Les Intraduisibles: German-English


Verstehen is to understand, to comprehend. Just that. Nothing else. Despite all appearances, it is not an untranslatable term at all. US scholars tend to cite the hermeneutic tradition in German social science with a touch of condescension. The use the term verstehen without translating it. It seems to be a genuinely German word burdened with irrational connotations of subjectivity and intuition. A mystical heritage of German romanticism. It is not, however. The act of verstehen does not require different levels or kinds of human rationality and linguistic competence than the (apparently more simple) act of understanding something or somebody.

Schedler Andreas 1/21/2002