The importance of professional legal translation

The importance of professional legal translation

The complexity and attention to detail involved in legal translation make it one of the industry’s most challenging types of translation.

Legal documents are typically required to be submitted in the official language of a relevant jurisdiction, and any translation used in the legal system is referred to as a “legal translation”. The term can refer to a wide range of texts, including but not limited to witness statements, legal rulings, filed patents, transcripts, official reports, financial documents and identity documents.

It is crucial to receive a translation that is trustworthy. Inaccurate translations may result in legal repercussions, and the rights of individuals may be impacted directly. That is why your first choice should be to engage a professional translator or translation service company when it comes to legal matters.

The cost of a poor translation

Mistranslations may result in a party’s case being seriously undermined or lost. For instance, one of the largest investment disputes in history involving Occidental v. Ecuador, inaccurate English translations led to the damages awarded being increases by 40% – a whopping $1.76 billion. As a result, a committee of three native Spanish speakers annulled that portion of the award; however, the parties did have to undergo a long and costly annulment process.

Let us take a look at what a lawyer involved in the case had to say:

This might look like legal technicalities, but being rigorous is required on such an important issue as the one dealt with here.

 I will also show that had the translations concerning the criteria of inexistence been correct and the original Spanish texts taken into account, the conclusions arrived at by the majority would have been impossible to sustain.

 The issue of the application of the proper law is at stake here.

What are the difficulties translators tackle?

Legal terms and conventions

One of the obstacles a non-professional translator may struggle to overcome is legal terminology. The Latin terminology used in the legal profession may confuse someone who does not have a full understanding of the system. This kind of rendering should not always be an exact, literal translation; what is important is that a text is translated using terms that are understood by practitioners of law in the target country. These are sometimes called equivalents.

A further example is in making use of the active and passive voice in English, with the latter often preferred. With the passive voice, the writer can obscure the identity of the actor in what Richard Wydick calls a sort of “truncated passive”  (i.e. “the woman was murdered (by the man)” v. “the man murdered the woman”). A translator must always be consistent and true to the source text, which is something a non-professional may overlook. Some argue the active voice sounds unprofessional and might be challenged by a lawyer or judge, so it is best to place your trust with a discerning expert.

Large volumes

Working with an experienced language service provider that can offer structured translation workflows is key when working with both large and small volumes of text.

A reliable project management team will recruit qualified subcontractors depending on your needs, preferences and specifications, ensuring there will be no project delays and guaranteeing strict writing standards and much-needed cost control.

While resorting to professionals may initially seem costly, as the example above demonstrates it does pay off. Having to pay double or more because the text is not readable is something to be avoided, as should using internal staff to solve translation issues on their own as it takes a lot of time and does not fit their job description.

Given all this, if you need a final product that is ready immediately for legal use, then do not hesitate to contact us to request a translation quote and guarantee the accuracy of your legal projects.

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