Longest word in German - Let's translate! | Language Reach

Let’s translate the longest German word…

Today we are happy to share with you an article written by our friend and a true language lover – George Trail. Enjoy!

I’ve decided to write a blog which is ostensibly “fun” by my usual standards: one which revolves around a Youtube video posted by a German woman who herself describes it as “an epic video about the German language”.

She suggested this word as “the longest German word”. It’s definitely refreshing to watch something which is as educational as it is humorous.

My initial thoughts: I’ve never really thought of German – or any language – as “aggressive-sounding” before, but I can agree that it uses a lot of consonants. In any case, some may argue that German is a relatively “interesting” language. Nonetheless, as I wrote this blog I decided to bring up the longest words I know in English (my mother tongue) and French: it is claimed that the longest French word is “anticonstitutionnellement” (“anti-constitutionally” – 25 letters) while the longest English word is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” (45 letters). That is, if you don’t count the longest ever technical word: the ridiculously long scientific name for titin (189,819 letters), which is the same in French and English.

Anyway, back to the word in this video. The Germans like to string their words together – this woman explains it all very well here (even if she does specifically point out that there does eventually come a point where the words cease to make sense even if it does remain grammatically correct).

There are 627 letters in

“Oberweserdampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänsmützenabzeichenpoliermittelkanister-deckelherstellungsverbandsvorsitzendenausweishüllenschneidemaschinenmotor-wartungsplanaktualisierungsbeauftragtenzertifikatsausstellungsbehördenbeamten-krawattenknotenbindeanleitungsautorenbürocomputertastaturanschlusskabelumhüllungs-reparaturdienstfahrzeugsvorderreifengummibeschichtungsfabrikgebäu-deheizungsrohrverlegungsmechanikerwerkzeugkastenverschluss-klappensicherungsschlossfunktionstestverantwortlichenprüfungsfragebogenfragenentwickler-qualifikationsurkundendruckertintenpatronennachfüllpaketbestellformularankreuzkästchendesignerausbildung”.

longest word in German language

It’s not something you can just run through Google Translate, is it? You’ll definitely have to work with a professional translation agency. And like anyone is going to end up using a word like that by chance in conversation in German and be surprised should someone eventually lose track / fail to continue following. And consider this: for me to deliver a sound translation of it in English will definitely demand that I use plenty of prepositions, in addition to nouns and verbs. Even though it’s only a single word, it will be a challenge even for someone with as much comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of the grammar of both English and German as I have providing translation services on a professional level. So… I will now take each word I see separately and translate them all into English one at a time; words which obviously belong together, as it were, will be reinterpreted and rewritten immediately.

  • From the word at the end – “Ausbildung” – this is some kind of education or training programme / course… but this will take some doing.

  • “Ober” – upper / superior

  • “Weser” – the river Weser, right?

  • “Dampf” – steam

  • “Schiff” – boat vessel

  • [ergo: “Dampfschiff” means “steamboat”]

  • “Fahrt” – “trip” or “journey”

  • gesellschaft – either “society” or “company” (as in business company)

    : “Upper Weser steamboat trip company”…]

  • “Kapitän” – captain

    [So: the captain of this company…]

  • “Mütze” – cap / hat

  • “Abzeichen” – badge / insignia / emblem

  • “Poliermittel” – polish i.e. “Polier” = polish and “Mittel” = means / substance

  • “Kanister” – canister / can

  • “Deckel” – cover, or rather top / lid / cap in this case

    [So: apparently, this is supposed to be referring to the lid of the can of the polish used for the badge of the cap of this captain – quite a few “ofs” there, huh? – the mind boggles, but then I’ve already suggested that this will not necessarily make sense]

  • “Herstellung” – manufacturing

  • “Verband” – association

  • “Vorsitzenden” – chairman

  • “Ausweis” = ID card, or “badge” or “proof”, depending on the context; but it will be ID card here

  • “Hülle” – cover or envelope or sleeve (with no rigid ideas about what it looks like or what it’s made of or anything like that)

  • “schneide” = cutting / cut

  • “Maschinen” = machines (it’s a plural, given the “n” at the end)

    [So: we’ve now gone from the can lid mentioned above, to the association that manufactured it, to its chairman, to this person’s ID card, to the protective cover that contains it, to the machines that are used for cutting such covers… well, you can see it’s not easy, if at all possible, to make succinct notes about something like this!]

  • “Motor” – motor

  • “Wartung” – maintenance

  • “Plan” – plan

  • “Aktualisierung” – update

  • “Beauftragten” – representative (commissioned person)

  • “Zertifikat” – certificate

    [So: about the aforementioned machines used in the manufacturing of these protective covers… we are now supposed to acknowledge that it’s about the plan for maintenance of the motors of such machines – or rather, the person responsible for the same – or rather, the certificate which shows the qualification of such a person. So I’ve seen pretty much only a long string of random German nouns – I admit I’ve temporarily lost the plot (if there ever was one to speak of.)]

  • “Ausstellung” – issuance i.e. of an award or qualification

  • “Behörde” – authority

  • “Beamten” – official

    [So: “official of an unnamed authority which issues certificates indicating the qualification of a person responsible for updating plans for the maintenance of the motors of machines which…”

  • “Krawatte” – tie

  • “Knoten” – knot

  • “Binde” – tying

  • “Anleitung” – instructions

    [So: from what I’ve seen, it’s just about impossible to assert or conclude anything related to instructions for tying the knot of a tie of an official of an authority which issues certificates…]

  • “Autoren” – authors (again, a plural) [of said instructions, lest I lose track all too easily]

  • “Büro” – office

  • “Computer” – computer

  • “Tastatur” – keyboard

  • “Anschluss” – connection

  • “Kabel” – cable

  • “Umhüllung” – wrapping

  • “Reparatur” – repair(s)

  • “Dienst” – service

  • “Fahrzeug” – vehicle

  • “Vorder” – fore / frontal

  • “Reifen” – tyres

  • “Gummi” – rubber

  • “Beschichtung” – coating

  • “Fabrik” – factory

  • “Gebäude – building

    [So: You know, I don’t want to include too many “ofs” in my English translation of this, but even now all I see is “building of the factory which produces the coating of the rubber of the front tyres of the vehicle(s) part of a service for repairing envelopes of connection cables of computer keyboards… I really am none the wiser even now]

  • “Heizung” – heating / heater

  • “Rohr” – pipe

  • “Verlegung” – transfer / shifting

  • “Mechaniker” – mechanic

  • “Werkzeug” – tool

  • “Kasten” – box / case / chest

    [So: toolbox]

  • “Verschluss” – lock / fastener / seal (again, no specifics)

  • “Klappe” – flap / valve / shutter (among other words with similar meaning)

  • “Sicherung” – safeguarding or protection, or fuse (which of course, has such a function) in this case

  • “Schloss” – lock / clasp / fastener (or “something like that”)

  • “Funktion” – function

  • “Test” – test

  • “Verantwortlichen” – responsible person (for lack of better translation – “verantwortlich” means “responsible”)

  • “Prüfung” – check / test / examination

  • “Fragebogen” – questionnaire

  • “Fragen” – this can mean “issues” but here it definitely means “questions” (again, it’s a plural)

  • “Entwickler” – developer (an abstract term, but I look forward to being enlightened)

  • “Qualifikation” – qualification

  • “Urkunden” – documents (one more plural)

  • “Drucker” – printer

  • “Tinten” – inks

  • “Patronen” – cartridges

  • “Nachfüll” – refill (from infinitive verb “nachfüllen”)

  • “Paket” – packet

  • “Bestell” – order

  • “Formular” – form (as in a piece of paper that you fill in)

  • “Ankreuzkästchen” – check box (lit.: “Ankreuz” = check; “Kästchen” = small box / case)

    [So: …and small boxes are common on a form, aren’t they?]

  • “Designer” – designer (borrowed straight from English)

  • “Ausbildung” – education – it can be the general concept of education or more like a training course

So… it looks like I will be working backwards, if you know what I mean. I’m aiming for an absence of punctuation marks in the translation of this single “word” (not to mention an absence of excessive use of the word “of” i.e. “[a] of [b] of [c] of [de] of [e]”…) – how about this?

“Education programme for a designer of checkboxes used on order forms for ink cartridge refill packets for printers used in the creation of qualification documents for developers of the questions in questionnaires within an exam for a person responsible for testing the functionality of lock valve protection clasps used in the toolboxes of mechanics who transfer heating pipes in the buildings of factories which make rubber coating for the front tyres of vehicles of repair services for wrapping of connection cables of computer keyboards in the offices of authors of instructions for tying knots of the ties of officials of authorities which issue certificates for those commissioned to make updates to maintenance plans for motors of machines used in the cutting of covers of ID cards of chairpersons of associations which manufacture lids of cans of polish for the insignia on the cap of the captain of the Upper Weser steamboat excursion company.”

…right.

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