Continual changes in the language can become a hindrance for those translators who would like to take up translating texts which were written several dozen or even, a hundred years earlier. These texts are usually of high historical value while not many are able to read them. One example of this is Neo-Gothic script – handwritten German script in use until 1941, when it was replaced by Antiqua, based on the Latin alphabet.


Neo-Gothic translation deals with transliteration and traduction of handwritten Old German texts. The ability to decipher Neo-Gothic script poses problems for translators of the German language, and even for native speakers.


That is why there are not a lot people who specialise in deciphering and translation of Neo-Gothic script and the ability to use it is declining. Meanwhile, this ability is important and necessary – it helps to decipher texts of high historical value, treasured not only by researchers but also families wanting to understand archives passed down from generation to generation.


Difficulties in translation of ancient texts


The condition of these texts itself can make it more difficult to decipher them. The manuscripts are often ruined and their copies fuzzy. What’s more, many versions of Neo-Gothic script further impede the process of deciphering. We can distinguish different types of Neo-Gothic script: Kurrent, Sütterlin, Offenbach script and late gothic cursive. We can see them in antique manuscripts, such as chronicles, civil registries and church documents.


Through regular evolution of the language, the words can change their meanings and, what’s more, one has to pay attention to the historical context necessary in order to understand them. Another problem in the Neo-Gothic script is a different way of writing letters which makes it difficult to translate, especially when it comes to names where it is not possible to guess the meaning of the words from the context, and the names change over time depending on the geopolitical situation.


How to translate Neo-Gothic script?


During preparations for translation of Neo-Gothic script, some additional problems are to be expected. Small letters can sometimes resemble letters used in the Latin alphabet which can be confusing. In turn, uppercase letters can be written in such decorative ways that it is difficult to differentiate between them. Furthermore, lowercase letters may look very different from their equivalents in uppercase letters. Besides that, other complications might occur – as with the letter “s” that has two graphic forms, with their use depending on the letter’s placement in the sentence.


However, there are methods that help with Neo-Gothic translation. Context is the most important because it allows to decipher unknown letters and words. Comparative method is also helpful – through comparing letters and words from a difficult to read passage with ones from a passage we already can read. However difficult it may be, the ability to read Neo-Gothic script opens doors for the translator to understand valuable sources, which without the right specialists will remain unstudied.

(translation M. N.)

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