How to express coded messages in English references

Kann etwas voller als voll sein? „Vollstens“ – dieser grammatikalische Lapsus erfüllt in Arbeitszeugnissen tatsächlich einen Sinn. Erfahren Sie in Secretary Today – Professionelles Business English für Sekretärinnen und Assistentinnen –, wie Sie solche Codes angemessen ins Englische übertragen.

Does your boss ever write "Zeugnisse", or references, in English? Or have you ever tried to translate an existing German one? If so, you’ve probably wondered how to translate the "hidden language" of German references. For example, what’s the difference between 'zur vollen' and 'zur vollsten' "Zufriedenheit" in English? And how do you describe the performance of a bad worker?

A letter of reference is very different from a "Zeugnis"

In the USA and UK, the German and Swiss system of providing letters of reference when an employee leaves his or her job is virtually unknown – as are all the "hidden references" employers like to put into those "Zeugnisse". Instead, the employee gives the names of referees to a prospective employer. If the employer considers inviting the person to a job interview, he will contact one of the referres, who will answer any questions in plain language. If an employee does ask for a reference, your boss has greater freedom than when he or she writes a German reference.

There is much less "hidden code" to watch out for. In Secretary Today you will find two lists of phrases. The first list is for you to use to write English employment references or to translate existing German ones into English. The second list contains the kind of phrases you will find in a personal recommendation written by a referee. These phrases will help you write or translate an employment reference similar to a German "Zeugnis". They are based on the German / Swiss system.

Here are some phrases that you can use to help your boss write a letter of recommendation. You will find much more of them in Secretary Today. Just klick here ...

  • John Smith has asked me to write this letter of recommendation for him and I am delighted to do so.
  • I was Lena Hollander’s manager when she worked as a project manager in our company from 2005 to 2007.

Use comments like this for 'good' and 'very good'

  • I was highly impressed with John’s dedication.
  • Murat has exceptional interpersonal skills.

Use phrases like this for 'satisfactory'

  • It sometimes takes him longer than it should to complete work so he often misses deadlines.
  • Elaine does not display sufficient commitment to increasing productivity.

Examples of letters of recommendation for you to use

In Secretary Today you will also find two examples of letters of recommendation. The first, which is the equivalent of "sehr gut", has been written by a referee at the request of a prospective employee. The second letter, which is similar to "befriedigend", is a general recommendation that the person can give to any prospective employee.

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