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Translating a legal contract

The translation of legal contracts and documents is a highly specialised and skilled area of translation. International agreements have to extend across boundaries, communities and even cultures. The danger for translators, is that meaning may get lost in vague wording and misinterpretation. Furthermore, legal contracts and documentation must be adhered to internationally, so it’s important that the language used is both appropriate and unequivocal. To translate a legal contract or document with absolute clarity, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

 

A knowledgeable translator is key

The hard truth is, that being an expert in the languages you’ll be dealing with is not satisfactory. To translate a legal document properly, a translator must have some command over legal terminology. Even a minor misuse of vocabulary could create confusion, or be open to misinterpretation. Be aware that your work could be the object of scrutiny later on.

Legal documentation and contracts relate to the law of the land where they were originally written, not the target language. A good translator should be familiar with local law, as well as being aware that laws are subject to constant change and revision. Hence, translators must consider these factors when offering a service.

 

Word selection and syntax

It is important that your translation conveys the message of the original document both correctly and in it’s entirety. In legal documentation, any statement that contains an ambiguity, could be subject to intense scrutiny later on. Furthermore, use of proper punctuation is crucial, since misuse could result in an alteration of the original meaning.

An experienced translator or translation agency must acknowledge that between any two languages, it is often impossible to recreate even a simple sentence in the exact same format. Furthermore, doing so can result in grammatical inconsistencies and will sound incoherent. Using colloquial phrasing and construction aids clarity.

 

Regional variations

English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and numerous other languages are widely spoken in different parts of the globe. However, the language is not the same. People in Mexico not only speak, but also write, Spanish differently from the people in Spain. Hence, translators must be familiar with not only the language, but also the regional style.

 

Confidentiality

Translating a legal contract or document requires complete confidentiality for several reasons. The document being translated may contain information that should be kept hidden from competitors or other personnel. If this information gets in the wrong hands, you could end up paying for it. The documents you’re translating may refer to an on-going investigation or process. If you are unsure, it’s best to assume that you cannot share the contents of a legal document.

 

Good research and attention to detail are paramount. Good luck!

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