linkedin px ads

Why Is Legal Translation Important?

Why Is Legal Translation Important?

Font size:

Legal translation is perhaps one of the most challenging and rewarding (financially and professionally) translation fields. In today’s globalization context, the demand for accurate legal communication is greater than ever.

While the expansion of the EU and NATO to the East of Europe has brought about the need for legal harmonisation and adherence to a common language of law through translation, legal translation expands beyond that.

In this blog, we discuss the challenges of legal translation, explaining why it is important and why every detail, from content to formatting, matters and how it contributes to the meaning of the whole.

What is legal translation?

Before getting to the heart of the matter, let us first establish what legal translation is and how it differs from other types of translation.
Legal translation is the transferring of legal content from one language to another. It involves translating legal documents, such as memoranda of association, court rulings or proceedings, affidavits, wills, powers of attorney, government-issued documents, contracts, patents, etc., to enable legal authorities and businesses in other jurisdictions to understand the content and issue a value judgment.
Legal translation observes strict stylistic rules and vocabulary, depending on the subject matter and purpose of the document being translated.
For example, passive voice is often preferred to active voice in court rulings, as are past and perfect tenses, emphasising the effects of past actions that constitute the case merits.
In contrast, business contracts and powers of attorney are anchored into a forward-looking present, where facts are stated clearly in the legally-binding present or future tense.
These are all stylistic elements which a novice translator may not be so perceptive of, no matter how skilled. It takes years of practice to perfect the legal translation craft because “Legalese” is a different language and a powerful one.

Why you should give legal translation more than just some credit

It may not be your cup of tea but think about the myriad implications of translating legal text from your native language to another! It can make or break your reputation for good.
A legal translator’s job is far more complex than many of those who need legal translation services realise. So, let us shed light on the role of the legal translator in legal proceedings.
Legalese is an intricate and almost cryptic vernacular for players outside the legal arena. As explained above, the style and structure of legal documents depend on their scope. A legal translator must be familiar with these elements down to a T.
To give you a better understanding of what translating legal documents involves, we have identified five of the typical characteristics of legal translation below:

● Legal systems differ by country.

Each country has its specific legal system, framework and bylaws. As a legal translator, one must also have an in-depth understanding of the legal system they translate to.

Subject-matter expertise is a must. Although international organisations and tribunals provide guidance (i.e., style guides, best practices) to aid translators in translating legal content without altering its source-language meaning, legal translators also need to have a solid legal background. In most cases, they do.

● Systems and laws are subject to change.

Not only are translators required to have an in-depth knowledge of the legal systems they translate from and to, but they also need to keep abreast of the latest changes.

In some cases, regulations, rules, decrees, and laws change as often as the government changes. Every change brings about a change in nuance, and legal translators must be aware of these changes when released.

● Language specificity leaves no room for interpretation.

The so-called “wooden language” of law is ultra-specific. More often than not, a direct translation is not possible.

Terms and phrases like “without prejudice”, “de jure”, “de facto”, “quid pro quo”, “de minimis”, “merits”, “abandonment”, “absolute owner”, “abatement”, “abuse of process”, “accessory”, “active trust”, “actus reus”, “ad hoc”, “ad idem”, “ad infinitum”, “adjourned sine die”, etc., leave no room for interpretation. Depending on the target language, transcreation may be required in cases where there is no direct equivalent in the target language.

● Syntax and punctuation make or break meaning.

One of the most challenging parts of legal translation that puts translators’ attention to detail to the test is syntax. Punctuation comes in second. The Oxford comma, for example, does not exist in many languages and can create a lot of confusion.

Often complex sentences seem to drag on forever, loaded with cryptic phrases like those mentioned above.

The legal translator’s art is in their ability to convey the meaning of the legal material they translate into the target language, according to the legal terms, syntax, punctuation, and formatting rules favoured by the legal system where the material will be used.

Ignorance of these features of legal translation can have disastrous outcomes, ranging from paying judicial fines to losing a business licence and even imprisonment. This is why legal translation plays a pivotal role in understanding a foreign legal system so you can effectively operate across borders without any of these undesired effects.

● Formatting is a mark of compliance.

If legal terms and syntax are the juice of legal translation, the format in which the translated legal text must be presented. Every country adheres to a specific format unique to its specific jurisdiction. For example, if you are taking legal action against someone in Brazil or registering a subsidiary office there, you will have to adopt those legal formatting rules so your documents will be fully compliant with the local framework.

● Final thoughts on legal translation

The ever-evolving legal field brings legal translation centre stage. Whether you wish to grow your business overseas or are involved in international proceedings, legal translation is your secret weapon.

Using the services of a professional team of legal translators like Pangea Global can prove beneficial in the long term. Our expert legal translators, terminologists and lawyer linguists are not only native speakers of 75+ languages but are also certified in the jurisdictions they translate for, with vast expertise in regulatory compliance translation, licensing, court cases, and much more. Contact us to find out what we can do for you.
Share this article!
Pangea Localization Services