Top Five Challenges of Translating Legal Documents

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top five challenges of translating legal documents

The language of law includes complex linguistic practices of an ancient profession. In this translation niche, native linguists with a solid law background are required to complete this arduous task. Still, even the most professional translators feel like walking around in quicksand when it comes to legal translation.

Professional legal terminology

Considering the strong influence on the legal systems posed by the ancient Rome culture, vocabularies used in legal writings are heavily borrowed from Latin and French, as Latin was the language of administration and Law in England while French was the Court language. Modern legal writing is still full of argot, ‘habeas corpus’, a Latin word, meaning a writ to bring a prisoner before the court to determine if the detention is lawful; ‘autrefois convict’, a Law French, meaning previously convicted. Not only should the linguist be fluent in the concerned language pairs of the legal documents, but also acquire the knowledge of legal jargons.

Different legal system

Legal system varies from country to country, not to mention numerous continental trade laws. It is regarded as an essential aspect of any given culture and similar legal concepts can be phrased entirely differently in disparate legal system. It is also not surprising that translators are not able to find an equivalent concept in the target text language country which one does exist in another country.

Complex syntax

Lawyers are very prone to use wordy and redundant phraseology, making the syntax of legal writings a mind-bogglingly complex. Endless embedded clauses and modifiers adding to a series of ambiguous words make the writing difficult to comprehend. For these wordy ambiguous legal writings, even a single misinterpretation or omission can change the terms and conditions. This ‘wooden language’ is the worst nightmare for any linguists. Taking lexical, structural and cultural considerations with expert knowledge and attention to detail are crucial when comprehending the context.

High accuracy

Given its legal binding feature, even minor translation errors in a legal document can cause serious consequences in courtrooms and complicated legal disputes. To avoid capital loss and subsequent legal actions, a verbatim translation is expected as all versions should be identical and respect the source writing. It leaves a narrow framework when it comes to choosing the correct words, requiring high accuracy and fidelity of the translation. Elite Asia’s solid translation memory built by a team of language experts guarantees high precision and consistency of work.

Strict deadline

Legal documents always tied to events involving courtroom agendas, lawyer schedules and cooperate actions. These often cause delays which can give rise to disruption of transactions, chaos in business processes or even damage of business reputations. Translators also face strict deadlines when handling lengthy financial legal-binding document such as prospectus. Language experts should be able to strike a balance between the risk of expensive mistakes and the absolute accuracy completed in a timely manner.

The language of law seems verbose and tedious even for lawyer-linguists. Legal documents posing linguistic hurdles make the translation task baffling. Specialized training is vital for language experts to be successful in this niche as tackling this effortful task requires top-notch language skills, in-depth legal knowledge and high efficiency.

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