An In-Depth Look at Legal Translation

Business, Language Service Provider (LSP), LSP

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Picture this: you negotiate a deal with a foreign company and work on a contract. It’s translated by your regular in-house translator and sent off. 

It didn’t account for cultural differences in law. Nor did it make clear the other company’s duties and responsibilities. 

It’s just cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. This could have all been avoided if you’d used an established legal translation company. 

Legal translation is a dense field. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into translating legal documents. This isn’t a job for Google Translate. Complex legal terms, cultural differences, and gaps in languages can all cause problems.

If you want to avoid potential misunderstandings and lawsuits, you need to use a company of experts. We’re here to tell you why legal translation is so complex and how you can handle it. 

This information could save you a fortune, so read on!

Every Word Counts in Legal Translation

If you’ve ever glanced at a legal document, you’ll know there’s no ambiguity.

Every important word is clearly defined. Phrasing is carefully chosen. The whole structure of the document and the nuances of its word choice is crucial. 

Legal documents are so strict because they must be enforceable. A court must be able to read them and see who is in the right. Legal document translation needs to translate not just the words on the paper, but their concrete nature.

To ensure that the spirit, not just the body of the document is translated, the legal translator must be familiar with legal terms in both languages. They must also understand their exact meaning.

Cultural Differences

No two countries’ law is alike. While some, such as American and British law, share similarities, others are very dissimilar. 

Are you doing business in the Middle East? Then you’ll likely need a legal translator who understands Islamic terms. 

Doing business with Japanese companies, you’ll need someone who understands Japanese culture. 

You may even have to deal with tribal law, which varies wildly from group to group.

Every single one of these laws will have different principles. For example, “habeas corpus.” A legal translator must be able to take this concept found in Roman-influenced legal systems and translate it into disparate cultures’ legal systems.

Law emerges from cultures. It invokes and cites cultural practices that are unfamiliar to those not schooled in that culture. A skilled legal translator must understand two legal systems and their cultures to ensure accuracy. 

Linguistic Differences

It isn’t only cultural differences that present problems in document translation. Nor is it simply a matter of translating word for word, even when adapted for the local legal system.

Languages are far more than a collection of words. The translator must be able to not only exchange words and grammar from one language to another but also adapt them. All of this, while keeping the document watertight. 

For example, English legal documents are generally written in the passive voice. Not every language uses this voice in the same way as English.

Take Mandarin Chinese, for example. While Mandarin does have a passive voice, it is not widely used. Thus, you will likely change passive voice to active, in legal translations. 

The further you get from English, you begin to encounter other problems. For example, there are many words that simply cannot be translated. The target language doesn’t have a word for that particular concept.

What does a legal translation service do in this situation? The legal translator must use all their knowledge of the target language to create a sentence that still describes the concept. 

    Legal Translators Must Be Certified

    Legal translation isn’t something one can do without qualifications. The translator should have a degree in translation. They then need various regional certifications.

    For example, in Spain, legal translators must take exams set by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the United States, there are no set requirements. However, there are professional bodies that have similar requirements, such as the American Translators Association

    The translation itself must also be approved by the target country’s legal system. This must be done to ensure validity and enforceability. Without this final step, the document is nothing more than an expensive bit of scrap paper. 

    They Cannot Be Machine Translated

    While machine translation may be suitable for emails, it does not work for legal documents. Sometimes, machine translating documents could be in breach of the law. 

    Sites and programs used in machine translation are not completely secure. Several years ago, a popular translation site suffered a data breach. This allowed countless confidential documents to be found on Google. 

    If this could be linked to your business, it could result in numerous lawsuits. Your business would likely suffer dire consequences.

    When machine translation is used as a starting point, it must be carried out in accordance with data security protocols. This is not something every company can guarantee.

    How We Can Help

    The skilled legal translators at DTS understand these concepts. We know what must go into a legal document, no matter how complex. Whichever language we’re translating from and to, we’ll provide you with an enforceable, thoroughly-translated document. 

    We offer legal translation from and to English, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, among other languages.

    Whether you need a contract, judgment, patent, NDA, or subpoena translated, we’ve got you covered. Our translations are produced by subject experts, who use technology to ensure a complete and meticulous document translation

    Are you ready to reduce stress and start doing legally-backed business around the world? Then get in touch with us today, and get a quote for your translation! 

    Let us help your business grow, and rest easy in the knowledge that you’ve got legal backing.