German filter: Offering condolences in German
May 2, 2009 6:57 PM   Subscribe

German filter: Help me write a bereavement/sympathy/condolence card for someone in Germany.

I recently found out that an elderly neighbour that I was pretty close to passed away. I wanted to send a card to her family, but my German is pretty bad (well, mostly gone).

I'm hoping to write something expressing my sorrow and thanking the family for letting me know. Perhaps something along these lines:

It is with great sadness that I heard of your recent loss. I wanted to let you know that you have my greatest sympathy, and my heart is truly saddened.

J was more than just a wonderful person; she was always so kind and considerate and willing to help at every possible opportunity without seeking anything in return. J will always remain within our hearts.

My sincere thoughts and deepest sympathies are with you.

Any help is, as always, appreciated from the green.
posted by doctor.dan to Writing & Language (6 answers total)
Because the precise content of condolence cards is often irrelevant, there might be no need to translate it.
posted by Electrius at 7:42 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ich möchte Ihnen mein Beileid aussprechen is to offer condolences.
posted by creasy boy at 12:44 AM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: I tried to translate as literal as possible while still sounding like something someone would write in German.

Use Sie/Ihnen/Ihren if you don't know the person very well and would call them Mr./Mrs. Smith or if you have a professional relationship with them (e. g. they're your boss). If they are a friend, go with Du/Deinem etc. .

Es hat mich sehr traurig gemacht, von Ihrem/Deinem Verlust zu hören. Ich möchte Sie/Dich wissen lassen, dass Sie/Du mein Mitgefühl haben/hast, ich trauere mit Ihnen/Dir.

J war nicht nur eine wundervolle Persönlichkeit, sie war immer freundlich, aufmerksam und hilfsbereit bei jeder Gelegenheit, ohne eine Gegenleistung zu erwarten. J wird mir immer in Erinnerung bleiben.

Mein herzliches Beileid, ich fühle mit Ihnen/Dir.

posted by amf at 2:39 AM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: Liebe Herr/Frau/Familie Y,

die Nachricht von Js Tod hat mich sehr bewegt. Ich bin in Gedanken bei Ihnen und trauere mit Ihrer Familie.

J war mehr als eine wunderbare Person, sie war unendlich freundlich und rücksichtsvoll und stand uns bei jeder erdenklichen Gelegenheit selbstlos an der Seite. Ich werde Sie immer in meinem Herzen tragen.

Bitte melden Sie sich, wenn ich Sie in irgend einer Weise in dieser schwierigen Zeit unterstützen kann. Ich denke an Sie!

posted by mathiu at 2:40 AM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: I was trying to translate what you said in my mind (native speaker of German) and whilst I was doing that it struck me that Germans would not really talk about hearts being saddened or people remaining within their hearts - the language is too emotive if you are going to write it in German.

So I'd suggest you write it in English - it sounds appropriate in English and they will have some family/friends/neighbours who can translate it for them - they'll get what it is from the fact that it is a condolence card.

Alternatively, if you really want to write something in German:

Ich möchte Ihnen mein Beileid über den Verlust von J aussprechen. J war mein(e) Nachbar(in) und war geschätzt für seine/(ihre) Freundlichkeit und Hilfsbereitschaft und wir werden ihn/(sie) sehr vermissen.

Which basically means I would like to offer my condolences for the loss of J. J was my neighbour and was valued for his(her) friendliness and willingness to help and we will miss him(her) greatly. If you do go with this the brackets denote female forms so if J was female remove the brackets where they form part of a word or use the word in brackets if there is a slash.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:54 AM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Guys, thank you all very much for your help.

smf, I wouldn't be able to "duzen" her family as I had never met them, so I'd stick with Sie/Ihren/Ihnen.

koahiatamadl, thanks for bringing up the good point of the difference between German and English speakers in how they approach emotive issues. As I said, it has been a (sadly long) while since I used my German.

I'll do my best to combine all of the suggestions into something which will hopefully not sound horrible to a native speaker.

Again, to all of you, danke schön.
posted by doctor.dan at 8:02 AM on May 3, 2009

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