When we talk about documents with legal content, having the correct words and phrases in place is highly important. One small mistake can lead to a criminal getting off on a technicality or an innocent man being sent to prison. When it comes to translating legal material, ensuring that the exact meaning is carried across to another language is of the utmost importance.
Legal translation is a specific branch of translation, which deals with the highly specialised terminology of the judicial system and ensures that all meaning is correctly explained in a different language. In this guide we will explain legal translation in more detail, as well as what to expect from the process and how to ensure that the best people are employed for the job.
Here are our top ten tips which will help you with legal translation:
Knowing what actually needs translating
Before you begin looking for a translation partner, ensure that you know exactly what you need translating. There are a number of different specialisms within the legal system, such as criminal, immigration, employment or maritime law. Depending on the case, each different branch will require certain documents to be translated. However, it may not be necessary to translate the entirety of your material. Working out which parts of your content does and doesn’t need to be translated can help you save time and money.
Knowing which languages are needed
Once you have worked out what needs translating, you should clarify which languages are required. Although this seems simple enough, regional dialects can have a habit of complicating matters. Laws usually apply to an entire country or territory, but often there can be a number of languages and dialects spoken within it, each with their own unique idioms and terminology. Understanding these variations is highly important. If you are in any doubt then a good legal translation company will employ specialists with knowledge of the relevant language and branch of law.
Working with the best
There are a lot of people who offer legal translation services, but it is important to be completely sure that whoever you choose will provide an accurate translation. There is no room for error in legal translation. Before you make your final decision you should thoroughly research the market. The ideal candidate should have experience in the legal translation field and a good knowledge of the law in relevant countries. They should also be translating into their native language.
Defining a glossary
Defining a glossary of terms is an important part of any translation process, but never more so than when dealing with legal translation. The law is full of important words and phrases which carry a highly specific legal meaning. Ensuring that these are translated correctly is highly important. Agreeing a list of terms before the translation process begins reduces the scope for error, ensuring that the exact meaning of a term is perfectly clear.
Choosing a formatting style
When you pass on all the information about the project to your translation partner, remember to let them know your preferred formatting style. Legal documents are generally set out as either a bilingual document, where both the original and translated languages are presented side by side, or as a monolingual document, translated in its entirety into another language but keeping specifications such as the font and format of the original.
Learning about the law
The majority of countries in the world now have their own judicial systems, and each one will come with its own particular laws and language. A clear understanding of the relevant legal system is an absolute must for successful legal translation, and although your translator should handle this, it never hurts to have some local knowledge yourself.
Your legal document is probably subject to strict privacy guidelines. Try to understand how your documents need to be handled. Security is highly important when it comes to legal material, and agreeing with your translation provider how content will be stored and transferred before the process begins can really help to minimise risk.
Keeping in touch
Try and be fairly hands on with the translation project. At the start of the process, gather together as much reference material as you can find to send to the translator. Keep in touch with them throughout the project. Doing so helps to guarantee everything is running smoothly and any issues are ironed out quickly. A good translation company should send you a translated sample early on in the project. If they don’t, ask to see a sample, then provide them with feedback regarding the style and terminology.
Making sure it stands up in court
Once the translation is completed, double check the document before signing it off. Some legal translations will need to be validated by the translator in order to be accepted in court. Whilst a watermark is usually used, a signed statement from the translator will also suffice. Ensure the document is proof read, if necessary through the use of back translation. This is the process of translating the document, back in to the original language, to ensure that the translation is 100% accurate. Good translation companies should include this as part of their service.
Keeping up to date with changes
New amendments to existing laws are continuously being issued. Even the smallest changes can have an impact on large groups of people, and each change in the law may require you to amend your translated legal documents. Keeping abreast of the latest updates allows you keep your documents up to date. A good relationship with a legal translation company can really help in this respect. They should be using memory software which allows quick access to translated documents which can then be amended as necessary, producing time and cost savings.