The law is a very vast field, with its many sub divisions and areas of specialization. Those who have not had previous exposure to legal jargon or documents may feel baffled when they attempt to read a passage crafted in 'legalese' or legal language. When doing business across nations, it becomes imperative for associates to exchange correspondence, negotiate terms and come to a settlement, all of which are formalized by documents with binding legal terms enforceable on both parties to a deal or transaction.
The legal system and legal terminology The laws governing various aspects of human interaction and transactions are exhaustive and this is the reason why the legal practice has ever so many disciplines: Banking Law, Bankruptcy Law, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Corporation & Enterprise Law, Criminal Law, Cyberspace Law, Dispute Resolution & Arbitration, Copyright & Intellectual Property Law, and Tax Law?the list is very long. Again, the legal system differs from country to country, with each nation framing its laws based on culture, tradition and its own sphere of experience. In the field of international business, a range of legal documents are routinely drafted and signed, and these include contracts, warranties, mortgage deeds, letters of credit, insurance policies, and many others. The documents have to be translated if the signatories are from different language?speaking regions. Translator competence Finding the right equivalent for legal terms and phrases in the target language takes language proficiency as well as some basic knowledge of the specific field of the business.
The service provider must be equipped to understand the intended use of the document and its translation if he or she is to deliver an acceptable quality of work. The terminology, syntax, and the tone of the communiqué are all important, and the translator will be able to do justice to the job only if he is clear about the purpose of the missive: whether it is written for imparting information only, or if the language implies a contract that is binding on the parties concerned, or as a piece of evidence to be submitted in court. Translation of legal texts is much more complex than working on any other type of document. As writer Sylvia A. Smith puts it, a good translator must possess at least a basic knowledge of the legal systems prevailing in the countries of both the source and the target languages, should be familiar with the terminology, and proficiency in the legal writing style of the target language. A translation rendered without these competencies may not effectively meet the requirements.
A trained legal translator must therefore be talented in the linguistic arts, have subject matter knowledge, and also be enterprising enough to find the appropriate equivalents for legal concepts appearing in the source document even when there is no exact equivalent in the target language. For instance, the following French legal terms cannot be translated directly into English. There is a distinct variation of terminology between the two languages: clause suspensive - a conditional clause in a contract that must be met in order for the sale to reach completion date de livraison prévue - expected date of completion droits d'enregistrement - stamp duty paid by the purchaser taxe d'habitation - rate levied on the occupation of property taxe fonciére - local tax on the ownership of property Translation errors Translation errors have cost organizations dear in a number of cases, with lawsuits running into millions of dollars. A lawsuit of $71 million was slapped on a hospital in Florida, in a case of misinterpretation of the patient's symptoms. The patient, suffering from nausea used the word "intoxicado" to express the symptom. Hospital staff concluded that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and treated him for this.
The patient suffered a brain aneurysm and became quadriplegic as a result of the wrong treatment given. International disputes involving different languages and legal systems do arise at times when there is a failure to meet the commitments of a contract. Legal counsel as well as clients must in such cases take due care to select the translator who has the best set of competencies needed to render a thorough job of the translation work. In a recent survey undertaken by SDL International, a provider of translation and localization services, 80% of survey respondents said that there were delays and losses in business arising out of translation errors and delays caused by the agencies undertaking the work.
Translators are also accountable, and may in certain situations face a lawsuit themselves. This is why liability insurance, or Errors & Omissions (E&O) insurance, is often marketed to translators. Translation is both an art and a science.
In the field of business, the correct translation of texts is extremely crucial to the success of enterprise, although the legal implications may not become immediately apparent at the first instance. The price to be paid for errors in translation of a passage in a contract, for example, could be substantial, and may lead to lawsuits entailing huge losses. The task of translation of scholarly treatises and legal documents must therefore be entrusted only to experienced professional translators who have the right mix of competencies.
About the Author:
Armando Riquier as a freelance writer and expert translator collaborates with Tectrad, a company specialized in the translation of all type of legal and business documents. Find out how to keep an excellent image with your foreign clients and partners thanks to perfect translation of your business matters to Italian, French and other languages.