31 Aug The challenges of translating legal documents
The challenges of translating legal documents
Texts produced or used for legal purposes should only be translated by trained professionals with a good understanding of legal terms and practices. Translating any text within the field of law is difficult to say the least. The translation of legal texts poses a number of difficulties, some of the problems being related to the nature of legal language, while others are directly linked to the legal system. Mistranslations occur whether you are dealing with business contracts or birth certificates. Problems are encountered by students who are learning legal translation, but also by those who have been translating texts within the field of law for some time. Due to the growing demand for precise translation, it is essential to pay attention to specific things that can cause difficulties when handling translations.
The most common translation challenge encountered by trained professionals is legal terminology. The reason why it is so difficult to translate legal texts is the fact that every country possesses its own terminology, which is based on a specific legal system. Legal translators are first required to be knowledgeable when it comes to the target language. While sometimes the legal terminology is identical with the language spoken, other times it is not. What is important to remember is that the text will be read by someone who has no idea about the language or the legal system. So, even though the original structure of the document is maintained, it will not be possible to translate word for word. The translator not only has to be familiar with the legal terminology of the country in question, but also he has to master the specific writing style.
Differences in legal systems
Even if two countries speak the same language, the likelihood is that they have different legal systems and cultures. This represents the most alarming aspect of legal translation. The main difficulty lies in the differences that exist between legal concepts. More precisely, a term or a concept may not exist in the target language, thus making translation almost impossible. It is possible to equate some legal concepts and institutions, but not all of them. There is nothing left for the translator to do than to decode the text and find a functional equivalent or to provide additional explanations. No matter the choice of strategy, the dedicated professional has to have a solid background knowledge of the field of law.
The translation process
Translation is not exactly an easy process, but one that requires many competencies. What is important to keep in mind when doing legal translations is that even the slightest mistake can result in financial lost and even lawsuits. Concerning the actual translation process, it is important not to forget that legal translation is influenced by cultural differences, use of language and, last but not least, the choice of translation methods. It is clear that translating law has a higher degree of difficulty and that this complex task should not be left to professional translators specialized in legal translation.