The importance of accuracy in legal translation

Translating legal documents is one of the most challenging in professional translation services because each country has its own specific legal system and terminology that must be accurately rendered in the target language. It is not enough simply to be proficient in two languages to do specialized legal translations: It requires a deep knowledge of the respective legal systems and years of study and practice.
Ideally, different legal documents should be translated by legal translators who have experience in specific types of documents. When the need for the translation of legal documents arises, there is simply no room for error: The smallest mistake could have serious consequences.

Challenges in legal translation

The legal language of a text or document is significantly influenced by the culture of the country and the structure of the legal system. The incongruence of two legal systems a translation involves constitutes one of the key challenges in translating a legal document. Certain concepts can be phrased entirely differently among two countries, and therefore a deep knowledge of both legal systems and their terminologies ensures accurate translations.

Translating Legal Terminology

Legal terminologies of the source and target languages often vary widely. This is the standard difficulty faced by legal translators. They must ensure that the terminology used in the translation matches its true meaning in the legal context.

Translating from One Legal System to Another

The legal language and law of a country reflect its culture. The legal translator must understand the cultural differences of the legal systems of the two societies. In other words, the level of difficulty in a legal translation depends entirely on the level of similarity between the legal systems of the source and target languages.

Legal Style

All legal languages are distinct: Each is highly specialized with its own style and shaped by the legal traditions and culture of the relevant country.

Qualities to Look for in a Legal Translator

The importance of translating legal documents of all types efficiently and accurately can’t be stressed enough. Without a professional legal translation, the parties that depend on fully understanding a document may, at best, only get part of the information they need. And even that may be distorted.
For example, legal translators who have sound experience in translating patents are more likely to deliver quality patent translations than a general legal translator, who in turn is still a better choice than a general translator of the two (or more) languages.

It is vital that the translator has the following skills:

• a knowledge of the legal systems of the countries of both, the language they are translating from, and the language they are translating into.
• the ability to research the legal concepts of a term in the source language when the equivalent term in the target language is not obvious.
• the capability of, first, decoding the source language text when it’s difficult to find an exact translation of a segment of the document, and second, conveying the original meaning of the text segment in the target language as much as possible.
• the full awareness of the target audience and intended use of the translated document: This influences both the translation and the translator’s approach to it. The translation’s terminology, tone, phraseology, syntax, and other aspects of the translation depend on the purpose of the translation.
• the ability to be detail-oriented and faithful to the meaning and length of the document being translated. In legal discourse, details are important and should be properly conveyed in the translation. Translators should not consider cutting text or shortening the number of words that may come across as redundant, as length and repetition are stylistic features of the original legal text and serve a vital purpose.

Thus, the best approach to achieving a satisfactory level of quality in legal translation is to select a specialized legal translator who is conversant in the required languages, the two sets of legal terminology, and the two different legal systems.

Different Types of Legal Translations

The words used in law are the words that fit the discipline. Whether it’s a statute, a patent, or a contract, specific legal terms are used for these types of legal products.
For example, this could pertain to translation of such documents as:

• laws
• regulations and decrees
• general sales and purchase conditions
• legally binding contracts such as labor
• license and commercial contracts
• partnership agreements, accords
• protocols and conventions
• internal regulations
• insurance policies and bail assurance

A professional who is translating a legal document must be knowledgeable about its background and the specific terminology of the pertinent field of law. Numerous skills are at play when translating legal documents, and the translator must be up to the job.