Capital Language Solutions | Realisations about “realisieren”

Realisations about “realisieren”

8. June 2015

I promised that this blog would look at words and expressions that appear frequently in German source texts and need to be approached by translators with a degree of flexibility and understanding. For this post, we’re going to take a look at the German verb realisieren—temptingly similar to the English verb “to realise/realize”—a verb with a wide range of meanings depending, obviously, on the context.

Thinking like a translator

Whether you commission translations or work as a translator, you want to know that you are making the right choices. Let’s take a look at a few examples from source texts we’ve worked on recently at Capital Language Solutions, each of which highlights a different facet of this intriguing German verb:

Wachstum realisieren

Every business wants to “achieve growth” and will have budgets, plans and strategies aimed to do just this. It is the conversion of these plans into active measures, concrete actions designed to unlock strategic potentials, that is described in this context by the German verb “realisieren.”

Lösungen realisieren

When faced by challenges and threats, a proactive approach is called for. This will involve “developing and implementing solutions,” an example that highlights the fact that in a translation you sometimes need a slightly expanded target text if you want to truly capture the sense of the original source.

Baumaßnahmen realisieren

Real estate, particularly in the case of actively managed portfolios, requires regular maintenance and redevelopment work if it is to deliver the best possible ROI. In order to do this, it is necessary to “carry out and complete construction works” in a timely manner, minimising disruption to a building’s tenants. As with the previous example, we can easily justify using two verbs in the English version of the text. If we not only want to focus on the end result (i.e. the refurbished property), but also on the process leading up to it, then we might choose to use both “carry out” and “complete.”    

Projekte realisieren

Among our clients, many are active in the real estate sector. They often want to inform journalists, investors and shareholders about “the projects they are developing/have developed.” Beginning with a concept, developing the requisite plans and architectural drawings, obtaining building permits, breaking ground…it can be a long process, and it doesn’t always end with a finished building or infrastructure, which is why project development is one of the more speculative fields within the real estate industry.     

Ein Qualitätsmanagementsystem realisieren

As a final German example for this post we’ll look at a term that applies across all fields of business, not just within the world of real estate. I’ve personally been involved in a number of certification and accreditation processes during my career (including International House, ISO, EAQUALS) and know what it means to “develop and implement a QMS.” Workflows have to be described and defined, processes need to be identified and harmonised, customer satisfaction is measured and quantified, and plans are made for refinements and improvements. It’s an intensive and multi-faceted process and any translation of “ein Qualitätsmanagementsystem realisieren” should reflect this fact.

Embracing change

It’s also interesting to observe that the meaning of “realisieren” in German has evolved over time. The verb’s meaning has become broader, opening up from its original (restricted) sense of “to convert a plan/dream/intention into fact/reality,” to include the wider English sense “to notice/become aware of/come to understand”. This transfer of meaning from one language to another is most likely the result of a combination of

  • mistranslations between the language pair in the past,
  • the impact of increased and more fluid communication in the internet age, and
  • a general trend in the German language to adopt loan words and loan translations.

English-speakers often use “realise” to talk about transforming their dreams and ambitions into reality (in German, “verwirklichen” or “erfüllen”), as well as to describe those “lightbulb” moments where realisation dawns and awareness strikes (“begreifen”, “erkennen”, “zu der Erkenntnis kommen/gelangen, dass…”).

We hope you have enjoyed this post and would love to hear about your experiences with “realisieren” and “realise”. You can subscribe to our blog by adding the RSS feed to your blog reader (e.g, Feedly), follow us on twitter (@caplangsol) and Facebook (/capital language solutions).

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