Saturday, 23 January 2016

Translating ‘die Seele baumeln lassen’ into English

Today’s short blogpost is about how to deal with the idiom: Lassen Sie Ihre Seele baumeln!* - an exhortation used very frequently in holiday/leisure/wellness texts. For any non-German speakers who happen to be reading this, Seele is your soul and the verb baumeln means to dangle, so you can see the potential pitfalls! Clearly “letting your soul dangle” is only ever going to cause hilarity among an English-speaking readership (though this otherwise perfectly nice hotel in Davos seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact:

So, what does it actually mean? Duden gives the following definition: sich psychisch entspannen; von allem, was einen psychisch belastet, Abstand gewinnen: to relax mentally; to avoid mental stress of any kind. In other words... relax! But then German has other words for to relax, notably  entspannen (and, increasingly common these days, relaxen), so what’s the difference?

Well, I guess die Seele baumeln lassen is really just relaxation... with knobs on! Proper kick-off-your-shoes, turn-down-the-lights, light-a-scented-candle, do-not-disturb kind of relaxation – the kind we should all get more of! Actually, for translation purposes, relax (or for extra effect relax and unwind) will usually do the job nicely. But of course there are other options if you feel like ringing the changes: let yourself go, free your spirit (bit hippie, that one!), leave your cares behind, indulge yourself, chill out etc. (or if you are American, I guess you are more likely to ‘hang loose’, ‘kick back’ or something?!). Here are just a few examples from recently-translated texts:

  • suchen Sie eine der Restaurationen auf und beim Blick aufs Wasser einfach die Seele baumeln lassen = relax and enjoy a bite to eat as you sit and take in the stunning view across the water
  • Ruhe geniessen, die Seele baumeln lassen = immerse yourself in the wonderful peace and quiet and forget your cares
  • Wellness – die Seele baumeln lassen = spa luxury – your chance to really unwind

To close, here’s a website I just came across – the rather aptly-named: It’s a health clinic offering massage and a range of soothing therapeutic treatments. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live near St Gallen, I’m sure there’s somewhere closer to home where you can dangle your soul to your heart’s content. Happy relaxing!

*For anyone interested in the origin of the phrase, it is generally acknowledged to come from Kurt Tucholsky’s 1931 novel Schloss Gripsholm: “Wir lagen auf der Wiese und baumelten mit der Seele”.


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Translating ‘Natur- into English

With more than a third of the country covered with forest and no fewer than 16 national parks (, Germany has plenty to offer nature lovers (Naturliebhaber). The more naturbelassen (unspoilt) a place is, the better. In fact, I would say that finding a location with intakte Natur is almost a holy grail for many holidaymaking Germans! Before we get down to business, anyone needing a reminder of Germany’s manifold natural wonders can take a look at this:

So, let’s think about die Natur or, as we Brits rather quaintly call it, the Great Outdoors! A quick look through the Natur- words in my glossary shows that more often than not I have translated them (surprise, surprise!) using the English equivalents: ‘nature’ or ‘natural’:

  • für Kinder gibt es das Naturerlebnispfad und Naturhochseilgarten = kids will love the nature discovery trail and our forest high-ropes course
  • XXX steht inmitten eines Natur- und Ferienparadies = is located in a popular holiday area in a spectacular natural setting
  • nicht zu vergessen ist das Naturschutzgebiet, das Große Torfmoor = a ‘must’ on any itinerary is the nature conservation area known as…
  • ist nur eines von vielen unvergesslichen Naturerlebnissen, die den Besucher erwarten = one of the many unforgettable natural wonders (anything but ‘natural experiences’!)                                                        
  • ein tolles Sport- und Naturerlebnis = the ultimate sporting experience in a glorious natural setting

… but on just as many occasions, ‘country’ or ‘countryside’ sounded better, as here:

  • Genießen Sie Ihre Ferien inmitten herrlicher Natur = enjoy a relaxing holiday in picture-book countryside
  • Stille atmen, Weite genießen und Natur erleben - das ist Urlaub auf unserem Ferienhof! = fresh air, peace and quiet and miles of beautiful open countryside – everything you expect from a farmhouse holiday is right here!

Sometimes, the best rendering is simply open-air’, where the prefix Natur- is used to indicate that a particular attraction or facility is out of doors, e.g. Naturbühne = an open-air stage (as opposed to an indoor arena), and Naturerlebnisbad = an outdoor adventure pool (rather than the covered kind). And when food - or some other item made from all-natural materials - is being described, ‘organic’ is generally the way to go.

To finish, the award for most commonly recurring use of Natur- in a strapline has to go to “Natur pur!” (“Nature at its best”, maybe?), a phrase that German writers of marketing copy have really taken to their hearts. No surprise then that this neat little rhyming collocation, used day in day out to sell all manner of products from yogurt and bread to shoes, cosmetics, flooring and activity holidays, gets a million and a half hits on Google!