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For the Federal Prosecutor and the Federal Criminal Court



and translator

Speaking a language means finding access to the people of a foreign country, penetrating its culture and history, and feeling a sense of  belonging.

Interpreting and translating means aligning the expectations of people with different backgrounds and building bridges that overcome prejudices.

Language skills, certificates, memberships

My language skills

Michael Derrer is fluent in German and Swiss-German, French, English, Russian and Romanian at a mother tongue level and also speaks Polish, Italian and Spanish very well.

He also has good passive knowledge of Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Belarusian, Portuguese and Dutch, reads texts and documents in these languages and translates them into German, English and French.

Certificates and Memberships
Legal interpreter

Interpreting at courts, I specialize on the field of economic crimes.

Since 2014, I had more than 500 interpreting assignments::

  • Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona
  • Federal Prosecutor and Federal Criminal Police in Bern and Zurich
  • Criminal courts, civil courts and public prosecutors’ offices of the cantons AG, BE, BL, BS, SO and the state of Baden-Württemberg
Selection of previous topics
  • Criminal law: robbery, burglary, shoplifting, trick theft, sexual coercion, assault, child abuse, fraud, drug smuggling, trespassing, counterfeiting, money laundering, forgery of documents, credit card abuse, corruption, abuse, assault, begging, appeal against remand
  • Migration: Unauthorized entry, fake immigration documents, expulsion
  • Civil law: divorce, separation, neighborhood disputes, claims, rent disputes, contestation of dismissal, wage payments, labor disputes, wage claims after bankruptcy
  • Road traffic offenses
  • Psychiatry: Depression and risk of suicide, psychiatric expertise
  • Protection of vulnerable persons: guardianship, involuntary commitment
Written translations

As a translator, I specialize on demanding business and legal texts. Some flagship projects:

Law and justice
  • Criminal records from Eastern European languages for the Swiss Public Prosecutor (> 500 pages)
  • Criminal records from Italian (>100 pages)
  • Sentencing, legal notices, legal correspondence, international requests for legal assistance, various documents into German, French, English, Russian, Romanian
Business and economy
  • Translation of two business textbooks for Swiss high schools into English: Economics (400 pages), Business (500 pages)
  • Academic texts, e.g.: „Ethik und Finanzwirtschaft: Quo Vadis?“ by Paul Dembinski, translated from French to German by Michael Derrer. 144 pages, Stuttgart, Schäffer-Poeschl, 2017
  • Translation, in collaboration with two employees, of over 100 articles for the Swissinfo pilot project of a Russian-language website. The successful work laid the foundation for a permanent Russian-language site of Swissinfo
Article by Michael Derrer about interpreting and translation

Alignment of intentions and expectations

Practical thoughts of an interpreter and translator in Eastern Europe and Russia

by Michael Derrer

The danger of objectivity

The representatives of a German company sent to Russia had carefully prepared their list of questions. In an hour’s conversation with the Russian businessman, the company intended to learn about the key parameters about the business sector and the company, in order to make an investment decision in this region. Last but not least, the decision about a cooperation with the interlocutor would be based on the responsiveness of his answers. But after twenty minutes, he asks exasperatedly, “whether this is a Gestapo interrogation and whether the Germans believe that he will disclose all of his knowledge free of charge.”

In order not to unnecessarily strain the sensitivities, as an interpreter I preferred not to translate the historical comparison. Instead, I recommended the Germans to proceed more cautiously and also to show personal interest in the other person, to tell something about themselves (not only about the company they represented), to praise the beauty and advantages of the region and to bring in some humor. The conversation could be saved to some extent, and later appointments with other discussion partners were more successful. From then on, the German side took more time and tried to meet the expectations of the Russian side before asking the important questions.

The meaning of the words

A Swiss businessman asks the receptionist of the hotel in Nizhnyj Novgorod whether the telephone network can also be used for his Internet connection. The answer appears unambiguously: “nyet!”. The Swiss turns away sadly – how would he now be able to communicate with his headquarters?

But the knowledge that “nyet” can mean different things, e.g. “I do not know”, “I am not responsible for this question”, “I have more urgent tasks to be solved” or “I do not want to deal with this question”, allowed me as an interpreter to unblock the situation. An ingenuous hangdog look and the question, whether she really cannot assist us, since this was really very important, and the lady started trying hard to find the competent person.

The art of presenting yourself

The Romanian businessman sends a long email with a lot of information about himself, his company and his project. He wants to show that he is a trustworthy person. However, a literal translation of the text would certainly mean that none of the Swiss he contacted would be interested in a cooperation – the information he provided was too arbitrary, the systematics in the presentation were not recognizable, and the key moments that are decisive for the Swiss side would not be addressed. On my own initiative, I collect additional information and compile a dossier that can meet Swiss expectations. Because the art of presenting yourself in writing, without lying, but still presenting the facts in the best possible light, is little developed in Romania.

The role of the interpreter

The three examples show that a literal translation would create additional obstacles. The work of an interpreter and translator does not consist only in reproducing the words and sentences in the other language. The linguistic aspect is only one part of the task, and often not the most important one. Above all, interpretation is about aligning communicative intentions and expectations, taking into account the values and the cultural background of the interlocutors.

I therefore see the role of a translator primarily in enabling the correct interpretation of the intentions of the speaker by the listener.

(Article published in Hieronymus, publication of the Swiss Association of Translators and Interpreters, 2008)