Setzen auf in English

15.06.2011 | 3 Kommentare

Today, a contribution from our first intern of the year, Sophie Shepard, from Cambridge University:

Setzen auf – in English
A hard nut to crack
Setzen auf is a convenient all-purpose phrase that covers a large range of meanings. It can rarely be translated literally into English. Setzen auf is also a prime example of the pitfalls of dictionaries, online or otherwise. 
Common suggestions and problems with dictionaries
Online translations of setzen auf span from “backing horses” to “sitting down”. Even Oxford-Duden is not infallible – regardless of whether one consults the entries for setzen or simply auf, no suitable figurative translation is to be found.
Cracking the nut
Look at this example: Versandbuchhändler setzen auf elektronische Bücher.
Online book retailers are unlikely to be betting on horses by the name of ebook or making themselves comfy with a cup of tea on their cosy new ebook sofa.
The message needs to be removed from the nutshell in order to render an accurate English sentence. So what is it that the online book retailers are up to? Well, a glance at the rest of the article reveals that they are hoping to boost sales by branching out into ebooks.
Information overload
Now only one hurdle remains: shaving off all excess details to create a smooth English sentence. In the case of our online booksellers we note that the shift to ebooks is a welcome development, so how about:
Online booksellers embrace ebooks.
Further suggestions
There is no one-size-fits-all solution but here are some other suggestions for setzen auf:
1a) Schleswig-Holstein und Hamburg setzen auf Kooperation
1b) Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg agree to closer cooperation
2a) Ärzte setzen auf neue Therapie gegen Ehec-Infektion
2b) Doctors switch to new treatment in the fight against the E-coli outbreak
3a) IBM und Sybase setzen auf POWER7 für neue mCommerce-Appliance
3b) IBM and Sybase opt for POWER7 for new mCommerce Appliance

For the complete articles, see the following websites: http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Versandbuchhaendler-setzen-auf-elektronische-Buecher-1002244.html



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3 Kommentare

  1. Librarian

    I like the "embrace" and the "opt for" sentences, but when it comes to "agree to" and "switch to", I am not quite happy with those. Agreeing or switching to something has a very different meaning from what "setzen auf" wants to convey. The doctors, for instance, could be "optimistic about" new treatment. It is not ideal, either, but closer to the message of setzen auf.

  2. Sally Loren

    Thank you for taking a look at the tricky issue of "setzen auf". Some of the suggestions in online dictionaries are ridiculous. I frequently use "opt for" and sometimes "to back something/someone" – depending on the context. There's no universal solution to fit all.

  3. MCSquared

    Librarian, you have a point. And one based on a thorough understanding of the background. The more you know, the more you can be free with the "words" while still translating the message. With the doctors, you could even go as far as "to try out / experiment with"


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