When is a schnitzel not a schnitzel…?

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 13:26 Erika Baker

The trickiest translation challenges come when a client uses two different names for two different products that have the same translation.

And when the difference between them is not one that has been invented for commercial purposes but that readers of the translation would not understand.

… when it’s an escalope!

The problem for an English-German translator is that escalope is the French word for… a schnitzel! Scnitzel

There is a difference. If you research the two words, a schnitzel is a specific cut of meat, usually pork or veal, that has been flattened, often coated in breadcrumbs and fried.

An escalope is a specific cut of meat, usually pork or veal, that has been flattened, often coated in breadcrumbs and cooked…. but not necessarily fried.

That’s it.

Could it be an escalope?

Sometimes, it’s possible to simply leave a word as it is. Especially in the case of product names. And so chicken nuggets are known as Chicken Nuggets in German. Escalopes, on the other hand, are not a generally known product. They are known as Schnitzel and Schnitzel only!

I turned to colleagues for help. A forum of professional English to German translators, many of them specialising in food related translations, spent a few hours trying to come up with a solution.

Some research showed a single use of the word escalope in a 100 year old cookbook from Austria and one equally ancient reference from Palatinate in Germany. Clearly, unlike chicken nuggets, the word escalope has not entered the German language, and would only be understood by people who also speak English or French.

And these people would believe an escalope to be exactly the same thing as a Schnitzel!

What’s the difference?

Checking with the client, it became clear that, at least for them, there was a distinct difference in the thickness of the meat.

This was a translation challenge too far. Armed with evidence and the comments from my group of friendly colleagues, all equally stumped, I presented my problem to the client.

Thankfully, the client understood the linguistic challenge and agreed that the final translation should be much more prosaic.

Both products are now Schnitzels, but one is “thin cut” and the other is “thick cut”.

And I have another happy client!