The Complexity of Legal Translations - Part 2

By Stacey
Oct 1, 2016 · 3 min

The difficulty level of legal translations depends entirely on the level of affinity between the legal systems and languages involved.

The Complexity of Legal Translations - Part 2 | One Hour Translation

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As we can see, the difficulty level of legal translations depends entirely on the level of affinity between the legal systems and languages involved.

Qualities of a Good Legal Translator

Providing legal translation services can be one of the more difficult and complex types of translations, and it’s important that the translator has specific skills, as follows –

  • They should be knowledgeable in the legal writing style of the target language;
  • They should have a knowledge of, and be competent in, the legal systems of both countries – the source and target languages;
  • Be willing and able to search for legal concepts in the source language where an equivalent term in the target language, or the legal system of the target language, is not obvious;
  • They should have an understanding of the terminology used in the text;
  • Even if it’s not possible to provide an exact translation of the text, the translator should have the ability to decode the source language text and transpose it to the target language without straying from the original meaning;
  • It’s important that the translator is fully aware of the intended use of the translation, because this affects the translator's approach as well as the document itself. Defining the purpose of the translation affects many aspects of the translation, such as the syntax, terminology, phraseology, tone, and so on;
  • An understanding that, in legal discourse, attention must be paid to every single detail, and the translation must reflect this. Translators should not be tempted to exclude texts or reduce the number of words that appear to be redundant, because legal texts are designed to serve an important purpose.

The Different Types of Legal Translations

When a translator is working on a legal document, it’s crucial that they’re aware of its legal background, including the legal terminology applicable to the relevant field of law. Below we’ve listed some of the most typical cases of practical translation –

  • Personal documents designed to enforce a right in a foreign country: these documents include police reports, work testimonials or references, educational diplomas or certificates, divorce decrees, birth certificates, among others;
  • When there’s a request for international judicial assistance, it may be that there’s a need to translate court sentences in penal proceedings or investigative documents. Translators must be aware that criminal and civil proceedings are not the same, even though the terms may be similar.
  • Trade contracts from foreign court decisions are signed in order to sell goods or transmit licenses. If a business is looking to open a branch in a foreign country, then it’s required to translate the Articles of Incorporation or Shareholder Books, and extracts from commercial registers.
  • With international treaties, it’s expected that translators will be able to produce texts in the target language to produce the same legal effect as in the original texts. This means that the translator’s most important task is to produce a text in the target language that’s accurate and transparent enough to ensure the same legal effects in practice.

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