really wanted to write a dissertation with a practical application in the field of terminology, so I went in search of a translation company where I would be able to tackle this project as part of an internship. Peschel Communications were immediately open to the idea and offered me a translation internship coupled with support for a terminology project on the subject of storage technology. Overjoyed, I accepted the offer.

The first day at Peschel Communications

I vividly remember how nervous I was on the morning of my first day at Peschel Communications. While university had taught me a lot of theory, I still lacked work experience, and the questions buzzed around in my head: What would a typical day at a translation company look like? Would I be able to put any of my newly acquired knowledge into practice? What was I to expect?

Well, for starters, quite a lot of information. There wasn’t one day in the first week when I didn’t go home with my mind reeling, falling into bed with exhaustion. But once I acquired a certain routine, the exhaustion quickly subsided.

“And what do you translate?”

I started off translating short legal documents, such as birth certificates. Most of these documents are only available on paper, which means they have to be prepared in Microsoft Word for electronic processing. It immediately became clear that my studies were very different indeed from the real day-to-day life of a translator. On more than one occasion, I silently thanked my translation tutor for always having provided formatted documents.
I can’t deny that documents with intricate layout or uncooperative software sometimes stretched my patience. But here, too, practice made everything much easier!
As the weeks passed, I was given longer documents to translate, such as press releases or contracts. Every new text meant having to familiarise myself with a completely different subject area. What may sound exhausting to some is exactly what makes translating such an interesting profession for me. No two texts are the same and you have the opportunity to broaden your horizon every day. Never before have I been exposed to so many different topics as during my internship.
One of my personal highlights was a marketing translation for a cosmetics product which required a entirely different register than some of the technical texts I had translated previously. The “creative freedom” was a completely new and exciting experience, something my course had not prepared me for.

As already mentioned, my internship also included a terminology project on storage technology, which gave me insights into the terminological aspect of translation. The demand for translations in the field of renewable energies and storage technology is rising, and so I was tasked with creating a German-English glossary of storage technology terms. I researched technical terms and prepared the researched specialist terms in an Excel document according to the Peschel Communication’s terminology guidelines, so that the terminology could be imported into the CAT-tool memoQ. The fruit of several month’s labour is a glossary containing 200 specialist terms, which is now available both as a PDF and as a terminology database.

The internship – a steep learning curve

The internship was one long and important learning process for me. Not a day went by on which I didn’t learn something new. The most useful part was the feedback from my colleagues, who took the time to thoroughly discuss every translation I produced. This helped me recognise my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to continually improve my translation skills. Whenever I had a question or a problem, help was at hand.
Another reason why I enjoyed working at Peschel Communications was that I was welcomed as part of the team from day one. The working atmosphere was more than agreeable and there was always time to have a laugh, even on stressful days. Thank you for a great time!

“All’s well that ends well” (In the original Hungarian: Minden jó, ha a vége jó.)

Budapest Ungarn

The very first Meet Central Europe conference took place on 30 and 31 October this year in Budapest. The national language industry associations of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria established this annual international event as a replacement for individual conferences in each country. It’s an ideal networking platform for both freelance translators and translation companies offering language services in Central and Eastern European languages. This year’s central topic of Vendor Management also aimed to provide attendees with a foundation for successful collaboration with external partners.

It all comes down to reliable partners

Helena Triesch Central Europe Conference Budapest

At Peschel Communications GmbH, we rely on trusted partners whose work meets our own quality standards, particularly when it comes to large multilingual projects or unusual language combinations. The initial challenge for project managers is finding these partners and building an efficient working relationship with them built on trust. In this light, the conference provided the perfect opportunity for us to expand our knowledge and to network with the other participants.

The Budapest Music Center (BMC), a striking building not far from the Liberty Bridge, served as the venue of the conference, where we were welcomed the evening before the conference started. We kicked off the proceedings with a boat trip along the river Danube — a pleasant surprise organised by one of the event’s partners for all of the attendees and the perfect chance for us to get to know each other against the impressive backdrop of the city lights.

Going green with an app

The programme was published in the form of an app, which not only saved paper but allowed every attendee to create their own personalised daily schedule. We also used the app to stay in touch and share photos and job offers, make dinner plans, arrange carpools to the airport and more.

The official part of the programme began Tuesday morning with the Master Classes, which promised a closer look at the central topic of Vendor Management. The speakers explained what responsibilities this role involves and how best to meet them. As project managers, we know that customers are interested in the end result above all else. Our job is to identify and meet customers’ expectations — and sometimes even to exceed them. To do this, we need to provide our partners with a clear definition of the standards that we in turn expect from them.

Knowledge sharing at the top of the agenda

Central Europe Conference Budapest

On both days of the conference, the speakers used case studies to exemplify their individual approaches as vendor managers or project managers. Where can I find suitable partners for my project? How can I make a job appealing even on a tight budget? What are the best conditions to help develop a long-term working relationship? The conference also explored new technical tools such as machine translation (MT) and post-editing (PE). As many as four individual events were taking place at any one time, allowing the attendees to spread out according to their interests. All in all, a great deal of emphasis was placed on sharing our personal experiences with one another. And the organisers and speakers were always available to patiently answer any questions we had.

Clear communication is the key to success

As with so many things, the key to success is clear communication. Just as there is no single “correct” translation, the perfect approach is not set in stone. The important thing is to ensure the project workflow is as straightforward and convenient as possible for everyone involved, drawing on all available resources to achieve a shared goal. Or, as the Hungarians put it: “Minden jó, ha a vége jó.” But to get there, a collaborative approach is needed — and sharing our experiences with one another is invaluable. Conferences like Meet Central Europe are the ideal platform for this. I came away with plenty of food for thought, as well as a number of potential new partners and even new friends. Here’s to a reunion next year in Prague!

An evening of reunions and fond memories

Von Julia Schneider

The Peschel Communications team was in celebratory spirits this September.

A glass of champagne to kick off the party

Peschel Communications was founded 20 years ago this year, and we marked the occasion in style. Many of the people who have helped us along the way, including former colleagues and interns, joined us for our anniversary party. Some had even travelled from far-flung locations to be there — Oxford, Southampton, Munich and Berlin, to name just a few. They seized the occasion to visit their former home, relive fond memories of their time in Freiburg and swap stories over tapas and a glass of champagne.

Willkommen zurück — welcome back!

The opening speech made it clear just how eventful the last 20 years have been, how many exciting and even curious things have happened. The management team used assorted objects to illustrate their personal highlights from the past two decades.

Colleagues old and new mingled happily together, and it was wonderful to hear whose paths had crossed over the years and to put familiar names to unfamiliar faces. Our location was Cabaña, a cosy Spanish tapas bar in the heart of Freiburg’s old town, just a stone’s throw from our offices.

With such a laidback atmosphere, it’s no wonder the evening felt almost like a vast family reunion.

One pleasant surprise was the anniversary cake, which made a late-night appearance to round off the culinary delights.

We danced, talked and laughed into the early hours of the morning, but even the best nights come to an end and eventually we had to say goodbye — until the next anniversary!

The project manager’s superpowers

andrea unkelbach elia konferenz

The job description of a translation project manager is very different from what it used to be. Freelance translators have always managed their own projects — and of course, this still holds true. But translation companies now often employ specialists who spend their entire working day organising translation and/or interpreting projects. That being said, the project manager’s role is not set in stone. Some project managers are all-rounders who also take care of marketing, sales and billing, while others exclusively organise and deliver translation projects.

you are the project manager elia

The one thing that all project managers have in common is their “superpowers”: planning, managing, monitoring and completing projects are only the tip of the iceberg, after all. Project managers always need to stay organised no matter the time constraints, adapt flexibly and creatively to different situations, know projects and customers inside out, optimise processes and ensure they always stay on top of all of the above — a fitting motto would be, “Keep calm and be a hero”.

A conference for everyone

The broad spectrum of tasks that fall to a project manager, the soft skills required of them and the rapidly evolving technology make it challenging to organise a conference that covers all of the different requirements and interests under one roof.

Elia did it again this year

As the Senior Project Manager at Peschel Communications, I had the opportunity to travel to Porto, Portugal, in mid-September to attend ND focus — Elia’s focus on Project Management. It is the only industry conference that provides a platform for translation project managers, who all share a common goal: to optimise processes and make their jobs more efficient. Having attended the debut conference in Barcelona in 2016 together with my colleague Helena Triesch, I was excited to see how this year’s event would unfold.

Unlike last time, ND focus — Elia’s focus on Project Management 2018 was divided into three parts:

  • information on innovative technical solutions,
  • key knowledge about the increasingly rapid localisation process, and
  • the ongoing improvement of the soft skills a project manager needs.

On the eve of the two-day conference, the 96 participants from over 20 countries had the opportunity to explore the basics of some innovative technical solutions for the translation industry. The two areas covered were the aspects of CAT tools that are relevant for project management, and an introduction to different project management systems. Following this, the participants had the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the tools and received helpful tips on some of the finer points of familiar industry-specific systems.

A vivid image of the future

The conference was structured so that everyone could listen to all four presentations offered on the first day, ensuring that they had the necessary theoretical grounding for the workshops held the day after. From “Agile Localisation” to “Different Clients, Different Needs” to “Assertiveness”, there was something for everyone. We rounded off the proceedings by looking at the future of the project manager’s role, particularly in light of the speed at which the technology is evolving.

The workshops on the second day offered a range of exciting opportunities. We looked at how to improve our soft skills, how to identify customer needs beyond the obvious or what they explicitly request, and how to tap into potential for cross-selling in individual situations. I found the discussions with other attendees particularly valuable. Our conversations during the workshops, in the coffee breaks and at the networking dinner provided plenty of food for thought and ideas for our own processes. Some challenges are common to translation companies around the world, and we discussed these openly without thinking of our fellow attendees as competitors.

Discussions with colleagues

This combination of theory, technology and lively discussions with colleagues provided many practical tips and tricks for using our systems, as well approaches and ideas that will benefit me personally and our processes at Peschel Communications. ND Focus — Elia’s focus on Project Management is always worth the journey!

German expressions in other languages

deutsche Redewendungen in anderen Sprachen

Spanish, double Dutch or Chinese?

Every language has idioms and figures of speech. Their origin lies in a country’s history and culture, and is often gradually forgotten until only the phrase remains. Few Germans stop and think about why it seems “Spanish” to them when something is odd or confusing, just as native English speakers rarely wonder why something incomprehensible is “double Dutch” or “all Greek” to them. It’s a little-known historical fact that the German phrase “that seems Spanish to me” (Das kommt mir spanisch vor) probably emerged after the Spanish King Charles V became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, confronting the German court with a host of unfamiliar Spanish customs. And “It’s all Greek to me” is said to be based on a Medieval Latin annotation used by scribes – Graecum est; non potest legi, meaning “It is Greek; it cannot be read” – while “double Dutch” and similarly disparaging phrases such as “Dutch courage” seem to have emerged during the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Is it all Greek to the Greeks?

Native speakers can understand and use expressions like these without thinking twice. But for non-natives who don’t have a perfect mastery of the language, it can be anything but straightforward. If idioms were translated literally they would make little sense, since national and cultural differences – however small – play a significant role. Luckily, there are equivalent expressions in other languages that can help us out in these situations. Because something incomprehensible is hardly likely to be “all Greek” to the Greeks.

Eggs, peas or drops of water?

Instead, the Spanish say Esto me suena a chino – literally, “That sounds like Chinese to me”. And the French have a corresponding expression, C’est du chinois.
When two people look very similar, Germans say that they are “as like as one egg to another” (sie gleichen sich wie ein Ei dem anderen). The English equivalent is of course “to be like two peas in a pod”, while in French and Spanish the expression is “to be as like as two drops of water” (se ressembler comme deux gouttes d’eau, parecerse como dos gotas de agua).

What’s the deal with owls and Athens?

West European languages share very similar cultural backgrounds and are also linguistically related, so they often use similar figures of speech. German and Dutch speakers both draw on Ancient Greece in the phrase “to carry owls to Athens” (Eulen nach Athen tragen; uilen naar Athene dragen), which originally referred both to real owls and to Athenian coins bearing their image and the nickname “owls”. Athens was extremely wealthy at various times in its history, which led people to joke that there was no need to bring yet more gold to the city. The British equivalent of “to carry coal to Newcastle” is a variation on the same theme, albeit with a little more local flavour. And the pattern also crops up in French (“to bring wood to the forest”, porter du bois à la forêt), Italian (“to pour water into the sea”, portare acqua al mare) and Spanish (“to sell honey to the beekeeper”, vender miel al colmenero).

Non-native speakers usually need to reach a very high level in the language before they can use turns of phrase like these correctly. For translators and interpreters, they certainly make life more interesting – although they do cause the odd headache too.


Translating personal documents

What you need to know to have your personal documents translated

Translating certificates and other personal documents (which usually need to be certified) is a particularly challenging part of our job. These translations may appear straightforward at first glance, but there are all kinds of considerations that make them extremely time-consuming.

School and university diplomas, for example, require painstaking research – beyond the individual words, we are essentially translating a whole education system. Laborious formatting is then needed to reproduce the layout of the original as closely as possible. When translating a professional reference, it’s crucial to strike exactly the right tone.

So a surprising amount of work goes into the translation of your birth certificate or degree – and in translation, as elsewhere, quality comes at a price. This is something to keep in mind when arranging your translation. You are much less likely to be taken aback by the price label when you consider everything that’s involved in creating the final product!

The road to a certified translation can seem as complex for the customer as for the translator, so we’ve put together a quick guide to help smooth the way and spare you from any unpleasant surprises:

  • How much will it cost? We can only provide a quote once we’ve seen the documents you want to have translated. We can’t estimate the price based on a description over the phone, even if “it’s just one page!” ­– in our experience, one page is rarely the same as another.
  • You don’t need an appointment. You can drop by during our office hours (9 am – 6 pm) to bring us your documents in person, or simply email us a scanned copy. It won’t take us long to draw up a non-binding quote for you.
  • A minimum fee applies to all documents, including those with only a small amount of text, to account for the administrative work that every translation involves.
  • A flat fee is often set for certificates and other personal documents (rather than the usual price per line of text). This fee takes into account both the translation work itself and the amount of formatting that we estimate will be necessary.
  • How long will it take? The timescale for a translation depends on our translators’ existing workload as well as the time required for the job itself. We always recommend that you arrange your translation in plenty of time in order to avoid express surcharges.
  • However, you can use our express service if time is of the essence – for example, if you’re about to travel abroad and suddenly realise that you’re missing an important document. We can usually accommodate urgent translations at the last minute, although this will entail an additional fee.
  • What information do I need to provide? It’s essential that you find out in advance exactly what is required by the authority which has requested the translation. We are well versed in translating and certifying documents, but we can’t specifically advise you which authorities require which documents to be submitted with which type of certification.
  • If the translation needs to be certified from the original, we will of course need to see the original, either when you come to arrange the translation or when you pick it up. If it only needs to be certified from a copy, then a scan or a photocopy is perfectly sufficient.
  • In some cases, a translation must be notarised. This means that a sworn translator must sign it in the presence of a notary public, who then certifies the translator’s signature. We can only meet with the notary by appointment, so please allow time for this when arranging your translation.
  • Occasionally, a translation must also be apostilled by the district court after being notarised. We can take the translation to the court on your behalf, or you can do this yourself to save costs.
  • Handwritten entries on documents can often be difficult for the translator to make out. To ensure an accurate translation, it would be helpful if you could type up any especially unclear entries in a Word file beforehand.
  • In particular for multi-page documents such as court judgements, it might be that only an excerpt is really relevant. We recommend that you find out exactly what is needed and highlight the important passages if it’s not necessary to translate the whole document. This can save you time and money.
  • Why choose Peschel Communications? We put great emphasis on quality. All of our translations are carried out by a native speaker of the target language and then revised by a second translator.
  • Customer satisfaction is equally important to us. If you have any questions or comments, we will be more than happy to discuss them. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, either by e-mail at, or by phone on +49 761 3809690.

Jogging bottoms or business casual? From in-house to freelance and back again

Marley meme

Ein Großteil der in Deutschland tätigen Übersetzerinnen und Übersetzer[1] arbeitet freiberuflich, unter den Mitgliedern des Bundesverbands der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer (BDÜ) in Baden-Württemberg sind es sogar stolze 87 Prozent.[2] Doch woran liegt das? Ein Grund für diesen hohen Anteil ist sicher die geringe Anzahl an Stellenangeboten in der Branche. Will man sein täglich Brot mit Übersetzen verdienen, bleibt oft nur der Weg in die Selbständigkeit.

Die schlechteste Option ist das nicht: Eine Freiberuflerin kann (theoretisch) als „digitale Nomadin“ mit dem Laptop von jeder Strandbar der Welt aus arbeiten, dabei genug Geld verdienen und ist ihre eigene Chefin. Warum sollte man das gegen einen Nine-to-five-Job eintauschen?

Wer von der Freiheit der Selbständigkeit gekostet hat, dem erscheint eine Rückkehr ins Angestelltenverhältnis oft schon nach kurzer Zeit völlig absurd. So ging es lange Zeit auch mir: Nachdem ich mehrere Jahre als Projektmanagerin in einer Übersetzungsagentur gearbeitet hatte, machte ich mich – akribisch vorbereitet und hochmotiviert – Anfang 2014 in Ulm selbständig. Drei Jahre später zog es mich familiär bedingt nach Freiburg. Da passte es hervorragend, dass just zu diesem Zeitpunkt im Team von Peschel Communications eine Stelle frei wurde. Nach kurzem Zögern entschloss ich mich, zurück ins Angestelltenverhältnis zu wechseln, und bin nun seit April letzten Jahres Teil des internen Übersetzerinnenteams. Als zuvor freiberuflich tätige und jetzt festangestellte Übersetzerin kenne ich also die Vorzüge und die Schattenseiten beider Arbeitsweisen.

Absicherung vs. unternehmerische Freiheit

Wer sich selbständig macht, muss sich aktiv mit Themen wie Krankenversicherung und Altersvorsoge auseinandersetzen: Wie kann man sich absichern, um beispielsweise bei längerer Krankheit den Verdienstausfall zu kompensieren? Was für Möglichkeiten der Altersvorsorge gibt es? Aber nicht nur das, mit einem Mal sind auch ganz andere Aspekte wichtig: Was passiert, wenn aufgrund einer fehlerhaft erstellten Übersetzung eine Broschüre neu gedruckt werden muss – gibt es auch dafür eine Versicherung?

Zuerst stehen jedoch grundsätzliche Fragen an. Muss man die Selbständigkeit irgendwo anmelden? Braucht man einen Gewerbeschein? Ist man jetzt zur Abgabe einer Steuererklärung verpflichtet – und wenn ja, was gilt es da zu beachten? Wie war das nochmal mit der Umsatzsteuer?

Diese Fragen stellen sich im Angestelltenverhältnis naturgemäß nicht. Freiberuflerinnen hingegen müssen sich mit einer ganzen Reihe an Dingen befassen, die auf den ersten Blick gar nicht zur Arbeit einer Übersetzerin gehören: Plötzlich müssen Kunden akquiriert, Preise kalkuliert, Angebote geschrieben, Rechnungen gestellt und Unterlagen archiviert werden, damit am Ende des Monats Geld auf dem Konto ist. Ein regelmäßiges, festes Gehalt gibt es nicht.

Da die Welt nicht sofort weiß, dass man nun als selbstständige Übersetzerin arbeitet, gehört auch die Beschäftigung mit Marketing, eigener Website und sozialen Medien von Anfang an zum Arbeitsalltag. Nichts davon wird in den einschlägigen Studiengängen vermittelt, sodass nicht nur Motivation, Ehrgeiz und Eigeninitiative gefragt sind, um sich das nötige Wissen anzueignen, sondern auch Kreativität und ein gewisses Durchhaltevermögen. Kurzum: Freiberufliche Übersetzerinnen sind zugleich auch Unternehmerinnen.

Dazu gehört beispielsweise auch, keine Angst vor Investitionen zu haben. Ein Programm zur computergestützten Übersetzung (CAT-Tool) kostet nun mal ein paar hundert Euro. Doch wer als Fachübersetzerin professionell arbeiten will, kommt heutzutage um diese Anschaffung nicht herum – und muss sich dann regelmäßig darum kümmern, Lizenzen und Software-Versionen auf dem neuesten Stand zu halten.

Nicht nur in technischer Hinsicht ist es wichtig, am Ball zu bleiben. Um am Markt bestehen zu können, ist auch Expertenwissen gefragt. Je besser man sich in einem bestimmten Fachgebiet auskennt, desto schneller geht die Arbeit von der Hand – und ist man erst einmal eingearbeitet, kann man auch mit dem Kunden, oft genug Autor des Texts, ganz anders kommunizieren und ihn vielleicht sogar auf inhaltliche Fehler in den Texten hinweisen. Das schafft Vertrauen – ein Faktor, der in der Kundenbeziehung gar nicht hoch genug eingeschätzt werden kann.

Ständige Fortbildungen sind also Pflicht, und die entsprechenden Workshops und Seminare sind Investitionen, die sogar doppelt zu Buche schlagen: Neben den Seminargebühren müssen auch Kosten für Anfahrt und Verpflegung einkalkuliert werden. Zusätzlich ist zu berücksichtigen, dass man in dieser Zeit kein Geld verdient. Natürlich rechnen sich solche Investitionen langfristig, doch der Gedanke, erst einmal Geld in die Hand zu nehmen, bevor überhaupt welches auf dem Konto landet, ist zunächst gewöhnungsbedürftig. Ein wenig tröstet da die Aussicht, dass all diese Kosten später von der Steuer abgesetzt werden können …

Strukturierter Tagesablauf vs. Flexibilität

Schnell auf einen Kaffee in die Stadt? Als Freiberuflerin kein Problem, die Übersetzung mache ich heute Abend fertig, Liefertermin ist ohnehin erst morgen früh. Die Flüge nach Argentinien sind gerade besonders günstig? Perfekt, meinen Urlaub muss ich nirgendwo beantragen, los geht’s, ich bin dann mal einen Monat weg!

Wer selbständig tätig ist, genießt Freiheiten, von denen Angestellte oft nur träumen. Diese Flexibilität hat allerdings eine Kehrseite. Es ist ein weithin bekanntes Klischee, in dem viel Wahrheit steckt: Man arbeitet „selbst“ und „ständig“. Es gibt immer etwas zu tun, und sei es nur das Sortieren von Unterlagen oder ein Brainstorming für die Neugestaltung der eigenen Website. Vor allem im Home-Office ist es alles andere als einfach, da einen Schlussstrich zu ziehen. Wenn die Grenzen zwischen Privatem und Beruflichem immer weiter verschwimmen, kann das auf Dauer zu einer echten Belastung werden.

Und, natürlich, der berühmte innere Schweinehund: Ist man nicht gezwungen, morgens um halb acht das Haus zu verlassen und sich auf den Weg zur Arbeit zu machen, erfordert es einiges an Disziplin, zu einer bestimmten Uhrzeit am Schreibtisch zu sitzen. Hat man sich erst einmal aufgerafft, ist es ohne die „soziale Kontrolle“ und die Arbeitsatmosphäre eines Büros gar nicht so einfach, am Ball zu bleiben und sich nicht von allen möglichen Versuchungen ablenken zu lassen.

Sind morgens hingegen noch andere Menschen im Raum, passiert es nicht ganz so schnell, dass man zwischendurch eine halbe Stunde mit Zeitung lesen verbringt – dafür sorgen allein die geschäftig klappernden Tastaturen der Kolleginnen. Und wenn um 18 Uhr das Büro offiziell schließt, beginnt etwas, das vielen Freiberuflerinnen fast unbekannt ist: der Feierabend, an den sich freitags sogar ein komplett arbeitsfreies Wochenende anschließt.

Bezahlten Urlaub gibt es für Selbständige natürlich nicht, und wirklich abzuschalten, ist gerade zu Beginn eine Herausforderung. Mir bereiteten damals mehrere Fragen schlaflose Nächte: Werden mich die Kunden vergessen, wenn ich mal länger weg bin? Sollte ich doch ab und zu meine E-Mails abrufen, trotz der eingestellten Abwesenheitsnotiz? Was ist, wenn es Fragen zur letzten abgelieferten Übersetzung gibt? Und dieses kurze Lektorat könnte ich doch heute Abend schnell am Laptop erledigen? Im digitalen Zeitalter ist die Versuchung groß, selbst am Río de la Plata noch aufs Smartphone zu schauen. Manchmal wird so aus dem Urlaub dann schneller eine Arbeitsreise als geplant.

Teamgeist vs. Einzelkämpferin

Während freiberufliche Übersetzerinnen am heimischen Schreibtisch nach Lust und Laune schalten und walten können, ist im Büro Rücksichtnahme gefragt: Lautes Musikhören, private Telefonate oder E-Mails checken ist normalerweise nicht möglich. Auch die Reihenfolge der Arbeit ist strikter festgelegt, denn eine zu spät fertig gestellte Übersetzung kann den gesamten Zeitplan der Kolleginnen durcheinanderbringen, die für die Revision zuständig sind. Dafür kann man sich als angestellte Übersetzerin ganz auf die Arbeit am Text konzentrieren, denn andere Tätigkeiten wie Projektmanagement und Social-Media-Marketing fallen hier schlicht nicht in den eigenen Aufgabenbereich.

Die technischen Rahmenbedingungen sind in einem Büro mit mehreren Kolleginnen ebenfalls vorgegeben. Welches CAT-Tool verwendet wird, kann man dort nicht selbst entscheiden, und für die Terminologiepflege gelten strenge Regeln, die es einzuhalten gilt, damit aus dem sorgsam konzipierten System kein chaotischer Datenhaufen wird. Im Gegensatz dazu können Freiberuflerinnen das CAT-Tool meist selbst bestimmen und individuell festlegen, nach welchen Regeln einzelne Begriffe in die Terminologiedatenbank eingepflegt werden. Ob daraus Durcheinander entsteht oder eine sinnvolle Struktur, liegt in der eigenen Verantwortung.

Gleichzeitig bietet die Arbeit in einem Team entscheidende Vorteile. Mal schnell die britische Muttersprachlerin gefragt, wie sie diese komplizierte Stelle in dem englischen Vertrag versteht, oder mithilfe einer Kollegin ein CAT-Tool-Problem gelöst: Während ich als Freiberuflerin dafür E-Mail oder Telefon bemühen musste, ist das heute im Büro eine Sache von Minuten.

Die Kolleginnen helfen aber nicht nur bei kniffligen Stellen im Text oder technischen Problemen, bei denen man alleine nicht weiterkommt. Auch wenn es darum geht, einer eigentlich schon fertigen Übersetzung den letzten Schliff zu verleihen oder Fehler auszumerzen, erweist sich die direkte Zusammenarbeit als von unschätzbarem Wert. Da jede Übersetzerin eine andere Herangehensweise an einen Text hat, gibt es allein bei der Besprechung der Korrekturen einiges zu lernen. Und natürlich sehen die unvoreingenommenen Augen der Revisorin oft mehr als die eigenen – vor allem dann, wenn man sich tage- oder wochenlang in ein Thema eingearbeitet hat und vor lauter Bäumen den Wald nicht mehr sieht. Der direkte Austausch mit Kolleginnen ist eine große Bereicherung und verhindert (zumindest ein Stück weit) das „Schmoren im eigenen Saft“, gegen das man im Home-Office sehr viel proaktiver ankämpfen muss.


Ob freiberuflich tätig oder festangestellt – beide Arbeitsweisen haben ihre Vor- und Nachteile. Wie man die jeweiligen Herausforderungen des Arbeitsalltags bewältigt, ist meiner Erfahrung nach letztendlich Typsache. Für mich persönlich gibt es kein pauschales „besser“ oder „schlechter“. So wie ich als Selbständige die Unabhängigkeit und die Freiheit genossen (und zahlreiche Wochenenden durchgearbeitet) habe, weiß ich nun geregelte Arbeitszeiten und vor allem die Zusammenarbeit mit meinen Kolleginnen bei Peschel Communications zu schätzen.

[1] Angesichts der in der Übersetzungsbranche herrschenden Geschlechterverhältnisse verwende ich im Folgenden das generische Femininum, wenn Übersetzerinnen und Übersetzer (bzw. Freiberuflerinnen und Freiberufler) gemeint sind.


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New input at Elia together 2018

At the end of February, the leadership team of Peschel Communications greeted each day just like the locals with a hearty „Kaliméra, Athina“ – on February 22-23, Anja Peschel and Ellen Göppl attended Elia together 2018, the conference of the European Language Industry Association, in Athens. The objective was to gather new ideas, exchange with colleagues and recruit new freelance staff. Elia is a European association of language service companies that organizes the together conferences which are also open to independent translators. Our anticipation promptly ticked up another notch as we spotted two of our freelancers on the participant list, both of whom were internal translators in our Freiburg office for many years: Charlotte Marston and Katherina Polig.

With its motto “Specialise to Excel,” the conference consisted of three main tracks – Specialisation, Trends and Technology – so there would be plenty of new input! Together we managed quite successfully to attend all of the lectures that were of particular interest to us. The widely varying topics ranged from the translation of mandatory documentation for clinical studies to terminology maintenance in partnership with the customer and the hotly debated subject of machine translation (MT) and postediting (PT).

elia Konferenz

Notable highlights for us included the presentations on faster and more ergonomic translation (and reading!) as well as “Simplified Technical English.” In addition, we were particularly pleased with the presentation by our “good old acquaintance” – István Lengyel, co-founder and former CEO of Kilgray/memoQ. We once kept in regular e-mail contact with him, when he was still working personally with support at Kilgray. In Athens he spoke together with his most recent employer, Gonzalo Urriza, on what can go wrong when making strategic decisions in the language industry – a very honest and refreshing presentation.

On the second day, practical information and tips on the subject of machine translation and postediting were presented by Valeria Filippello, computer linguist at SDL. We are at this moment working diligently on both of these very timely, closely linked topics. It is not so easy to bring clarity to the various types of MT (statistical, rule-based, neuronal, …) and levels of postediting, or correction of machine translation by qualified linguists, but the speakers represented the diverse aspects in a very clear and understandable manner.

In summary: Attending an industry conference is always worthwhile, even when a few presentations did not go into enough detail for our level of knowledge. Nonetheless, we took away many new ideas, information and also some contact data for potential new freelance staff. After a free half-day of exploring Athens and once again enjoying the Greek cuisine, we headed home extremely satisfied … and we were happy to have soaked up some sun and warm weather!

Looking back on 2017

Last Christmas I announced that we would be welcoming some new faces in 2017, and the changes to our team are at the top of my agenda for this year’s round-up.

In February we were joined by Sarah Zeller, freshly graduated from her Master’s studies (French and English) and starting out as a trainee translator. Sarah settled in and became an indispensable member of the team so quickly that there was no doubt in our minds about keeping her on at the end of her traineeship.

In April, the German department received another “new” addition: Johanna Bettinger, who returned to Peschel seven years after carrying out an internship here. She now has a broad range of experience under her belt as a project manager and translator, both in-house and freelance – experience that we are delighted to be able to benefit from! Johanna’s working languages are Spanish and English, and she is also responsible for coordinating our translations for the European Commission.

As the business grows, so too does the amount of support work needed. To keep pace with our expansion, Julia Schnieder has been part of the team since July. Julia is both a linguist and a trained online marketing manager. She is finally setting Peschel Communications’ marketing straight, while at the same time adding a touch of class to the office: thanks to her, we now have a plant brightening up every windowsill!

As anticipated in last year’s blog article, our former intern Mari Smith returned to Freiburg in September. Having brushed up her Spanish in Barcelona, she is now turning out translations in finest British English for us.

In October, Peschel Communications welcomed a new team assistant. Mandy Thiede is using her knack for organisation to ensure that everything runs (even more) smoothly, and has taken over project management duties for private customers.

With regret, we also had to say goodbye to three of our team in 2017. At the beginning of the year, Verena Brunner relocated to the Rhineland area. We miss her but are glad to hear that things are going well in her new home!

Saying goodbye to Charley Hinds was only a partial goodbye. Charley will continue to work with us on a free-lance basis.

Then, in October, our team assistant Bärbel Hansen left us after nine happy years. While it wasn’t easy for her – or us – to say goodbye, Bärbel had decided it was time for a new adventure.

And 2017 brought us another wonderful group of interns, without whom life in the office wouldn’t have been the same. Many heartfelt thanks to Ann-Katrin Krüger, Madeleine Schnurr, Sabrina Grether and Sarah Boretzki!

If you’ve been counting, you’ll have realised that the Peschel Communications team has grown once again. The growth we’ve seen in recent years is a cause for celebration – it’s a sign that we’re obviously doing something right! At the same time, it entails a certain amount of reorganisation. As well as reinforcing the company’s support team, I decided this year that it was time for a change of name – and status. We officially became a GmbH, or limited company, on 1st October 2017. The trip to the notary was the least of our worries as we prepared for the changeover. All of our marketing material – flyers, brochures, business cards, website, etc., etc., etc. – had to be replaced. Every instance of “Übersetzungsbüro Peschel” had to be changed to “Peschel Communications GmbH”. Two months later, we’re still finding the odd place where the name hasn’t been updated. Between this and reorganising our accounting, we’ve certainly been kept on our toes for the last couple of months!

As our team grows, our Wallstrasse offices are starting to fill up. For now we’re still perfectly happy here – not to mention very attached to the historical charm of the building and its central location. Freiburg’s property market may well be awash with modern office space, but we can’t quite see ourselves working away surrounded by glass walls and industrial carpet. Since we don’t anticipate a change of location any time soon, we’ve had a minor renovation this year, bringing our kitchen into the 21st century and giving the entire office a thorough spring clean. We’ll see what the future holds…

Professional development was another significant theme of 2017, especially in the second half of the year. Helena Triesch enjoyed informative visits to the European Commission and Intersolar Europe, Andrea Unkelbach honed her selling skills, Sarah Zeller explored the finer points of creative writing, Johanna Bettinger took part in a Language and Law conference run by the industry association BDÜ, Ellen Göppl attended a stimulating seminar focused on revision (i.e. proofreading translations) and Marnie Christensen headed to Berlin for a workshop on “Translating Life Sciences”. Finally, Julia Schnieder visited the Freiburger Webdays conference in November to pick up the latest online marketing tips.

Our everyday work in-house was just as varied in 2017. Our German department have by now become old hands at European Commission translations. And when it comes to multilingual projects, we suspect we’ve broken our record this year with a single project that was translated into 22 languages. The record for the heftiest source text was already broken early in the year with the proceedings for a conference on sustainable building. Of course, we’re as busy as ever in the field of renewable energies thanks to our ongoing work for the Intersolar exhibitions and numerous solar power and storage system companies. We’ve also had a steady stream of contracts, website texts, marketing brochures and business reports flow through our office.

And 2017 has brought us not just plenty of work but plenty of fun. Taking a look at the new team photos on our website, or our blog article about our Christmas party, should give you an idea of what a close-knit team we are. Recently I’ve realised all over again how well we work together. We have a wonderfully supportive, appreciative and friendly relationship with one another, and I would like to thank my colleagues for this. I know it’s a rare privilege to be able to say that I have looked forward to coming to work every day for almost 20 years now.

And, of course, my thanks also go to all of our freelance collaborators and partners, without whom we wouldn’t be able to take on so many projects – and last but not least to our customers, who entrust us with these projects!

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas holiday, with time to rest and recharge ready for an energetic start to the new year. I’m already looking forward to it!

Christmas in the skate shop – or: What sets a professional apart

When we began brainstorming for our Christmas party this year, it quickly became clear that we wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary. As big fans not just of foreign languages but also of exotic food, we finally hit on the idea of asking the Brazilian owner of our favourite food truck whether he would give us a cooking class. Our spontaneous request was met with equally spontaneous agreement, and shortly thereafter we received a multicultural menu that had us practically salivating with anticipation.

On a recent Friday, we then had the pleasure of joining José Lavor for an evening of cooking and dining in and around his food truck. This being December, it wasn’t quite what you would call street food weather, but José had thought of everything, parking his truck inside a friend’s skateboard shop where a wood-burning stove was blazing away to keep out the winter cold. Instead of the usual kitschy Christmas decorations, the walls were hung with skateboards, and there was even a half-pipe at our disposal. Although we opted to steer clear of the skateboards on the grounds of health and safety, we did venture on to the half-pipe to pose for a photo in our aprons.

After a glass of sparkling wine and a Brazilian cheese ball or two to whet our appetites, we got straight to work chopping, stirring and kneading to an eclectic soundtrack that mixed our handcrafted pre-Christmas playlist with the rhythms of José’s homeland. We took turns climbing aboard the mint-green truck and lending a hand with various parts of the cooking process, finding ourselves both excited and a bit daunted at the prospect of moving from customer to cook. And that wasn’t the only change of perspective we enjoyed. As the evening progressed, we had a lightbulb moment that we sometimes see in our own customers: in the kitchen, just as with translation, it doesn’t take long for the difference between an amateur and a professional to become clear. While we did a fair job of chopping the fennel, shallots and various other vegetables into bite-sized pieces, José’s handiwork – executed at the speed of light – was far more impressive in comparison. Doubtless it’s the same in every profession: solid training makes all the difference!

The cooking soon had our stomachs rumbling, and eventually we could hardly wait for José and his Spanish colleague Alex to dish up the fruits of our labours. We also particularly enjoyed hearing the pair communicate in their own brand of Spanish with a Brazilian flair. In fact, between chefs and translators, our little ensemble was fluent in a total of six languages. And the food was just as diverse. After kicking off the meal with a Thai soup featuring (both professionally and non-professionally chopped) vegetables and fish, we feasted our way through a variety of salads followed by mouthwateringly tender meat with jasmine rice and squash, before topping it all off with an apple crumble with coconut mousse. From beginning to end, everything was just as delicious as we’ve come to expect from Lavor Streetfood! We were especially impressed by the gadget José wielded on the dessert – a whipped cream dispenser that uses compressed air to turn liquid into an airy mousse.

As the clock struck midnight, eleven happy translators bid a heartfelt farewell to our merry chefs and headed for home with full bellies and fond memories. Perhaps next Christmas we’ll organise a foam party with coconut mousse? Or we could all learn to skateboard…

Translation is a craft – an internship report

Übersetzen ist Handwerk

“If I want to learn to swim, I have to go into the water, otherwise I’ll learn nothing.” (August Bebel)

With a Bachelor’s degree in translation under my belt and the start of my Master’s approaching, I wanted to see what it’s like to work in a translation company and put the knowledge I’d acquired at university into practice. After a three-month internship at Peschel Communications, I’ve learnt one thing above all: translation is a craft! And a craft needs to be practised.

Of course, it’s essential to have an academic grounding. I would recommend a degree in translation to anyone who hopes to make a career out of it. University is where you really hone your command of your foreign languages, and your native language too. And you have to learn how to familiarise yourself with all kinds of different topics, so that you can produce accurate translations whatever the subject matter. But a degree alone isn’t enough to make someone a good translator. Without the practical experience that I was able to gain at Peschel Communications, I certainly wouldn’t be adequately prepared for the world of professional translation. For example, you may think you know your way around Microsoft Word, but you’ve probably never had to prepare a document for translation and fiddle with countless obscure settings to reproduce the layout of PDFs or other read-only file formats.

After focusing mainly on journalistic texts and the occasional specialist text from a particular field during my translation courses at university, here at Peschel Communications I was suddenly confronted with official documents, certificates, directives, court rulings and various other texts from a whole range of areas. Translating from English, Spanish and French, I had to deal with all kinds of bureaucratic jargon and all of the different institutions and systems that are specific to each country. The highlight of my internship was helping with translations for the European Commission: working on these texts meant I had to familiarise myself with subject areas that otherwise I would probably never have come into contact with. And that’s exactly what appeals to me so much about translation.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to work on real translations from the very first day, which is something you can’t always take for granted with translation internships. The whole team were excellent mentors, patient, helpful, and always there for me. Here at Peschel Communications, every translation – no matter who produces it – is thoroughly checked by a second translator before delivery, which guarantees the quality of the translations and really helped me to improve my skills as a translator. I received feedback on all of my translations from one of my experienced colleagues, and this enabled me to discover my strengths and work on my weaknesses. I also had the chance to get a taste of project management, a field which was completely new to me and which I found extremely interesting. I was able to see how quotations and invoices are drawn up and even took responsibility for private customers arriving to collect their translations, which gave me the opportunity to interact with customers every day.

The team showed me a warm welcome from day one and I was always happy to go to work. I am very grateful for everything that I learnt here and for the wonderful time I had. Now I can start my Master’s degree feeling well prepared and secure in the knowledge that this is the career for me!

Translating marketing texts

Marketingtexte übersetzen

Marketing texts are about more than facts – they are about emotions. These are conveyed through a rich mixture of language, content and images, often using wordplay, rhyme or other stylistic devices. So what does this mean for translating marketing texts into other languages?

Can marketing texts even be translated?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Unlike very technical texts, such as patent applications, marketing texts do not require the translator to render each and every word into the target language. It is much more about achieving the same effect – which requires a great deal of creativity. For this reason, the task is often referred to as transcreation or adaptation, rather than translation. The slogan from the well-known sweets producer Haribo is a classic example of this as the original German “Haribo macht Kinder froh und Erwachsene ebenso” (Haribo makes children happy and adults as well) was adapted, rather than translated, into other languages:

“Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo”

Haribo, c’est beau la vie – pour les grands et les petits
(Haribo, life is beautiful – for young and old)

Vive un sabor mágico – ven al mundo Haribo
(Experience a magic taste – come to the world of Haribo).

None of these language versions are a word-for-word translation. But the most important stylistic device, the rhyme, has been carried through into every slogan.

Is it worth translating marketing texts?

The answer to this question is a resounding “yes”. To sell in international markets, speaking the customer’s language is a must: According to Common Sense Advisory, a market research firm, 75% of consumers will opt for a product which comes with information written in their native language. Even in a country where everyone learns English at school, such as Germany, not everyone has the necessary language skills to fully understand every marketing message. A jeans manufacturer once advertised their trousers in Germany using the slogan “live unbuttoned” in its original English. Many potential customers were less than impressed by the prospect of buying a pair of jeans which did not have any buttons! Marketing texts should transport emotions and create trust, but this only works if the audience fully understands the message. And this means more than just getting the general gist; it means having a full grasp of the cultural and linguistic nuances in a way only a few people have in a foreign language. A translator of marketing texts (or transcreator) has to take the subtleties of a message in its home market and transport them into the target market to create the same effect. This applies to both B2C and B2B marketing.

What do I need to know if I want to get marketing material translated?

Briefing Just like a copywriter, a translator needs certain information, such as the target audience, the aim of the message, and the level of formality. A short briefing will make for a much more accurate transfer of your message.

Style guide Define some rules for a uniform brand message across your markets. Do you already use specific set phrases, spelling rules, conventions for currencies, measurements, etc.? Do you have a glossary containing recurring terms? Are there any existing marketing texts in different languages which should be used as templates for style, terminology and conventions? Which proper names should be kept the same in all languages to safeguard a consistent brand across all markets? A style guide should be made available to all translators, marketeers and copywriters.

Transcreation or translation? The transcreation, or adaptation, of marketing texts goes beyond the word-for-word translation of the contents of a text. At first glance, a transcreation may seem very different from the original, but it has the same effect. Transcreation is a very creative process, and there is never just one possible solution. It may make sense to ask for several suggestions, particularly when having slogans translated.

Give it time Any marketing expert knows that creative processes do not always happen at the push of a button. Sometimes brainstorming may help, or sleeping on a text. This is just as true for transcreating marketing texts, which is why leaving enough time for the process guarantees a better outcome.

Having the last laugh… Be careful when using jokes, wordplay or references to the world of sport or even politics. What may be funny in one culture, may not work in others, or even have the opposite effect.

Symbolism Please bear in mind that hand gestures or colours do not have a universal meaning. While making a fist with your palm facing inwards and raising and parting your index and middle finger to form a V-sign is understood to mean “victory” in most countries, this gesture will make you no friends in the UK.

Brand names Think about possible future markets when developing brand names. The car manufacturer Citroën failed to do this many years ago, and launched a car called Nova in the Spanish market. “No va” in Spanish means “it doesn’t run”, which was not the brand message Citroën had had in mind.

Define your target group Which regional markets are you targeting? Global English is just as much of a myth as a global version of any other language. The German spoken in Switzerland is vastly different from that spoken in Germany or Austria, for example. When selling bicycles in Switzerland, people will understand if you advertise “Fahrräder”, but will be much more likely to buy a “Velo”.

Use native speakers To avoid falling into linguistic and cultural traps, use a native speaker of the target language for the transcreation of your marketing message. This works to your advantage, as language and culture are closely intertwined.

Work with professionals Qualified translators have both linguistic training and extensive knowledge of cultural do’s and don’ts. When selecting a language services provider, ask for their track record in marketing translations/transcreation.

The life of a translation project manager

Interview Andrea Unkelbach

You have been working as a project manager at Peschel Communications for more than 12 years now. How did you come to work in this role?

Basically, it was a question of supply and demand. I applied for an internship after graduating because I was in the position that (almost?!) all recent graduates find themselves in: I knew nothing about the daily reality of being a translator. There I was with my degree, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. So I decided to do an internship to check out all aspects of the job: writing quotes, project management, translating, proof reading, invoicing, marketing, etc.

That’s how I started as an intern at Peschel Communications. At the time, the company just consisted of two people; Anja Peschel and Ellen Göppl. It quickly became clear that I got more enjoyment out of (and was better suited to) project management than translating. As luck would have it, this was exactly what Anja and Ellen needed at that time. I began to translate less and less, and do more and more project management, until I was working exclusively as a project manager.

How did you qualify as a project manager?

Through learning by doing, through practical on-the-job training. I learned a lot from Anja and Ellen who shared their experience and insights with me. As our turnover grew, we went on to develop and adapt our processes.

Recently, I have noticed that there is growing recognition for the role of “translation project managers” in the industry. There are now training and networking opportunities specifically aimed at project managers. At the start, I felt a bit like a rare species; there didn’t seem to be anyone else with the same job description. Whenever I looked for training, all I could find were courses for freelance translators on how to manage their own projects – a very different cup of tea. Today, translation project managers are no longer so few and far between. Our numbers are growing, and with it, the choice of training courses on offer. I am very lucky that Anja Peschel places such importance on offering her staff training opportunities and I have been able to take part in seminars and conferences. Last year, for example, I attended the “Elia’s focus on project management” conference in Barcelona.

You hold a degree in technical translating for German, English and Spanish. Do you ever miss translating?

Not at all. After I finished school, all I knew was that I wanted to work with languages and at that time I didn’t know which options were available to me other than translation. Once I had started working at Peschel Communications, I realised that I much preferred communicating, being in contact with customers, organising and planning – and that this is also where my strengths lay. And I do work with languages, just not in the way I had imagined.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I get to communicate all day: on the phone, by e-mail and in person. Being in contact with customers and colleagues is extremely important to me. I cannot imagine staring at my screen all day, working on a text. As project managers, we do not delve into detail of a text the way translators do, but we still enjoy the great variety that our projects bring – there is no such thing as a standard translation project. Another thing I enjoy is fine-tuning a project plan until everything is just right. Every project has to be organised and structured individually, and there is nothing more gratifying than when it all runs smoothly

What aspects could you do without?

When a project does not work out the way I had envisaged. Of course, as part of the project management process we have to take a look at every text, but we do not have the time to examine it in detail the way translators do. This is why, every now and then, a translation requires more research than we expected and factored into the planning. Then we have to reschedule.

Another aspect is that project managers have to keep an eye on the budget as well as on the deadline. Unfortunately, it is rare that a customer says: “Money is no object, take all the time you need.” When that does happen, it’s great because we have free rein to choose our preferred translator and wait until they have time to work on the project. That kind of project is a real highlight.

What is the greatest challenge for you?

The greatest challenge is probably the fact that I am constantly making adjustments to suit changing conditions – this job really keeps me on my toes! When I get to the office in the morning, I can never be sure what the day will bring. Even a perfectly planned project will only run smoothly as long as everyone sticks to the plan. If one cog in the wheel gets stuck, I have to reschedule, because missing deadlines is not an option. And at the same time, this is exactly what makes my job so interesting. Flexibility is simply part and parcel of project management.

What would you advise graduates or students looking to work as translation project managers?

There are real advantages for translation project managers to have trained as a translator. I would advise anyone considering working as a translation project manager to try and find a university course in translation which offers as much practical training as possible. The theory provides a useful basis, of course, and trained translators are well-equipped to recognise hidden pitfalls in a project as they are familiar with the workflow of a project. Some universities have started teaching skills which are useful for project management, such as writing quotations, project planning, customer management, invoicing, and an overview of technical tools.

As I said, the range of training courses for translation project managers is growing – also for graduates starting out. These courses are a great opportunity to learn from project managers who have extensive experience in this field.

Ultimately, practical work experience is most valuable. Peschel Communications regularly offers an internship which offers an insight into all the different aspects of work in a translation company, including project management. Some interns find this area really interesting, others see it as a necessary evil and preparation for life as a freelance translator. In any case, it’s a useful skill to have.

United Nations reinforce the meaning of International Translation Day

Time for the language industry to celebrate: at the General Assembly on 24th May, the United Nations officially declared 30th September as International Translation Day. For translators and interpreters, who mainly work behind the scenes, this is a well-deserved recognition of their highly-skilled services which have never been more valuable than in the current age of machine translation and Google Translate. It is not only international companies which are dependent on language services to stay ahead of the competition. To keep war, famine and terror attacks at bay, it is crucial that politicians with different native languages can communicate diplomatically with one another – and every single word must be just right, also in translation. Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN, commented on this aspect of translation: “Language plays an underappreciated role in human society, despite the fact that deeper respect for culture and language could help to forge greater unity and build bridges among civilizations and cultures.” He emphasized that the meaning and importance of Translation Day is broader and deeper than showing respect for a profession closely linked to diplomacy and international affairs. It is first and foremost about recognising the unsung heroes of the linguistic profession.

However, International Translation Day (Internationaler ÜbersetzertagJournée mondiale de la traduction) is not an entirely new invention: it was founded back in 1954 by the Fédération internationale des traducteurs (FIT) and is celebrated around the world, particularly among translation and interpreting associations.

Source: Press release from the United Nations:

What is it that you actually do? Or: What’s challenging about translating?

Let’s face it, basically everyone can speak English. More and more students are spending at least one semester abroad and even toddlers are now learning foreign languages. So what on earth do we need professional translators for? The answer is simple: to separate the sense from the nonsense.

Both customers and friends usually only have a vague idea of how I spend my working day as a translator. Their ideas range from running texts through Google Translate to replacing individual words with equivalents in another language (“You don’t have to understand, you just have to translate!”). Some even think that a translator’s brain is crammed with every piece of terminology known to man.

None of this is true. We never work with Google Translate. And when I say never, I really do mean NEVER! Of course, it would be great to let Google do all the work, make a few minor tweaks here and there and then charge customers loads of money for the privilege. But the truth is that even messages that seem relatively easy are often turned into complete gibberish by machine translation. For those who have not yet indulged in the fun, here is a good example from our website: “Die Bedürfnisse unserer Kunden über eine angefragte Leistung hinaus wahrzunehmen und individuelle Lösungen zu finden, ist uns ein besonderes Anliegen.” Believe it or not, this is a fairly straightforward sentence for German speakers. No play on words, no technical terms. Yet we could probably say goodbye to our customers for good if we were to display the following English translation:

“The needs of our customers perceive about a requested power beyond and to find individual solutions , is of special concern to us .”

The added space before the full stop is particularly strange, but perhaps easily explained: I suspect that the program actually has a certain degree of intelligence and has noticed that the sentence is not complete. Now imagine having to edit a 30-page text of this quality. No thank you! It would be quicker to translate it myself – editing a bad translation often takes more time than translating a text from scratch. (This also applies to low-quality human translations, in other words translations produced by actual people).

Anyway, enough about the charms of machine translation; what is it that human translators, usually university graduates, do all day then? Nowadays, professional translators tend to work with translation memory tools. These software tools do not actually translate, but find any identical or similar passages that I have already translated, which not only makes my job easier, but also ensures that the customer receives a highly consistent text. This also applies to terminology (technical terms) that can be saved in the CAT tool. The software still needs to be told what to save and how to save it, so I still have to do some thinking. The program therefore doesn’t do the work for me, but it does help. This brings me to the topic of technical terms. I, too, used to think that I could just look up unknown words in a dictionary and add them to the text in the desired language. And as looking up vocabulary is fairly time-consuming, it’s best to learn it all off by heart, like I used to do at school. For non-specialists, however, it is hard to even begin to imagine how many technical terms CANNOT be found in a technical dictionary, or just how many terms shown in the dictionary are out of date or uncommon in a particular context. Of course, specialist dictionaries can be very useful – especially electronic ones, which display the desired word in no time at all – but I actually spend far more time researching terms on the internet. Translating inevitably requires me to know the topic at hand inside out. This makes me a bit of an expert on all kinds of subject areas without ever being able to call myself a doctor, lawyer or engineer. I too, however, have to work very carefully and understand the context behind the topic in question before attempting to translate a text. For grammatical reasons alone, the word order in a translated sentence will usually differ from the original. It is therefore only once I have understood the context that I can write an idiomatic text without losing any of the meaning.

Although Google Translate is the translator’s sworn enemy, I will admit that I don’t know what I would do without Google Search. I google oodles of information, specialist terms and expressions. I have been known to use Google to compare images of screws, reactors and ship components to check whether my German term truly corresponded to the English, French or Italian word and depicted the same “thing”. The dynamic nature of the web means that adverts on different websites are tailored to frequently searched expressions. Now, I don’t really mind seeing recommendations for decorative cosmetics – or even solar batteries for that matter – but being asked the question “are you suffering from a stoma?” after doing research for a medical text does make me feel a little misunderstood!

Of course, it doesn’t take a degree in translation to look up words in a dictionary, research context on Google and compose texts. But I could also cement one brick on top of the other without a bricklaying qualification. Just as bricklayers know their materials, tools and tricks of the trade better than anyone else, translators know the fastest way to research, how to convey the intended register and style, what to discuss with the customer beforehand, how to optimise layout, use CAT tools, get to grips with new technical subjects and when to request a second revision. And our hard work pays off – at the end of the day, properly built walls are not only more aesthetically pleasing, but also more stable.

CAT Tools


When talking to a translator about his or her work, you will sooner or later hear them talk about CAT tools. Computer-Aided Translation Tools are software applications intended to make a translator’s job easier while improving quality. Now widespread across the industry, these tools are not to be confused with machine translation (e.g. Google Translate). Just like any tool, CAT tools need to be handled correctly and used on high quality material. Broadly speaking, CAT tools are complex database programs which save translations and terminology for future use. And we all know that any database can only be as good as its contents.

CAT tools can help to speed up the translation process, reduce companies’ translation costs and ensure consistent use of terminology. From reducing writing time and improving consistency to increasing reliability and integrating terminology, these tools have many benefit.

Common CAT tools include

  • Trados
  • Wordfast
  • MemoQ
  • Across
  • Passolo
  • Déjà Vu
  • Star Transit
  • MetaTexis

CAT systems usually consist of several different elements

  1. Translation memory – a database of previously translated segments. Whenever the translator works on a new text, segments are analysed to see if they have been translated before. Even if there is only a certain degree of similarity to previous entries (normally between 75% and 100%), the archive will suggest possible solutions, which the translator can then accept, modify or discard.
  2. Terminology database – this functionality of the CAT tool suggests target-language terms for words or phrases in the source text. Just like translation memories, terminology databases must first be filled with source and target terms, as well as other information, such as the source, context, etc.
  3. Alignment tools – these allow existing translations (from two different files) to be imported into a translation memory system.
  4. Project management / workflow components
  5. Quality assurance tools

What does a translator’s work look like when using a CAT tool?

To start with, the documents to be translated are divided into individual segments (usually sentences), which – by most tools – are arranged into editing windows. The above screenshot shows the segments, which are numbered, the source text in the text column on the left, and the translation in the text column on the right. Further on the right, the results from the translation memory (marked in red) and from the terminology database (marked in blue) are shown.

All translated segments are stored in a translation memory. Whenever a segment has been translated previously, the translation stored in the translation memory will be shown automatically. The same goes for entries in the terminology database. Server-based CAT tools even allow for several translators to work on the same project simultaneously, with all entries being available to all project participants.   This ensures a high level of terminological consistency both within and between translations and projects.

CAT tools also facilitate a proofreader’s role thanks to their in-built QA function, which checks that the translation contains customer-specific terminology, avoids “forbidden” terms and checks the spelling.

CAT tools do not do the work for the translator, but their many benefits make them an indispensible tools.

Freelance translators and translation companies – the perfect symbiosis

Subcontracting translations still seem to have a dubious reputation amongst freelance translators. Negative comments about “cutthroat agencies” are commonplace, and usually seem refer to all translation service providers not working as freelancers. There has been a slight shift in recent years, however, and freelance translators and translation companies have started to work together. When speaking about my own company, which works with in-house – as well as external – translators and proof-readers, I prefer the term translation service provider to agency. In fact, the majority of our working hours in the office are spent translating and proofreading. It is when we are fully booked or our customers require language combinations or specialities that extend beyond the expertise of our internal staff that we rely on help from our freelancers. I’ve chosen the word “rely” deliberately, because without our freelancers it would not be possible to provide services in the quality and to the extent our customers have come to expect from us.

Project management – there’s no translation project without it

Due to the growing complexity of translation projects, project management takes up considerable time and requires particular skills. This is why we manage translation projects, which allows our freelancers to concentrate on translating. For each new project, one of our two project managers start by setting a time schedule, determining the amount of time required for the translation, quality control and any follow-up work, before selecting and contacting a suitable translator and proofreader. Great importance is attached to consistency – we always try to use the same freelancers for projects sent in by the same customers. The project manager then prepares the projects, which includes converting documents into the right format for use with CAT tools, compiling terminology lists, translation memories, style guides and reference texts as well as issuing any other work instructions. During the translation and proofreading stages, our project manager supports translators and proof-readers by clarifying any questions with the customer. Once a translation has been delivered and proofread, the project manager checks the final document, sends it to the customer and completes the project by updating translation memories and terminology databases, as well sending the reviewed version back to the translator as feedback. Before wrapping up the project, they contact the customer to ask if he/she was satisfied with the standard of work provided and, if this is ever not the case, manage any complaints.

Teamwork – the key to a successful translation project

Our project managers rely on good, close cooperation with our translators and proof-readers to avoid making this complex workflow even more complicated. That is why they appreciate quick responses to job enquiries from freelancers (within an hour). Clear communication is essential. That is why our project managers love concise answers such as: “I can complete the translation by 12:00pm on Tuesday”, or “I’m afraid I’m fully booked today and tomorrow”. Emails that waffle on for no good reason only hold up the process. It goes without saying that our project managers have to be able to rely on freelancers adhering to the agreed deadlines, as late deliveries may have a domino effect and put a spanner in the entire project workflow. Our freelancers are also required to produce high-quality translations. That may sound obvious, but unfortunately every so often we receive translations that do not contain the provided terminology, have not been thoroughly researched or, in places where the source text is unclear, are quite clearly the product of “guesswork”. Good freelancers are recognised by the fact that they ask questions, point out any errors or ambiguities in the source text, deliver on time and graciously accept feedback.

Great expectations

We know that we expect a lot from “our” freelancers, but we believe that we also offer a few benefits in return. As the interface between customers and translators, we communicate with both parties, negotiate customer prices and delivery dates, clarify any questions and provide all information to the translators in a clear and concise manner. Our project managers resolve any unusable format or formatting issues and select the right terminology databases, style guides and reference materials. Our freelancers can turn to us if they have any questions and receive constructive feedback after each project, helping them to develop further. And last but not least, we are liable for the business risks – should something go wrong with a translation or a customer become bankrupt, we bear the risk. We view our freelancers as true partners. This is also shown by the fact that we do not “dictate” prices. Of course, as a translation service provider, we are not spared from general price pressure, but we stick by the principle that our freelancers set their own prices and not the other way around.

How we found each other

So how do we find these great people? They are certainly not recruited from the kinds of emails sent to a long list of “undisclosed recipients”, with the subject lines reading something like “My services are boundless. My projects are done on schedule” (yes, this is a real-life quote from an email I received). We actively search for and find most of our freelancers, for example through professional organisation directories, and we often continue working with former interns. Once we have found a new candidate whom we believe to be suitable, we first test the waters by sending smaller jobs (but no unpaid test translations!). If the translations are of high quality and delivered on time and all other criteria are met (see above), we strengthen our collaboration and commission an increasing number of longer or more challenging translations, depending on orders. We document all feedback in our project management software, which provides our project managers with a quick overview of which freelancers are particularly suited for which projects.

The joy of translating

We now have a large pool of freelancers at our fingertips. Naturally, we have our favourites for certain language combinations and subject areas and always ask them first. We find our collaboration very enriching, both on a professional and personal level. Freelancer days, during which we offer free training, give us a chance to meet the people behind the translations, but we have also formed plenty of close relationships over the phone and by email. We would like to thank our freelance colleagues, who share our work ethics and quality standards, for also helping us to continuously improve and for reminding us how much we love our profession!

International tourism – just English won’t do

Who hasn’t seen the wonderfully funny signs that are intended to inform foreign visitors, but in fact just end up confusing them.

On menus, the worst that can happen is that foreign tourists are forced to leave their comfort zone and try a new culinary delicacy (on the Canary Islands, we were once offered the unconventional combo of jam and eggs – an attempt to translate jamón y huevos). But elsewhere, such translations can cause significant damage.

Finding your way through the jungle of options

The internet makes it possible to compare global tourist offerings with a few clicks of the mouse – but only if they are available in the user’s language. I, for one, don’t have the patience to grapple with a Google translation or a website that is only available in Italian (unfortunately I can’t speak Italian) when I’m booking my holiday to Italy. Could this be one of the reasons why more and more Germans are holidaying in Germany? Reading the conditions of travel before booking a trip is always recommended. While this can be a torment in the native language, for many would-be globetrotters, it is all but impossible in a foreign language. When missing or poor translations lead to real difficulties in orientation or cause tourists to misunderstand the local customs or, even worse, essential safety regulations, they don’t just hurt the vendor’s image, they can also have legal and economic consequences.

Speak the language of your guests

If you want to welcome non-German-speaking guests to your hotel, holiday resort or educational tour, it’s best to speak their language. Approximately 30% of internet users speak English, which means that a website that is only translated into English (or not translated into their native language) is not enough to reach 70% of users.

Only around 8% of foreign tourists who holiday in Germany come from other German-speaking countries. Among non-German speaking visitors, approximately 10% come from the Netherlands, followed by around 5% each from the USA and the UK, nearly 4% from Italy and more than 3% from France.

According to the market research institute Common Sense Advisory, 72% of users are more likely to buy a product if information about the product is available in their own language. Moreover, 56% percent of users state that the availability of information in their native language plays a larger role in purchasing decisions than the price.

Working for Adventure

The arguments for providing a multilingual hotel website or holiday brochure can’t be dismissed, but how to go about the translation? The cheapest and quickest option is, of course, to make use of Google Translate. Bear in mind, however, that the machine has issues with advertising slogans. The English slogan, “Own your adventure when you book your next vacation to the Bahamas” becomes “Work your own adventure …” when translated into German. Hmm. Not working is kind of the point.

If you are looking to appeal to guests from beyond the English-speaking world, you should also keep in mind that, for example, when translating from German to Spanish, Google Translate first translates from German to English and then from English to Spanish. A game of Chinese whispers is loads of fun in one language, just imagine how much more amusing it will be when multiple languages are involved. But is this effective advertising?

The direct road to Rome

If you are interested in speaking to tourists from around the world, you should make sure that foreign language versions don’t become a joke. Translating marketing texts effectively requires an excellent feel for the language and sound knowledge of the culture of your potential guests. And anyone who is signing their name to the general conditions of travel should also be able to understand them. It may be true that all roads lead to Rome, but the most direct road passes through a professional translator.

Looking back on 2015

Looking back on the past year has become almost a tradition. This year, we were so busy in the run-up to Christmas that there was no time to stop and think. But now that the last of the year’s projects have been managed and Christmas has given me some time to clear my head, it is time to look back on 2015.

2015 saw quite a few personnel changes: After Andrea Unkelbach went on maternity leave at the end of 2014, Marie Crossland also left to have her second child in the spring. We are delighted at the two new would-be translators!

In the summer, both Katherina Polig and Emily Orlowski left Freiburg for the beautiful English city of Bath. It was hard for us to let them go, but there is some consolation in the fact that they both do a lot of freelance work for us, so we’re still in close contact. Emily even came to our Christmas party!

Lynn Kalic, who joined us as project manager to fill in for Andrea during her parental leave, has settled in very well indeed. To be frank, it is hard to believe that she has only been part of the team for a year, and we are extremely pleased that she is going to stay on after Andrea returns in the spring of 2016. This will give Verena Brunner the chance to spend more time translating ­– her project management duties will then be limited to holiday replacements.

In September, we welcomed the first ever native speaker of American English to work for us in-house. Marnie Christensen hails from Wisconsin and has had the opportunity to become familiar with different varieties of the German language during time spent in the Austrian city of Graz and in Berlin.

Once again, we have had the privilege to work with some great interns: Gesa Rosebrock, Kevin Herschbach, Sina Burgert and Alex Smith, as well as Helena Triesch and Charley Hinds, who are both going to be with us until the spring.

A request to give a lecture at the University of Heidelberg and the induction of a new project manager inspired my personal research focus of the year: “translation project management”. My article on the topic was published in the magazine MDÜ, a publication for translators and interpreters.

Another of the year’s highlights was our visit to another translation company with the objective of sharing opinions and experience. This – very open and honest – exchange was immensely rewarding and reinforced our view that sharing is worth so much more (and creates so much more value) than competing.

In terms of translation projects, this past year offered several opportunities to test the limits of our capacities. Towards the end of the year in particular, we were snowed under thanks to several very large (and very urgent) translations. We were able to deliver everything on time ­– and felt that we truly deserved our Christmas break.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients for the trust they have put in us and our freelance translators for their help in maintaining this trust.

10 Tips for planning multilingual conferences

English is often used as a lingua franca at conferences, even when it isn’t the native language of most of the speakers and attendees. At high-profile events – or if not all of the speakers and attendees speak English – simultaneous interpreters help to overcome the language barrier.

German MP Gernot Erler, then Minister of State at the Foreign Office, was surprised at the difference interpreting services make: “Although my English is quite good, listening to the translation showed me how much one can miss in a foreign language.”

It may be well worth spending money on interpreters in order to make sure that all important messages are brought across.

We’ve put together several tips to ensure that your collaboration with an interpreting service runs smoothly:

  1. Specify the language combinations: Which languages will be spoken and which languages should be made available for listeners at your event? The answer to this question depends on the structure of the conference and the linguistic origins of the conference attendees. However, the languages spoken do not need to be the same as the languages heard. For example, it might make sense to limit the spoken languages to English and German, but have both languages interpreted into French.
  2. Plan your budget. Good conference interpreters and technical conference equipment cost money. That’s why we recommend soliciting quotes at the beginning of the planning process. This leaves enough time to find sponsors or adjust other factors (such as the program) in order to reduce costs.
  3. The right interpreting technique – simultaneous or consecutive – depends on the type of event. For a one-hour press conference, consecutive interpreting is probably most suitable. If the event is held in more than two languages or lasts for at least a day, simultaneous interpreting is the best solution.
  4. Booking your interpreters. The sooner you book the interpreters, the better. Conference interpreters who specialize in specific technical fields are often booked out well in advance. Booking early also allows you to use local interpreters when possible, saving you travel and accommodation expenses. Most conference interpreters are freelancers and can draw on their network of colleagues to put together a suitable team. As “interpreter” is not a protected profession, it is important to check that the candidate is sufficiently qualified (university degree in conference interpreting). Membership in professional organizations (AIIC, VKD) are another sign of professionalism. Speaking to an interpreter directly is the best way to find out how qualified he or she is and also allows you to determine if he or she has a pleasant voice.
  5. Book the technical equipment. Large conference centres often have their own technical equipment. Other conference locations can rent interpreting equipment. Ask your consultant interpreter if he or she can either recommend reliable providers or book the equipment for you.
  6. Include interpreters in programme planning. To avoid having too many interpreters, and thus higher costs, it’s good to know that a team of two interpreters per language combination can cover a total (pure) presentation time of around 5.5 hours. If the presentation program is longer, a team of three is needed for each language combination. If you discuss the programme with your consultant interpreter at an early stage, you may find that by shortening the program slightly or splitting the attendees into language groups during workshops, it may be possible to get by with a smaller team of interpreters.
  7. Notify speakers and potential attendees If you have decided to have your event interpreted, make sure you also let the speakers know. Some speakers may be pleased to have the opportunity to give their presentation in their native language, rather than in English, and the number of potential attendees may also increase significantly. Ask your speakers to make their talks (PowerPoint presentations, scripts) available in advance so that the interpreters can familiarize themselves with the specific subject.
  8. Encourage speakers to present in their native language if it’s one of the conference languages. A German who addresses his audience (that may also be 80% German) in English will typically speak less freely. Speakers seldom have the same range in a foreign language that they have in their mother tongue.
  9. Request preparatory materials Conference interpreters need as much information to prepare for an event as possible. Apart from the programme, slides and background information about the speakers and/or the subject matter will be appreciated, Set an early deadline for the submission of presentations and make the slides or scripts available to the interpreters to help them prepare. If films are to be shown, the script or a link to the film is imperative as the typically quick rate of speech may otherwise make the film impossible to interpret.
  10. Communicate changes to the program If there are changes to the program, don’t forget to inform the interpreters.

Lost in translation across the pond

We Brits may be speaking the same language as our American cousins, but we are far from on the same page. Confusion can be caused by the simplest of words, which, when misplaced, may ensue in hilarity, awkward situations or, worse, mistakes. And Bob’s your uncle (or “ta-da” to our American counterparts), we have miscommunication lift-off.

The birds and the spelling bees

Let’s take a word as simple as “bird”, for example. We’re all familiar with the winged creatures that fill our skies, but if you hear the word from a British man’s mouth, he’s more likely to be talking about a young woman. What’s more, something as simple as asking for directions to the restaurant toilets can result in looks of wide-eyed astonishment. In Britain, going to the toilet (or the loo) is common practice, while Americans consider this expression to be rude and prefer to ask waiters for the bathroom, which, in turn, would be met with a concerned look from the British, who would hastily add that the restaurant toilets are not equipped with a bath. And if, while in the USA, you fancy some chips with your fish, don’t be surprised when a side of crisps is placed down in front of you. Things quickly become even more confusing when being ill in Britain means you’re sick in America, being knackered on the island is the equivalent of being beat in the states, and autumn in the UK is fall across the pond. And the list goes on: from football to soccer, lift to elevator, pants to trousers, flat to apartment, rubbish to trash, rubber to eraser, motorway to highway, and mobile to cell.

Words are just where the story begins, however. As if English words weren’t spelled inconsistently enough already, spelling often differs slightly between the UK and the USA, and one wrong letter may spell the difference between correct spelling and a spelling disaster. The Americans tend to spell British words ending in “se” with “ze”, such as organize/organise, and analyze/analyse, and omit the “u”s from words like honour, behaviour and colour. Other spelling differences can even lead to changes in pronunciation: aluminium, for example, is spelt “aluminum” in the USA, eliminating an entire syllable from the word. Punctuation also takes different paths, from full stops after titles to capital letters after colons.

Fatal translation

Words and spelling aren’t the only culprits of miscommunication, however. The education system is also a cause for concern. The British won’t know their seniors from their juniors, while the Americans will be left scratching their heads at the different Key Stages. Dates also create a language barrier. Brits that organise a business meeting with an American company on 02/04/16 only have themselves to blame if the Americans turn up two months early. This is because days and months are written inversely in the two countries. 02/04/16, or 2nd April 2016 in the UK, therefore means February 2, 2016 in the USA. Oh, and make sure you signpost the way to the meeting room – in the UK, meetings on the first floor actually take place on the second floor in the states…

If you’ll pardon the expression…

Brits and Americans also differ in the way they express themselves. Americans tend to exaggerate more and incorporate plenty of superlatives and vivid descriptions into their speech and writing, while the British are often more reserved and understated. As such, it isn’t sufficient for marketing texts, for example, to be written in English. An American advert won’t necessarily be well received by a British audience, and vice versa. Jokes in the USA could cause mass annoyance in Britain, while British humour may fail to evoke a response from our cousins across the pond. And, while we on the island are world-renowned for our almost exaggerated levels of politeness, a misplaced “please” in the states could actually be considered rude. Indirect communication is the way forward in the UK, with directness being almost synonymous to rudeness, and yet not getting to the point could be interpreted as weak across the Atlantic.

Breaking down the language barrier

So, all in all, there is a lot to consider when translating texts into English, and the differences between the “two” languages go far beyond the small selection of examples included here. By getting it wrong, you run the risk of not only losing credibility and professionalism in the eyes of the reader (or in the ears of the listener), but, in a worst-case scenario, of unintentionally alienating or even offending the recipient. That’s why, here at Peschel Communications, we always ask our customers who the text in question is destined for. In this way, we not only produce accurate, high-quality translations, but pieces of work that are adapted to the communication styles, linguistic subtleties and cultural contexts of the country, ensuring that your target audience receives the message you want to deliver. Between two countries separated by a common language, understanding is the door to success, and we hold the key.

Can tour guide systems replace interpreting equipment?

Customers sometimes ask me whether or not tour guide systems can be used in place of interpreting booths.

What is a tour guide system?

Tour guide systems (TGSs) were originally developed for factory and museum tours, and consist of a microphone and headset receivers. The museum guide speaks into the microphone and listeners hear everything via their headsets, meaning that they are free to move around and the speaker has no reason to disturb other visitors by shouting. The appeal of this solution is clear: only those who wish to listen have to, and anyone wanting to hear can do so (at a volume that they choose).

Interpreting using tour guide systems

Clever people have come up with idea of using such systems at events with interpreters. In the case of bilingual factory tours, for example, this might mean that the interpreter stands close to the speaker and simultaneously interprets what is said into a microphone. Participants are then able to listen to the translated speech via their headsets. The advantage of this is that tours can be given in two languages and that the listeners are free to move around. Surrounded by noisy machines, however, it may be difficult for the interpreter to hear the speaker sufficiently well, which has an impact on the quality of the interpretation. A way of improving this situation is to use two radio channels (one for German and one for English, for instance). Here, the factory guide speaks German into a microphone and his speech is transmitted, say, via channel A. The interpreter, and of course any German listeners, are then able to receive this speech via their headsets and regulate the volume independently. At the same time, the interpreter works simultaneously into a second microphone, from which spoken English is transmitted via channel B. This method has proven successful for mobile events, despite the fact that, in my experience, the quality of the translation is never able to match that of work performed in interpreting booths. Here, interpreters are shielded from all acoustic and most visual disturbances, they have all their tools (laptops and documents) in front of them and they don’t need to walk around whilst working. In interpreting booths, they are able to concentrate exclusively on their actual translation work.

Having heard all that, you may wonder whether tour guide systems could also be employed in conference rooms. At the end of the day, this would save a lot of money on equipment costs. The fact remains, however, that in a conference environment, the disadvantages almost always outweigh any cost benefits. An interpreter’s output always corresponds directly to the input he or she receives. If the acoustic is good, there are no sources of interference and the speaker talks in a clear and understandable manner, the interpreter will be able to perform at his or her best. When TGSs are used, however, the interpreter is distracted by everything that goes on in the room: every cough, rustle of paper or whisper can prevent part of the speaker’s message from reaching the interpreter, and thus from becoming part of his or her translation. This can quickly turn a 50 million dollar profit into 15 million.

A further drawback of using a TGS for conference interpreting is that the interpreter’s voice is not screened by the booth, and is therefore not solely received by those who actually wish to hear it. This encroaches on the whole environment – many conference participants find the constant murmuring or whispering extremely annoying.

Simultaneous interpreters who work with TGSs often whisper or speak very quietly to minimise such disruptions. In this case, however, those listening to the translation lose out, as it is impossible to modulate the voice in the same way when speaking quietly or whispering – speech sounds monotonous and is more difficult to understand.

Last but certainly not least, whispering for long periods places considerable stress on the interpreter’s vocal cords.

In summary, though tour guide systems are suitable for use in some interpreting situations, they are no replacement for interpreting booths. Before opting for this solution, conference organisers ought to consider whether the costs that result from failing to convey a complete message or leaving conference participants unhappy may be greater than those of hiring an interpreting booth.

If you are planning an event and are unsure as what type of interpreting technique best suits your needs, we will be happy to advise you.

Advantages of using tour guide systems

  • Listeners are free to move around during tours
  • The entire group is mobile, which can be beneficial for events with small, frequently changing working groups
  • They offer the option of employing simultaneous interpreters even if there is no room for a booth and it is not possible to station interpreters in a separate room with a video link
  • Tour guide systems are considerably cheaper than interpreting booths

Disadvantages of using tour guide systems

  • Part of the message can be lost, as interpreters are not able to hear everything perfectly
  • Participants close to the interpreter are disturbed
  • Since interpreters are forced to whisper or speak very quietly, their speech is not as pleasant to listen to
  • As this type of work is extremely strenuous for interpreters, day rates are usually higher than for work in a booth

A dog’s life at the office

Wie unser Büro auf den Hund kam

Take a break!

Particularly when times are busy, it is worth remembering the benefits of a good work-life balance. Whenever the flood of emails in my inbox threatens to drown me, and the volume of text waiting to be translated seems endless, so that I don’t even feel I have the time for a cup of tea, there is someone who puts a stop to all the madness: Marley.

Marley joined our small translation company a little over a year ago, and he is extremely conscientious at ensuring that I get some fresh air every few hours. Admittedly, he probably couldn’t care less about my oxygen levels. He’s simply had enough of lying underneath my desk, snoring away and panting a little in his sleep. He just needs to get out. And, as a consequence, so do I. This does not constitute a representative study by any means, but I am certain that I translate more efficiently upon my return from our walks.

A little sunshine

Every morning, upon our arrival at the office, Marley affably follows me around to make sure that all the translators are at their desks. The only male in our team has never been seen in a bad mood, and even the most timid translators have almost become dog-lovers – even though our Croatian-born colleague with German and English roots (so we think) is quite sizeable.

During our daily morning meeting, he likes to get friendly with anyone willing to give him a good scratch. Sometimes he gets a bit too pushy then and has to be banned from the room for lack of constructive contributions.

Fortunately, Marley has never shown the slightest interest in meeting postmen and translation clients coming to our office.

What does science have to say about this?

When I started wondering about whether bringing my dog to the office may cause disruption, the internet provided me with some truly astonishing facts: A dog a the workplace boosts job satisfaction, helps preserve mental health and increases productivity!

A study conducted at Central Michigan University found that dogs at work strengthen mutual trust and promote team work.

Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business established that dogs at the workplace considerably reduce stress levels. Dog owners who bring their furry friend to work have much lower levels of stress hormones in the blood- and lower blood pressure – at the end of the working day than their non-dog-owning peers

And how have companies responded to this news?

The US being the US, companies jump at the chance of boosting productivity: One in five US companies allows its employees to bring their dogs to work. This does not just concern small outfits, but also some large companies, such as Google (a self-declared “dog company”) and Amazon.

In Germany, employers may ban dogs from the workplace, as was recently experienced by 15 Members of the German Parliament, who had requested to bring their canine friends to their offices.

Germany being Germany, there is already a association dedicated to the subject: The German Office Dog Association (Bundesverband Bürohund e.V. is a lobby group aiming to counteract the dramatic rise of mental illness and burnout by promoting the presence of dogs at the workplace. The association is committed to representing the interest of companies, dog owners and dogs alike.

Down, office dog!

Just like anyone else, an office dog needs to know to the do’s and don’ts of office life. Typical canine communication methods such as barking or growling may cause those reduced stress levels to rise again. This is why there are even dog trainers specializing in teaching dogs office-compatible behaviour.

Fortunately, Marley never had to undergo special office training. Once he had got the message about ham sandwiches in people’s bags not being his, we have all been living in utter harmony.

I would like to leave you with an excerpt from Google’s Code of Conduct:

Dog Policy

Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. We like cats, but we’re a dog company, so as a general rule we feel cats visiting our offices would be fairly stressed out.


14 tips for speakers at international conferences

How to ensure that both the original and translated versions of your presentation are a complete success.

The conference season is once again in full swing. At technical events in particular, conference interpreters often have to contend with speakers who have little, or no, experience in working with interpreters. The good news is that we don’t bite! And there’s more good news: If you are good at giving speeches in your own language, interpreters will have no problem conveying what you’re saying. Here are a few pieces of advice if your presentation is going to be interpreted:

  1. Don’t read your speech. Pre-written speeches usually contain very complex grammatical structures that do not sound as natural when read out loud; and there will always be the temptation of reading too quickly.
  2. If you absolutely have to read out a text, please remember to give the interpreters a copy This gives us a chance to prepare for the speed and linguistic complexity of your speech.
  3. Keep it simple! Complicated linguistic structures will make it difficult for the audience and interpreters to follow your train of thought.
  4. Avoid (or explain) any acronyms, abbreviations or insider comments. Depending on your audience, not everyone will be familiar with your company’s jargon. Please remember that your audience will probably not have the same background knowledge as you. And, even if you are speaking at a corporate event, always keep in mind that your interpreters are not surrounded by your company’s own language on a daily basis and may need some help, such as a list of acronyms or a glossary of terms you might typically hear at your workplace.
  5. When mentioning names and numbers, speak slowly and clearly. Don’t forget that, while you may be familiar with the names of everyone on your team or the latest sales figures, your audience may not. So please speak clearly to ensure that your audience and interpreters can safely distinguish a profit of 15 million from a profit of 50 million.
  6. Pace yourself but talk at a natural speed. We interpreters often get speakers coming up to us before events promising to speak extra slowly. While this is very kind, it is not really necessary. We interpret ideas, not one word after another. So speaking at your normal speed is fine for your interpreters, too.
  7. Use a microphone. Simultaneous interpreters work in soundproof booths. The only noise they hear is what is transmitted through their headphones. By all means, feel free to check that your microphone is working before you start speaking, but PLEASE don’t knock or blow on it – this really hurts your interpreters’ sensitive ears!
  8. Switch off your own microphone when someone else is speaking. If several microphones are used in a discussion, please switch off your microphone after you have finished speaking to avoid interference from whispered conversations, coughing or shuffling papers.
  9. Provide documentation. While conference interpreters frequently specialise in one or several technical fields, they will never know as much about your area of expertise as you do. A good interpretation is based on both linguistic skill and a thorough understanding of the subject matter. This is why preparation makes up an essential part of our work. Conference interpreters will spend an average of one day preparing for each day of a technical conference. The more information is provided beforehand, the more thoroughly we can prepare, and the better we will understand your topic and get your message across.
  10. Beware of wordplay and jokes. This is not because interpreters don’t have a sense of humour. We do, honestly, and we love nothing more than a good pun. But such linguistic jewels are not always translatable, and many speakers find themselves in the embarrassing situation of nobody laughing because their joke has got lost in translation. What’s more, cultural differences may mean that not every joke is met with the same enthusiasm by everyone in your audience.
  11. If possible, speak in your mother tongue. There are only few people with a perfect command of several languages. Most people lose some of their nuances and personality when speaking in a foreign language. Surveys show that audiences receive much more information when speakers talk in their native language and speeches are interpreted into the audience’s mother tongue, as opposed to the speaker and audience using their second language as the smallest common denominator.
  12. Videos are great for visualising aspects of your speech or livening up a presentation. But please bear in mind that voiceover texts are often very dense, complex and fast, and your interpreters will need the videos or scripts beforehand to do their job well.
  13. Please keep a receiver close at hand, so that you can hear the interpretation of questions from audience members posed in a different language.

Take breaks. Brief breaks between sections will give you time to collect your thoughts and allow your audience to process what you have said. Simultaneous interpreting doesn’t actually happen quite simultaneously – there is a time delay of a few seconds between the original and the translation. During discussions in particular, it is a good idea to wait 3–5 seconds before responding to what someone else has said to give everyone time to finish listening to the interpretation.

Peschel interpreters at Intersolar Europe

Interpreters Anja Peschel and Katherina Polig are all set to translate the opening of Intersolar Europe 2014 and the Intersolar AWARD ceremony on 4th June. Intersolar Europe is the world’s largest exhibition for the solar industry and its partners, taking place annually at Messe München, Germany.

It’s that time of year again – Intersolar Europe opens its doors on 4th June and Anja Peschel and Katherina Polig will be on site to simultaneously translate both the opening of the exhibition and the Intersolar AWARD ceremony into English. As Peschel Communications has been providing language services to the Intersolar exhibition since 2000 when it was still held in Freiburg, the interpreters always look forward to this event in particular. This long-standing collaboration means that the exhibition extends beyond a mere place of work to a place brimming with opportunities to re-establish or form contacts with the organisers as well as long-term, new and potential customers alike. The exhibition also provides the team at Peschel Communications with valuable insights into the latest trends in the solar and storage technology markets. Being able to expand on their knowledge and skills in such a hands-on environment is absolutely indispensable for translators and interpreters. Intersolar sheds light on topics ranging from photovoltaics and PV production technologies to energy storage systems, solar thermal technologies and renewable heating. In addition to sending interpreters to the exhibition, Peschel Communications is responsible for all translations required for the Intersolar series, which now spans four continents.

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