Top 4 Facts About Legal Translation

May 11, 2016 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Top 4 Facts About Legal Translation photoLegal translation embodies all that is in the realm of law and needs to be translated. This could range from a contract to immigration or divorce papers, and everything in between. Translators specializing in law need to be extremely well-trained and have years of experience dealing with the different legal systems that use their target and source languages. Many different legal systems can be in the same language, so imagine how much one would have to know about each one in order to properly translate a legal text from one language/legal system to another.

That being said, there are four very important things people should know about legal translation. They are:

1. Some lawyers and judges don’t quite understand what legal translation entails

Of course, it isn’t exactly part of their job description, but judges and lawyers, especially those working in international law, should at least try to have an idea of what it takes to translate a legal document. More often than not, court translators will be asked to translate “verbatim”, or “word-for-word”. This is practically impossible, as that is not a good translation method for any translation, and the huge cultural differences that can occur between two different legal systems prevent this from working as well. Luckily, most translators know that they actually mean to say “give us a fluent and faithful translation,” and oblige them.

2. Legal translators really need to know their stuff

Though, like all kinds of translators, legal translators are able to refer to resources such as bilingual dictionaries, their best bet is to simply know the legal systems they work with inside and out. Not only would this help them better understand the documents they are translating, but sometimes bilingual legal dictionaries are not exactly up to par and provide fallacious translations. An astute and well-educated legal translator would be able to tell when a legal dictionary was not a good one, however.

3. Bilingual lawyers cannot be legal translators

Due to the impact legal translations can have, not just anyone can become a legal translator. There are special certification processes that translators must go through before being allowed to work in the field. Lawyers who also happen to be bilingual are not a good choice in the realm of law, as they don’t know the ins and outs of translation well enough to provide a usable final product. Unlike other specialized translation fields, however, a bilingual lawyer is highly unlikely to be allowed to translate anything anyway.

4. Legal terminology is some of the trickiest

Though medical and other scientific terminologies are definitely up there in terms of complexity and specificness, legal terminology takes the cake. You have probably heard some legal terms before and thought it was odd that a word that means one thing in an everyday context has a different meaning in a legal context. Imagine that multiplied by the number of different legal systems and languages in the world, and you have an idea of what it is like to have to work with the terminologies of at least two different legal systems and languages.

For an overview of Alpha Omega Translations’ expertise, visit our legal translation service page.

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