The on-site services we’re accustomed to offering at public offices around Germany have changed for the foreseeable future. Read on to find out what it looks like to take a translator to an appointment with you during the Corona pandemic.
Category Archive: Life Changes
The Easter bunny appears to have shown up a bit early. I’ve made a video explaining how to fill out the main application form for ALGII. At the point at which I start talking about health insurance, you can hear Frozen II blaring in the background. Welcome to “working at home”! I hope it’s helpful and I wish you a very happy Easter.
This is the burning question. Here’s where to look if you had an appointment that got cancelled, your permit is going to expire soon and you can’t walk in to the foreigner’s office, or you have any other issues. Please be advised we might not have the answer either. This stuff is moving at the speed of light!
We are busting our asses talking to people, calling hotlines, reading freshly published articles and emailing officials trying to get answers to your most pressing questions about COVID-19 and how it affects your life and livelihood. Everything from government grants and welfare aid to what you can and can’t do during the pandemic. We will link to all information here and keep this article up to date. If you have pressing questions, please leave a comment and we’ll play detective!
Lioba from Red Tape Translation is a freelance actor when she’s not working for us, and she has spent the day trying to make sense of the state aid available for self-employed people during the COVID-19 pandemic. She spoke with a case worker at a Job Center in depth this morning. We give her our warmest thanks for taking the time to share her knowledge.
Sarah arrived on the scene in rainy November last year to see what it’s like being an interpreter and translator in Berlin. She’s been running back and forth to public and legal offices producing translations at lightning speed, proofreading, taking notes, shadowing and observing the very best and worst behaviour of Berlin’s bureaucratic jungle. Because if you’re going to hang out in the capital during the dark winter months, then you may as well go all out with fluorescent mood lighting. Here’s what Sarah has to say about her internship so far…
What attracted you to the German language?
I always loved how logical German seems, especially in a grammatical sense. Learning about different cases and adjective endings helped me understand this logic more and made me feel like German was an exciting puzzle to be solved rather than just a big jumble that was impossible to wrap my head around.
You’re completing a mandatory year of overseas work experience as part of your degree. Why Berlin?
I’m originally from London, which is big and busy and diverse, so I knew my best chance of getting the biggest variety of German experiences was to head for a big city like Berlin. Although there’s something to be said for the charm of the smaller, more rural areas of Germany, I just wanted somewhere where it was impossible to get bored, and Berlin, with all its diversity, seemed to me like the perfect place for that. I’ve been proven right so far!
What do you want to get out of your time in Berlin?
I’d like to have enough confidence in my ability to speak German that I don’t sweat the small stuff so often. When you’re in an academic environment, you obviously want to do the best you can, but I think there can be a tendency to fixate on the smaller mistakes and overlook your achievements, which isn’t helpful or fun to experience. So, I’d like to get as much experience speaking German as I can so that I’m not so hard on myself when I make mistakes and instead feel encouraged to keep trying. I also still haven’t tried döner, so I’m definitely in the right place!
Describe a typical day at Red Tape Translation
I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day at Red Tape, and that’s half of what makes it so much fun working here. My day can include shadowing interpreters at their appointments, who each have different interpreting styles (and tips for me to steal). I also help with translations, usually of purchase contracts. Last week, I assisted Kathleen in translating 4000 words of dense legal German into English for a read-through at the notary’s office. It’s tough at times, but it’s rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone take a big step in their life like buying a house or getting married in Germany. It helps you to feel part of something bigger than just you and your German to English dictionaries. I’ve also gotten to research and write blog posts, sit in on Red Tape interviews and team meetings, and observe Skype coachings.
What are you finding fun about the internship?
I would say the variety of the internship has been my favourite part so far. Not just in terms of the jobs I get to do, but the people I get to meet, both clients and interpreters, who all have completely different stories, which I get to have a little glimpse of every time I shadow an appointment. Before coming to Berlin and joining Red Tape Translation, I had no experience in the world of interpreting, or even professional translation, so every day I learn something new that I know I’ll carry with me in the future. There’s also something very validating about seeing people in action in the field in which I want to work one day and getting to see them connect with others and do their jobs well.
What is the biggest frustration you’ve experienced in the world of translation so far?
This is a strange answer given that it’s Red Tape’s speciality, but I’d probably say German bureaucracy. I always appreciate how detailed it is and how it tries to account for basically any situation, but it can definitely be frustrating to have done all of your research and to feel as prepared as you can be for an appointment, only to be turned away because of a technicality! Keeping your head in those situations, and also making sure the client doesn’t panic, can be very tricky.
What is the most significant learning curve you’ve faced?
Learning to tackle legal translation, for sure. Although I’m studying German at university, we tend to focus on translating literature and articles. Purchase contracts didn’t quite make it onto our syllabus, so I felt a little out of my depth the first time I was presented with one. Translating legal documents has taught me that translating is a lot more than just looking up a word and selecting something that fits the context; it can involve researching and teaching yourself legal concepts, so that you can fully understand the English version of the contract as well as the German one. It also doesn’t help that some sentences in these contracts can go on for entire paragraphs, so I’ve had to learn not to run at the first sign of a Bandwurmsatz!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (The typical interview question)
The scariest question so far! I used to go back and forth a lot due to my lack of confidence, but I think if I’ve learned anything from my time at Red Tape so far, it’s that I definitely want to be involved in the world of translating AND interpreting in some way in the future. Ideally, wherever I end up, I want to be using all of my languages, and I want to keep doing things that push me out of my comfort zone a little bit (like making phone calls!). My year abroad has just amplified my love of solo travel, so I’d love to integrate that into my life somehow, too. I’ll have my degree and a job that I genuinely enjoy, and will maybe even be adding new languages to my arsenal!
Caroline and Rick thought Berlin was pretty special and loved the idea of getting married in Germany. But they weren’t even sure if it was possible. Neither of them is a resident, and neither of them is German. They scoured the internet and eventually asked a German lawyer for help, who in turn told them to get in touch with Red Tape Translation. Turns out, it absolutely is possible. We guided them through the whole process, helped communicate with florists and hairdressers and saw it through in a beautiful ceremony in Berlin Charlottenburg.
by guest author Katie Kruse
On a sunny morning in May, a day so wholly unexceptional that I expected nothing more than the customary rising and setting of the sun with the filler that is life in between, a letter dropped into my mailbox. It was no bigger or smaller than your average letter, the little window was neither shiny, nor dull, nor did it instill any particular hope that this letter should be different to any other letter I have received since living in Germany. I did not know at this point just how special this letter was.
This post is written by guest blogger and interpreter Suzanne Fischer.
Fellow Brits, this post is written with you in mind. Have you lived in Germany for 6+ years? Do you speak terrific German? You have the chance to gain German citizenship earlier than the usual 8-year period of unbroken residency. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to retain your status as a European with dual nationality. No promises, of course – it’s all dependent on providing a stack of extra documentation.
Buying an apartment in Germany is an experience all in itself. Once the contract is signed, there’s an extra special perk: membership in the German home owner’s association for your particular building. You might know it as the “body corporate”, “condominium corporation”, “strata council” or “commonhold” in other countries. Once you’ve bought an apartment in Germany, you’ll come to know it fondly as the “WEG”, that is, the “Wohnungseigentümergemeinschaft”. So… what exactly will you be getting yourself into? How does it work? And will you ever get out alive?
Life admin – it’s something everyone has to deal with. Correspondence, finance, tax, registration forms, paying bills, etc. It’s so necessary and so painful. And in a foreign language? Excruciating. Getting the answers you want feels like banging your head against a brick wall. It’s hard to talk to customer service without getting shut down for not speaking German. The credibility of replies on English-language social media forums is questionable at best. Lately, I’ve been getting all sorts of requests for help with expat life admin tasks, things like “can I pay you to sort out this billing issue?”, “I got a scary letter from the Finanzamt, can you help me understand it?” or “Can you find me a medical specialist who speaks English?” I can, I can and I can! Introducing Life Admin from Red Tape Translation.
This type of request has been popping up with surprising frequency. Here’s how it usually goes down. A customer who doesn’t speak German gets approval for a loan from a bank, either alone or as part of a joint purchase, and everything is ready to go except for one thing: the bank sends the loan documents with a requirement for a statement from a court-sworn interpreter. The statement should declare that the interpreter has read out the terms of the loan to the client in English and that the client has understood them. Why is this requirement from banks causing such waves of panic in the interpreting industry?