Shall I or shan't I? Shall, must and the plain language brigade

Here's a clause from a German model employment contract I took from the IHK Frankfurt am Main:
§ 8 Verschwiegenheitspflicht Der Arbeitnehmer verpflichtet sich, während der Dauer des Arbeitsverhältnisses und auch nach dem Ausscheiden, über alle Betriebs- und Geschäftsgeheimnisse Stillschweigen zu bewahren.
A possible translation:
§ 8 Duty of confidentiality The employee shall during the employment relationship and also after it ends preserve confidentiality with regard to all trade and business secrets.
I hate discussing the ins and outs of contracts. Many other legal translators will disagree with this. Points of contention are: §, shall, employment relationship, trade and business secrets, and generally how 'native English' the whole thing sounds (not very, in this case). But this is just about shall. How can you translate sich verpflichten? undertake to - British contracts sometimes, but sometimes unfamiliar to Americans, in my experience shall - traditional, widely used in translations, sometimes avoided in native-language English contract will - OK, a promise under contract must - sometimes recommended over shall as less ambiguous is to - sometimes recommended as less ambiguous What I usually do is use shall. I only use it where it indicates something is mandatory. In an ideal world, the subject of the sentence should be clear, as here (the employee shall). It is not such good drafting to use the passive (confidentiality shall be preserved) but we are translators, not drafters, and if the German doesn't make it clear whose duty is referred to, there's nothing we can do about it. There are proponents of plain English who insist on avoiding shall and using must to impose an obligation. They normally address people drafting from scratch in English, rather than translators ...Zum vollständigen Artikel

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