The Complexity of Legal Translations - Part 1

The Complexity of Legal Translations - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

Due to the nature of legal documents their translation can be a very demanding process.

A translator’s job requires many skills: the art of translation is much more than simply taking text written in one language and transferring it into another. And many people considering translation as a career wonder if being proficient in two languages is sufficient to complete specialized translations. The answer to this question is no, it’s not, and this specifically applies to legal translations.

Numerous skills are required in the rather complex world of translation, and due to the very nature of legal documents their translation can be a very demanding process. Translators often face serious challenges when assigned these types of translations because there’s simply no room for error with legal translations: the smallest of errors can be very costly and have other very serious consequences. When it comes to translating legal documents, this can be one of the more difficult areas of the translation profession because each country has its own unique legal system, and with that legal system comes its own unique legal terms.

Problems Faced by Legal Translators

The very nature of law and legal language contributes to the complexity and difficulties involved in legal translations. Then there are the complications of crossing languages in translation and the fact that you’re dealing with two legal systems, not to mention the cultural and linguistic differences.

Legal systems are peculiar to the societies where they’ve been created, with each society having their own cultural, social, and linguistic structure. Law and legal language are system-bound, reflecting the culture, history, and evolution of a specific legal system. It’s this incongruence of legal systems in both source and target languages that the difficulties lie when translating legal documents.

Lack of Equivalent Terminology

The lack of equivalent terminology in the target language is one of the more common difficulties faced by translators when doing legal translations. This means that the translator is required to constantly compare both legal systems, from the source language and target language.

Cultural Differences

Law can be considered to be a country’s expression of its culture, communicated through legal language. It’s up to the translator to overcome these cultural barriers existing between the source language and target language.

Legal Style

Legal language is a language unto itself: it’s a very specialized language with its own style, determined by the culture and legal traditions of the country of origin.

Degree of Difficulty

The levels of difficulty vary between different legal systems when working on legal translations. For example, the translation may involve –

  • Two legal systems with languages that are closely related, which could result in a relatively easy translation.
  • Two closely related legal systems, however the languages are not, which again, may result in a translation that’s not too difficult.
  • Two entirely different legal systems, however the languages are closely related. This scenario usually results in a translation of considerable difficulty.
  • Two completely unrelated legal systems and languages. This situation would result in the highest level of difficulty for a translator.

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