Thursday, 23 June 2016

Translating ‘Anspruch’ into English

The primary meaning of Anspruch is a ‘claim’ or ‘demand’. For a translator of tourism material, the phrase in Anspruch nehmen (i.e. to claim entitlement to, or to consume, take advantage or make use of) is likely to be encountered in hotel terms and conditions under the section on cancellation penalties, as in: (nicht in) Anspruch genommene Leistungen = for unused services.

But it will also feature regularly elsewhere in texts of this kind. Anspruch is much-loved by tourism copywriters for its ability to convey notions of discernment or good taste‘. A surefire way to butter up potential guests/visitors/diners is to promise that their experience is going to be altogether more upmarket/classy than the average. So a good translation of den allerhöchsten Ansprϋchen genϋgen might be something like = meets the very highest standards/is perfect for the more discerning guest/diner/visitor etc.
In fact, I think ‘discerning‘ does good service most of the time. (I am always wary of demanding‘ as an alternative - as  every hotelier knows, there is a fine line between discerning‘ and demanding‘ customers!) Having said that, here is an example where I think it sounds ok:
bequem eingerichtete Zimmer, die auch anspruchsvolle Gäste befriedigt =  comfortable accommodation to satisfy even the most demanding guest

 Much trickier to deal with, I find, is the reverse idea - those pesky anspruchslose Gäste (less demanding) guests. Consider this example, taken from the website of a delightful-looking guesthouse in the Czech Republic (
Zimmer "Standard": 2 Vierbettzimmer und 4 Zweibettzimmer sind vorzugsweise geeignet für weniger anspruchsvolle Gäste, für die ein Gemeinschaftsbad und -WC im Erdgeschoss zufriedenstellend ist =  (not my translation) … are suitable particularly for a less demanding clientele that will settle for a common bathroom and sanitary facilities on the ground floor.

Mmm… not sure ‘less demanding’ really works in English (though ‘less discerning’ would be much worse!) I’m also not mad about ‘settle for’ (are they trying to sell this place, or not?!) and I think ‘shared’ is just nicer than ‘common’.
So, how best to deal with the inevitable negative connotations of anspruchslos? Of course, online review sites are full of pretty damning examples of its use, as here:
... but Anspruchslosigkeit can also be an asset, carrying notions of good, honest unpretentiousness. A translation along the lines of ‘(accommodation) for those on a limited budget/looking for simplicity/no-frills accommodation’ etc. provides a more positive spin.

... ich werde jetzt eine wohlverdiente Kaffeepause in Anspruch nehmen. Bis zum naechsten Mal :)