Three Challenging Terms in German Tourism Texts and How You Can Overcome Them

Link zur deutschen Version.

Ever since I decided to specialise in translating German to English texts for the tourism industry, my clients have sent me some wonderful pieces to work on. Some have been easy-peasy, and some… well, not so much! I’d like to present the top three hardest – and most frustrating, when I see them – words and expressions I encounter when translating German tourism texts into English and how I can help you to overcome them.

1. The word ‘Wohlfühl’, when used as a prefix.
Example: Wohlfühlpaket

I see this one often when translating spa hotel web content. Translated at word-level, by a popular online translation tool, as ‘feel-good package’, more care is required when translating on a contextual level to avoid producing a calque – i.e.: something that reads like an obvious translation and not like a text written by a native speaker. These clunky, unprofessional sounding renderings can be avoided by bringing in a human translator, like me, who knows both the source and target languages well enough to avoid these pitfalls.

In German, shoving multiple words together to form longer ‘compound nouns’ is a natural aspect of grammar, but English doesn’t do this and machine translators can’t necessarily grasp this aspect of the language properly. This is where I come in!

When translating ‘Wohlfühl’ and similar prefixes, I prefer to recast the word into a descriptive phrase, letting the context dictate how I do so, in order to produce a text that both reads naturally and has the welcoming warmth your clients expect. For ‘Wohlfühlpaket’; ‘luxury deals’, ‘relaxation package’ or, something similar would all be appropriate solutions. ‘Wohlfühlurlaub’ is another common example – ‘relaxing holiday’, ‘luxury getaway’ or, even, ‘spa break’ could easily fit, depending on the context (not ‘feel-good vacation’, as our tool suggests). A machine will never be able to generate the quality copy you and your guests deserve in the same way I can.

2. The word ‘Erlebnis’, when used as a prefix.
Example: Erlebnisdusche

What do you mean here? Seen alone, this word is straightforward – it means ‘experience’. When used as the prefix in a compound noun, like this, however, it can be a really challenging notion to convey properly. Research, something machine translators are incapable of, is a crucial weapon in a translator’s arsenal… indeed, our online translation tool throws up ‘experience shower’, which is the calque of all calques and such an empty rendering will never reflect your establishment in the manner you both desire and deserve. An ‘Erlebnisdusche’ could, in reality, be anything from a power shower, with jets of water coming at you from all angles; a gentle, relaxing shower accompanied by calming music, aromatic infusions, textured flooring to offer special stimulation for your feet and colourful mood lighting; or any form of shower at a swimming pool. Careful research and understanding of context will tell us which it is.

Other words I have seen with this prefix are ‘Erlebnisbad’ and ‘Erlebnisbergwerk’, the former being some kind of bath (could be an actual swimming pool, could be a Jacuzzi in the spa area, the context will tell us). For the latter, my research led me to discover that it was actually a defunct mine that had been turned into a tourist attraction, something a machine would have been unable to decipher.

3. The word ‘Verwöhn’, when used as a prefix.
Example: Verwöhnpension

A lot of B&B and boutique guesthouse owners often use this prefix, which means ‘spoil’ or ‘pamper’, to describe their establishment as high-end or luxurious and, of course, ‘pampering guesthouse’ just doesn’t sound right to the Anglophone ear. ‘Pampering board’, which is what our online tool proposes, sounds even worse! In this instance, translating as ‘luxury’ or ‘luxurious’ would fit well and would allow me to paint the most meaningful word picture possible for you.

What about for other examples, like ‘Verwöhnmassage’, though? More thought and creativity is required to render this one appropriately. ‘Luxury massage’ wouldn’t quite be suitable here, but ‘pampering’ or ‘relaxing’ might. In addition, this particular example is one for which a machine might churn out a translation that is awkward in an even less desirable way – searching for any combination or iteration of ‘verwöhn’ and ‘massage’ together could result in you unwittingly using some rather embarrassing collocations that, put politely, aren’t exactly befitting to your establishment or its clientele. Again, context is everything and I can help you avoid such potential embarrassment. Only a human translator can get a 100% grip on your intentions, core message and values and put them over in the way you require.

What are we to learn from this?

Firstly, as has become clear, context is key. Secondly, translating at word-level (or using a machine translator like Google or DeepL) does you absolutely no favours, as a freer approach only a human can adopt is mostly necessary with texts like yours. With some cunning, creativity and care, I can help you overcome these obstacles. The copy I will produce about your hotel, spa, B&B or guesthouse will be a pleasure to read and will have a much better chance at attracting more guests and enticing them to book a stay with you than anything put together in five minutes using a machine could.

I look forward to working with you!

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