"Ministry of Interior" vs. "Ministry of Internal Affairs"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Athaulf, Dec 1, 2007.

  1. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Hello all,

    I'd like to ask for opinions of native English speakers about which one of the above two phrases ("Ministry of Interior" vs. "Ministry of Internal Affairs") generally sounds better when talking about the ministry in charge of a country's police force (or if they perhaps sound totally synonymous to you). The reason is that today I got into a minor dispute with an interpreter/public notary about how exactly a Croatian document mentioning such a ministry should be translated into English.

    I've noticed that the official documents issued in English by governments of non-English speaking countries frequently use both phrases in practice, but "Ministry of Interior" is somewhat more frequent. In particular, the Croatian government uses "Ministry of Interior" on its English web pages, even though "Ministry of Internal Affairs" would be a more literal translation of the original Croatian name. On the other hand, most English-speaking countries (e.g. UK, USA, Canada) don't even have a government department with this name, and those who do (Australia, NZ) use the "internal affairs" version.

    Thus, I'd like to hear some opinions on whether you find either version generally preferable for a formal document, and also whether the better choice of phrase is perhaps different across different English-speaking countries.

    Thanks in advance for all your responses.
     
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    The United States has had a Department of the Interior (whose head is a member of the Cabinet called the "Secretary of the Interior") since 1849, but it has nothing to do with a national police force, which does not exist in the United States. The US Department of the Interior is primarily concerned with such things as land and natural resource mangagement, the national parks system, and wildlife conservation.
     
  3. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Interesting, I didn't even know about this U.S. government department! It seems like either option could generate lots of confusion in English-speaking countries. :( The problem is that in many other languages, literal translations of phrases like "interior" and "internal affairs" in the context of government have an automatic association with the police force.

    Having done some more googling, now it seems that there is another potentially confusing meaning. Apparently, in the U.S. (at least), "internal affairs" often also refers to an agency charged with investigating misconduct by the law enforcement officers themselves.
     
  4. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I believe the definite article is required: "Ministry of the Interior". The form without the article is not seen in English texts (at least, not in my experience).
     
  5. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    It would totally depend on the government in question.
     
  6. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I think it is correct to say and quite common to see "Ministry of the Interior" and "Interior Ministry", but not "Ministry of Interior". "Ministry of Internal Affairs" seems grammatically and lexically fine, but I don't think it is much used in practice. Some states may possess a ministry bearing this name in the local language, but a word-for-word translation to English would not necessarily be used.
     
  7. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Hm... interestingly, for "Ministry of [the] Interior", Google returns approximately the same number of hits with and without the article. In both cases, I see a huge number of official documents issued by various governments. It seems like the situation in practice with this terminology is pretty chaotic. Thanks to everyone for your replies!
     
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Oh. News to me. The U.S. does not have ministries in government. They are called
    Departments. We have had a Department of the Interior for quite a while.

    The Internal Affairs tag is difficult in AE, as it is often used in law enforcement agencies to name the police who police the police.
     
  9. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Yes, another poster has already pointed out my mistake. I hadn't heard about this department before. My confusion was due to the fact that almost anywhere in Europe, this term has an automatic association with law enforcement, and as far as I know, none of the U.S. federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, BATF, DEA...) uses "interior" or "internal affairs" in its name. It hadn't occurred to me that the U.S. federal government might be using this term with an entirely different meaning.
     
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