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In a German text, describing Russian sentences for Germans, they wrote a Russian sentence and after it

(zu Deutsch: …)

That means its translation, but why did they write “zu Deutsch” instead of “ins Deutsche” or “auf Deutsch”?

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that's a weird use but not unheard of. "Auf" and "in" or just "Deutsch" would be better in my opinion –  Emanuel Dec 28 '13 at 20:34
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3 Answers 3

This is perfectly fine. The Duden explains zu Deutsch with auf Deutsch [heißt das]. It is also mentioned in the 21st edition of the book as „das heißt auf/zu Deutsch“ (p. 210). Maybe it is considered a little old-fashioned these days, but I hear and read it quite often.

I haven’t heard it as zu Englisch or in connection with other languages.

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One might add that sometimes, especially in colloquial use this phrase is used to indicate that a simplifying explanation is to come.

E.g. in a presentation:

"Multivariate Regressionsanalyse der Umsatzstruktur hat ergeben, dass das Geschlecht den Haupteinflussfaktor für den Erwerb von Cola Light ggu. Cola bildet. Zu Deutsch: Cola Light wird fast ausschließlich von Frauen gekauft."

In this context it would be similar to plain english

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Good example. In this sense (simplifying explanation), you would hardly use "auf Deutsch" (but possibly "auf gut Deutsch"). This somewhat explains, why you would never say "zu Englisch", as it doesn't simplify anything for a German speaker. –  Martin Drautzburg Jan 9 at 3:11
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Well, some time ago it was not that rare. Just leaving this here:

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And supporting the last statement of the existing answer:

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