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I was told that “Er sprach mit den Medien” can be translate as “He spoke with the media” as well as “He spoke to the media.” The thing is, in English saying that he spoke to the media would mean that he spoke while the media was listening to him; whereas, saying that he spoke with the media would mean that he and the media were speaking to someone else.

So, I was wondering whether the correct translation of “He spoke to the media” is “Er sprach zu den Medien;” whereas, “Er sprach mit den Medien” is translate into “He spoke with the media” and translating it into “He spoke to the media” would be wrong.

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    I do not believe that the distinction is as strict in English as you say. – Carsten S Apr 25 at 14:06
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zu jemandem sprechen

This is a one-way communication:

Die Politikerin spricht zu den Bürgern.
The politician speaks to the citizens.

The politician gives a speech. (For example: State of the Union speech.) She stands on a podium and the people listen to her. The people do not talk to the politician and they do not ask questions.


mit jemandem sprechen

This is a bidirectional communication or a discussion.

Der Kunde spricht mit dem Auftragnehmer.
The customer talks to the contractor.

The customer communicates his wishes to the contractor. The contractor asks for details and the customer answers these questions, then the customer asks something and the contractor answers. They talk to each other.


Er sprach mit den Medien

This means, that he says something to the media and the media in reply say something to him, or they ask questions, like in a typical interview situation. It's not a one-way speech. It's a discussion or an interview.


Two persons are speaking to someone else

The President and the Chancellor speak to journalists.

  • one-way speech:

    Der Präsident und der Kanzler sprechen zu den Journalisten.

  • interview:

    Der Präsident und der Kanzler sprechen mit den Journalisten.

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    Congrats on 100k by the way. Off-topic, but I think it's a milestone worth noting. – RDBury Apr 26 at 3:18
  • @RDBury: Thank you! – Hubert Schölnast Apr 26 at 8:06
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No. Mit means the other party was allowed to speak as well. For example, for asking questions. So it's

Der Generaldirektor sprach mit den Medien.

but

Der Generaldirektor sprach zu den Angestellten.

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