Should law firms use legally trained translators to translate legal documents?
A common misconception about translation is that a truly skilled translator will translate texts on any subject matter to the same high quality. Lawyers are thus often surprised when qualified translators do not deliver the quality expected.
The notion that a good translator can easily translate legal texts without legal training is belied by the very nature of translation, which is to the convey the meaning of a foreign-language text. Clearly, nobody can convey a meaning unless they are first able to understand it.
Challenges with legal translation
Difficulty in understanding source text with complex legal concepts.
Difficulty understanding the source text is therefore the first stumbling block for the untrained translator. For example, a lay translator, no matter how skilled, will have difficulty translating a judgment concerning an application to annul an international arbitral award if that translator does not know (a) what an “international arbitral award” is, or (b) what “annulment” means when applied to such an award.
Conveying precise legal consequences of the source text into the target language and legal system.
The second stumbling block is the need to convey the precise legal consequences of the source text in a manner that they can be understood not just in the target language, but also in the legal system where the translation will be used. For instance, a translator that is unfamiliar with the English law on civil enforcement will have difficulty providing intelligible and accurate translations of French civil enforcement measures such as saisie-arrêt or saisie-attribution.
Legal translation is therefore more than pure language translation: it requires the ability to convey foreign legal concepts, some of which may even be completely unknown in the target legal system. Only translators with extensive legal training and experience can accomplish this.
What can you do about it?
When selecting a legal translation service, law firms should therefore ensure that such service:
understands the specific nature of legal translation
Legal translation requires more than just linguistic skills; it demands an in-depth knowledge of legal terminology, concepts, and the legal systems of both the source and target languages. Precise and accurate translation is crucial to ensure that the legal meaning and intent of the original text are preserved in the translated version, as even minor errors or misinterpretations could have significant legal consequences.
employs translators with proper legal training and experience to deliver quality
Legal translators must be well-versed in legal jargon, contract law, terminology used in different legal fields, and the appropriate cultural context to produce reliable and legally sound translations.
can create bespoke translation teams, collecting the necessary skills based on the specific legal requirements of the case.
By creating this you can collect the necessary skills based on the specific legal requirements of the case, which jurisdictions are involved, are multilingual subject level experts required, is an expert witness needed and so on.
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