There are many types of translations, but the most challenging and complex among them is legal translation. Legal translators must not only have a good grasp of the legal jargon but also be aware of many laws that govern legal documents and their translations for the target language. If you ever wondered what exactly is the legal translation and why it’s so troublesome – we’ve gathered all the most important info below.
Legal translation – what is it?
The term ‘legal translation’ is used collectively to represent translations of all sorts of law-related documents. The common traits of all those legal documents are specific sentence structures and terms that are often limited to a given type of documents. This makes them way more complex to translate than ‘regular’ text (e.g., user manuals) – a legal translator must understand this and be able to provide an accurate translation.
Translating a legal document requires not only a thorough understanding of both source and target language, but also in-depth knowledge about the document’s subject, legal terminology, and legal proceedings that apply to it. For example, to provide valid legal and financial translation for an international trading company, the translator must be familiar with the target country’s regulations and laws governing business contracts, taxes, import and selling of goods, etc.
Can legal translations be done by any translator?
The short answer is – no. For legal documents to be considered valid by a legal and governmental body, they need to be certified. The exact rules about which translators can provide certified documents vary between countries.
The UK officials allow the legal use of documents translated by officially registered translators or translation agencies that are members of the ATC (Association of Translation Companies). Countries like Brazil and Argentina require legal translations from a state-certified translator, while others (e.g., Poland, Sweden, and Spain) accept the works of ‘sworn translators’. Most countries accept legal documents translated by a foreign translation service provider, as long as they were prepared by a legal translator valid in the source country or if it gets certified in the presence of a solicitor.
How to know if a legal document is certified?
Every certified legal translation will not only be dated, signed, and stamped by its translator but will also include a certificate confirming its accordance with the original. When the legal translation services are done by a translation agency, it will also include a declaration confirming the details of the translation provider and the TA’s accreditation to translate and certify legal documents.
How is the legal translation reviewed?
There are two methods for ensuring the quality of the translation of legal documents – standard and legal review.
The standard procedure involves two legal translators – the work done by one is then thoroughly reviewed by the other. In the legal review procedure, the standard translation is then verified by a lawyer to ensure its content is compatible with the local laws and regulations. That’s why many translation agencies cooperate with law firms, as both sides can benefit from this arrangement.
What differentiates legal translation from other types of translations?
As we already mentioned, legal translations aren’t what you would call ‘regular’ translations – legal language is far more complicated than the source language it originates from. For example, criminal and civil procedures can be hard to understand for a native speaker, and things get even more difficult when a foreign legal system is involved. Here are the main factors that differentiate legal translations from the others.
The use of specific vocabulary
Almost all legal documents use specific grammar structures and utilize jargon-heavy language. The words themselves can have multiple meanings in the source language, but when you add culture and regional nuances into the mix, you’d get a rough idea of how difficult legal translations can be.
We don’t have to look far for an example – the English legal language fits right in this trend. It relies heavily on complicated, extensively long, and compound sentences, which are written in passive voice. The text gets even harder to understand when there’s a lot of legal jargon involved. Even professional linguists may have trouble with making sense out of it, let alone translating it into a foreign language.
Dependence on reference materials
Translators must practically constantly rely on various source materials when translating legal documents. Most of the time this includes commercial and civil law codes of the target country. Although it makes the process less susceptible to mistakes, the constant cross-referencing takes a lot of time. Especially when the legal terminology has some ambiguity to it.
Each country has its own set of rules
The fact that legal systems vary by country shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Legal translators must take those differences in legal rulings into account, on top of all the applicable international laws. To provide valid legal translation services, they must know the nuances of the target legal system on a level a legally trained person would.
For even stricter quality assurance, many countries require their state-certified translators to have a degree in a given field (e.g., legal studies or economics) before they can provide a certified translation of a legal text.
No room for errors
Legal translation services must be as precise as possible. To make sure their work is legally binding, legal translators must constantly stay up-to-date with legal codes and new legal developments, as the legal sector is prone to changes. A good example is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that’s been in force since May 2018.
Furthermore, some linguistic structures used in a particular language may have no direct equivalents in foreign languages. Thus, the translator must be able to find suitable replacements that would be able to convey the meaning without losing any crucial details and message of the source-specific terminology used in the original document.
Certified translation also requires to be faithful tone-wise – the original tone must be kept intact. For example, notices issued by federal courts must retain their urgency or the reader won’t be able to grasp their importance.
And finally – most legal translations gave very strict deadlines. For instance, any document that misses the court’s submission period would be completely useless, even if its translation was flawless. Therefore, professional translators provide legal translation services work in specified timeframes, which means you should always submit translation requests in advance.
What documents fall into the legal category?
That would be any document that’s used in business dealings, court procedures or is issued by/submitted to a legal/government body. This includes, e.g.:
- Legal disclaimers and terms of service
- Non-disclosure agreement documents
- Financial reports
- Annual reports
- Any written evidence used in court cases (like witness statements etc.)
- Birth certificates
- Patent filings
- Last wills
- Business contracts
- Death certificates.
How to find certified translators?
Although the lists of officially registered translators can be found online (e.g., the UK government keeps a bit outdated lists of foreign English translators on its website), finding the right one for your needs might be troublesome. Before you choose anyone, make sure they have the right credentials for your needs.
If you’re looking for a London-based translation agency that provides legal translation services, try TEXTOLOGY. They employ native-speaking translators that are proficient in the fields of technical, legal, and medical translations and can deliver the best-certified work for many industries. Request a free quote for your project or contact them via email to see what they can do for you.
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