By Igor Maslennikov
German interpreter and translator.
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For many years I have been working as a PR-manager and translator from German in a Belarussian-German joint project in Belarus. The purpose of our enterprise is rehabilitation and recuperation of children and teenagers living in territories contaminated with radionuclides after the accident at the atomic power station of Chernobyl. The health of this children is subject to risks of diseases because of the effect of radionuclides on the immune system.
In our Belarussian-German rehabilitation center "NADEZHDA" ("hope" in Russian) we have created conditions for restoring the immune system in children. The center is situated in a territory without any radiation pollution; the children live in comfortable houses, receive a balanced diet and medical care. Well educated teachers and psychologists work with the children.
Because of its international status, the center is noted for different international projects, and many people, mostly handicraftsmen, volunteers, doctors, and teachers from Germany, come to Belarus to do charitable work for the Chernobyl children. Some years ago, some teenagers from Germany came to our center to carry out various projects, together with teenagers from Belarus, for communicating and getting acquainted with the culture and customs of other countries. Such visits are a tradition of our center now. All this serves mutual understanding and rapprochment among people. Although often the visitors are children of ethnic German immigrants from the countries of the former USSR, the job of translators is very important for the proper organization of this process.
The work as a translator with teenagers from different countries involves some difficulties. There is plenty of jargon and idiomatic expressions in teenagers' speech, which cannot always be found in regular dictionaries. They are related to the specificity of children's and teenagers' language, with a high degree of emotionality, subjective relationships with the themes of converstaions, objects, and information.
In the beginning of my translation's practice it was difficult for me to determine the origin of this or that expression or word. And if the meaning of words such as abgedreht I could be determined by their etymology (drehen, abdrehen) or kübeln (der Kübel), such words as das Lesterschwein were more difficult (the initial consonants of the two components are reversed: das Schwesterlein - the little sister) or der/die Schleimi (der Schleim - slime, sticky stuff), and the origin of a word such as der Zampano or der Lulli is not clear to me until now. In some cases one needs to have detailed knowledge of the language environment, ex: Heino (the singer who always performs wearing black glasses) or der Trabipilot (the driver of the automobile Trabant, manufactured in the former GDR).
I would divide jargon expressions of the youth lexicon into different kinds:
- emotional relationship to a stated subject in the form of brief characteristics: ächt? Hammer!
- familiar relationship to people, objects, and the phenomena: Grufti, der Ofen
- erotical context or relation to people or a theme of discussion: bumsen, vögeln, der Stopfer
- negative expression in the form of curses: der Hirni, der Rettich
- positive expression: das Törtchen, die Sahneschnitte
- relation to subjects: der Ohrwärmer, der Nuckel, das Nasenfahrrad
- expressions related to computer terminology or computer games: der Compi, der Computer-Crack
- demonstration of a wish to stop the dialogue: Du gehst mir auf den Zeiger! Ich hab´ es über!
In all these kinds of jargon expressions there are many adoptions from English, ex: cool, die Message, die Charts, hypocoristic reductions of usual forms of words der Specki, der Alki, and also examples from dialects - lepsch (Kölsch). Compared to Russian or English, there are less rough cursewords based on erotical or sexual contexts in German. More common are cursewords connected with the appearance or intellectual development of an individual, ex: beknackt, einen Dachschaden haben.
Working with teenagers speaking in German and Russian (the language of everyday dialogue in Belarus is Russian) I gradually began to prepare my own glossary of German slang. Eventually I acquired a quite good collection of slangy expressions, some of which have probably since become outdated, but, nevertheless, can be interesting to translators. I do not claim any scientific character for this glossary. As I said, I have prepared it from my experience and for my own use.
You can find the German-English glossary of German teenagers' slang here:
You can find the German-Russian glossary here:
I hope, my glossaries will be useful to all those who encounter children's and teenagers' jargon in their translation work.