Short guide to legal translations

legal translations

Legal translations are renowned for the complexity of their technical vocabulary and the extremely sensitive nature of their content, and for having a direct impact on the lives of people and of companies.
It is a service the need for which can arise in all sectors, from communications, technologies and tourism to education, finance and life sciences. It is a task that requires a lot of preparation before beginning the actual translation.

There are also legal requirements to be met when working on an official translation of legal documents, whether they be certificates, commercial contracts, procedural documents, etc: in other words, when transposing the contents of a legal document into another language, it is necessary to ensure the translation is certificated or authenticated in order for it to be valid in the target country.

This all increases the degree of responsibility, knowledge and precision required of the translator, who must formally guarantee their translation is accurate and faithful to the original in order for the translated document to retain its legal validity. To meet this requirement, the translator must follow some essential steps.

1. Up-to-date knowledge of legal terms
In addition to having proven experience as a professional translator, including a clear understanding of the source and target languages, a legal translator must also have a profound knowledge of the legal systems in both countries. They must also find out everything possible about the client’s specific requirements and ensure they have a good understanding of the topic so that they can maintain the coherence and precision of the terminology used.

2. Document preparation and review
In these types of projects, it is not unusual to be working on old documents that are in poor condition. Because of this, it could be helpful to call on the assistance of editors who can digitise the original documents using text recognition software and who can recreate tables, formulas and other visual content. Then the translator must carefully review the documents, comparing the originals with the digitised copies, correcting words that were recognised incorrectly and highlighting content that can be impossible to decipher (written notes, signatures, etc.).

3. Use of language technologies
To obtain a quick and accurate result, we recommend making initial use of translation tools. These aid the process and can help save time while ensuring the terminology is coherent, since it makes use of translation memories and calls attention to the way how technical terms were translated previously.

4. Language, technical and visual revision
In addition to the final revision of the text, and whenever possible, the translator should ask another professional to review the initial translation and correct any errors of language, grammar or spelling, validate technical linguistic questions and make any necessary final adjustments to ensure the quality of the text. After this, and whenever necessary, the finalised text will be pass through a DTP (desktop publishing) process, where typesetters will be able to resolve any problems of formatting and visual presentation to ensure the legibility of the document.

5. Certification/Authentication
Whenever necessary, the translated text must be signed and certified/authenticated by the translator, by a notary public or an embassy, according to the rules of each country. This guarantees the legal validity of the final document.