Legal translation is a specialist area that requires industry knowledge as well as language knowledge. Done properly, not only will your text be translated accurately, but the meaning of what is being said will be faithfully translated too.
Legal documents can vary from government and court documents to business agreements and laws. Because of the potential scope of the documents, specialist knowledge is needed.
The best route to go down is to hire a Language Services Provider (LSP) who has a wide range of legal translation suppliers working for them. They can then make sure that the translator being used has experience in that specific subject area.
At LinguaLinx, we’ve had the full scope of legal documents come through our door over the years. Because of the nature of the documents, they can be difficult to understand in their native language, let alone when translated into a target language. After all, how many contracts, intellectual property, or patent documents are a good read?
When you need to get legal translations done, here is what you should be looking for from your language service provider.
1. Specific Industry Experience
Not just a translator. Someone who has worked in your industry and knows the ins and outs. Someone who can see things that may become a problem because they’ve seen problems and solved them in the past.
The legal industry has, by proxy, its own language, which at times seems closer to Shakespeare than modern English.
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of “legalese” doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it is overcomplicated. It describes it as “the sort of language used in legal documents that is difficult to understand.”
If your translator isn’t familiar with the specific terms and phraseology of legal documentation, how can they prepare an accurate translation for you?
2. An Understanding Of Localization
Sure, they need to know both the native and the target language, but that’s not enough. Localization is about understanding the nuances of the culture of the translation’s audience.
This goes back to ensuring that the translation is both accurate and faithful to the intended audience. This could be as specific as understanding the blend of language, religion, and cultural history within a specific village, so your translation ingratiates you properly with those who read it.
If you need something translated from English to Spanish, that’s simple enough, right?
But what Spanish dialect are you going to use? Castilian, Andalusian, Murcian, Canarian, Llanito, Latin American, Rioplatense, or Caribbean Spanish? Get it wrong, and it shows ignorance. Get it right, and it shows respect.
3. The Importance Of Style And Tone
Style and tone are not just considerations for marketing and advertising copywriters. They are two supporting elements upon which brands are built. Not all legal documents contain solely legalese, there are some which have sections that introduce companies, make personal pleas, or have other elements that involve a sense of humanity.
By paying attention to how your brand portrays itself in these softer sections of legal documents, you can make the reader feel like you’re speaking directly to them. It’s often on these little nuances that business deals are won or lost.
4. Security And Confidentiality
We’re talking about some of the most important, confidential, and often intimate documents you’ll have translated. You need to be able to trust your translator to respect this. It could be an affidavit in a sexual assault case or testimonies dealing with someone’s impending immigration.
These are incredibly sensitive documents, and if a translator is going to discuss these over the dinner table, or worse yet, in a public restaurant, not only are they destroying their moral integrity, but they could even be interfering with legal proceedings or risking lives.
This may sound extreme, but it happens. The translation of a document needs to be taken as seriously as its creation.
5. The Ability To See The Bigger Picture
An advantage of hiring an LSP is that they can manage full projects for you that might have a number of translation requirements, with the legal aspect being just one of them.
By having an overarching idea of your translation needs, they can advise you on the best route forward, flag up issues before they happen, select different approved translators for different elements (a wide range of industry expertise) and make sure everyone has a joined-up approach.
6. The Impact Of Poor Legal Translation May Be Bigger Than You Think
The South Korean government can, unfortunately for them, tell you all about this. In 2011, they failed to negotiate a lucrative Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union because of a reported 207 errors in translating legal documents.
You’d think they’d learn from their errors. However, an article from Reuters in April of the same year reports that an FTA between the USA and South Korea was withdrawn because of “translation blunders”. Really? Twice? In the same year? And with the USA and the EU, two of the wealthiest and largest markets in the world? Someone’s in trouble.
Translation isn’t just about finding someone who can convert words from one language to another. It’s about finding a partner with industry experience (your industry experience), confidentiality, integrity, and who understands that localization is important. Small details are important. Every document should be translated with a deep level of thinking and care.
Get a Quote for Your Legal Translation Project
If you’re thinking about a translation project, we’d love to sit down and talk with you about it.
With LinguaLinx, you won't ever have to worry about your message getting lost as it’s translated. You know you're in good hands with our ISO 17100 compliance, twenty years of professional translation experience, and the organizations whose trust we've earned.
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