01. December 2021

Successful in two languages Successful in two languages: Annette Poetsch and Maximilian Boßeler are translating for the University

Annette Poetsch and Maximilian Boßeler are translating for the University

How do you say “examination regulations” in German? How do you translate “certificate of enrollment”? Nobody at the University of Bonn can answer these questions as precisely as Annette Poetsch and Maximilian Boßeler from the Central Translation Service. Much of the non-academic communication that takes place in English at the University of Bonn passes through their hands in the International Office.

Translating (for) the university: Annette Poetsch und Maximilian Boßeler
Translating (for) the university: Annette Poetsch und Maximilian Boßeler - 1500 requests were made since August 2019. 1.4 million words in total transferred into English by summer 2021 © University of Bonn/ V. Lannert
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The demand is huge: they have received 1,500 requests for translations since August 2019. By summer 2021, they had put a total of 1.4 million words into English. Besides flyers and circulars, the pair will also often have brochures several hundred pages thick on their desks.

From descriptions of degree programs to master’s certificates, everything at the University of Bonn has to be available in several languages in line with its language policy. “As well as circulars, this also includes administrative processes and forms, so that staff who don’t speak German don’t get left out at the University,” says Poetsch. Texts about civil service law were a challenge at the start, she reveals. “Structures in the civil service and official language can be fairly specific,” Poetsch says. “Fortunately, our colleagues are always happy to help if we have any questions.”

And then there is also the University’s external communications, including its new central website, virtually all of which is bilingual. Says Boßeler: “The biggest challenge to date has been translating degree program information for the Central Study Advisory and Counseling Service’s brochures and websites. As there are over 200 subjects to choose from, we had to tackle a huge number of individual texts and a wide variety of topics. Projects like this also teach you a lot about the University. That’s something I really appreciate about our work.”

Special software helps them to use translated terms consistently across the University and recycle existing translations, thus saving resources. The Central Translation Service also maintains a German/English glossary on the intranet, which provides staff with a useful reference tool.


The University of Bonn’s Central Translation Service is available to all members of staff. How long a job will take depends on many factors: “If lots of specialist terminology are used, we’ll need more time for our research,” points out Boßeler, who studied translation in Heidelberg, Düsseldorf and Edinburgh. “And, of course, there are many more things that need doing besides the actual translation.” For this reason, external native-speaker translators are on hand to support the two-strong team as and when required in different subject areas.

The Central Translation Service forms part of the Internationalization Strategy 2025 and was set up in 2019 to ensure that the University of Bonn presented itself in a consistent way in English, both internally and externally.  “One aspect of our application for the status of a University of Excellence was actively promoting multilingualism at the University of Bonn,” explains Poetsch. The fact that universities are looking closely at this issue is a relatively new development, she reveals. “When I began my career, the job of ‘university translator’ didn’t yet exist,” says Poetsch, who spent many years working for language service providers in London after obtaining her translation degree.

And the venture has proven a success: the high demand for the service, which was initially set up as a time-limited project, persuaded the University to make it a permanent fixture in summer 2021.


New: English-language editing service for early-career researchers

A new pilot project at the University is supporting young researchers, who can now have their English-language academic texts edited externally via the Central Translation Service. “During the pilot phase, we’re gauging the current demand for academic editing work in English so that we can put together a good offer for our researchers in the long term,” Poetsch says. More on the Intranet!


Further information

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