German and Russian: The Particular Features of Translation

Anyone who does translations between these two languages, will often be asked about the differences between them. Therefore, we have decided to highlight three key features, which are imperative to the translation of any text from German to Russian, or vice versa.

  • Cases

While German only uses four cases, the nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive to give more information on the role of a noun in a sentence, Russian has six cases. In addition to the four mentioned above which are also used in German, Russian also has a prepositional case, which tells you where an action took place, and the instrumental case, which tells you by what means an action has taken place. These cases merit special attention during a translation of any text between these two languages.

  • Formality

In both languages, there are occasions where you need to indicate whether you are addressing someone formally or informally. This is often done through the use of two different pronouns, one for formal address and another for informal, in German the informal form of ‘you’ is du the second person singular and the formal version is Sie, effectively the third person plural but capitalised. In Russian, the informal address works along similar lines, but the formal version is the second person plural. This distinction is a potential obstacle in translation, so should be kept in mind.

  • The Verb ‘to be’

This verb is a central part of every language but the way it is used in Russian may surprise many non-native speakers. In German ‘sein’ is one of the most commonly used verbs but Russian adopts a different approach, and only uses the verb ‘to be’ in the past and future tenses. It is only used to specify a time so is not used in the present tense, ‘is’ or ‘am’ are never used in Russian. Many sentences from English containing these words, would simply eliminate them, when they are translated into Russian.

Now that you know more about the particular features of translation between German and Russian, why not read out articles on the issues of translation between other pairs of languages.

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