The Detail of a Legal Translation


Legal translation put simply is when specific and detailed legal text is taken from one language and translated into another language. This is different to legal interpreting where legal discussions in live court and other legal settings are listened to in one language, or an international client is being advised in more than one language.

Factors to Consider When Translating Legal Documents

A legal translation is work that is purely text based. So legal texts and documents are translated from one language into another. It isn’t as straightforward as just translating the text word for word due to the complexity of legal texts in each language. That is why it is vitally important that for any legal translations that the person conducting the work must not only be fluent in both languages conversationally but also understand the legal sector in depth. Each Legal system is different to the next, having grown and developed from different traditions and central legal tenets. Expressions in one language might mean something very different in another language and another legal system and the translation of a legal document has to reflect this.

It isn’t just the nuances in different languages that is the problem with legal translations, it is also down to the fact that each type of legal text itself has a different, and very specific language. Legislation is worded in a very different manner to the way a legal contract is laid out and this has to be taken into account as a lawyer or judge looking at translated legal text will not trust it if it is even slightly out of step with what they would consider the norm for that type of text or document, and won’t trust the rest of the document as a result.

The other major factor that has to be considered when translating legal text is that the purpose of the legal document has to be clear from the outset. This vital piece of information allows the translator to work out the type of legal language that is required for that particular piece of translated text.

Types of Legal Documents

It isn’t just within the higher echelons of the United Nations and European Commission that legal documents are translated, there is a wide range of industries, companies, law firms and courts that require the translation of legal text on a daily basis in order to allow for a smooth running of the processes within their working day. Legal texts that require translation include contract agreements between companies and suppliers in different parts of the world to where they are based, individual employment contracts, documents for international legal disputes, corporate documents for import and exporting of products, and much more.

It is this level of detail and importance that makes it imperative that those requiring the translation of legal documents work with experienced and specialist translators, with a background in the legal arena, as well as the languages being worked with.

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