Why Is Legal Translation Important?|
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?
Why you should give legal translation more than just some credit
● 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.