Is it enough to master a foreign language to translate legal texts?

translate legal texts

International dynamics, where trade relations between countries and the development of political and economic blocs are always more common, require the training of professionals able to draw up legal texts which are understandable and applicable in different languages. Hence the importance of legal translation.

Legal translation consists in translating, from a language into another, legal documents, both public (official documents issued by an administration or a public body) and private (drawn up to regulate specific legal transactions among individuals and businesses).

Legal translation is a rigour-demanding field and implies some difficulties always according to terminology, languages involved and translation volume. It is based on accuracy and impartiality, without forgetting we are dealing with texts and documents which especially require the utmost confidentiality.

There is no single way to translate a specific document, even if we manage to completely agree on parameters imposing certain translating solutions. Certainly the task of a linguist is not just to translate a text from a language into another; it also includes drafting them, so he must know the legal systems of the countries when the document is valid and ensure all parties involved understand legal concepts which may arise.

In my view, the legal translator must necessary have a certain control of the thematic field of law for two main reasons: first of all, for the conceptual complexity of legal texts and secondly for the differences among legal systems which make difficult and sometimes impossible to find equivalences.

And this leads to two main points:

  1. Legal translation is a very complex discipline which can’t be undertaken by anyone. It requires an extensive linguistic and legal knowledge.
  2. A bad translation can destroy your business, your relationship with clients and may even have serious legal consequences.

For this reason it would be too risky to rely on a translator having no experience or knowledge of law procedures. This kind of translations must only be performed by professional translators specialized in legal translation. Moreover, in certain countries the translation of these texts and documents requires the translator to appear in court. Therefore, a legal translation can’t accept mistakes and must be of an extremely high quality.

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