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The Challenges of Legal Translation (And How to Address Them…)


Translating as we all know is the process of converting texts, articles, books, etc. from one language to the other while also successfully expressing the same ideas, feelings and information that the author of the source text intended to convey.

Translation can also come in many different shapes and sizes; you have medical, technical, multimedia, and literary translation among many types of translation jobs. However, one type of translation really does separate itself from the others by a huge margin; legal translation.

What’s Up with Legal Translation?

The Challenges of Legal Translation

Partnership agreements between two foreign companies and property or equipment leases are what many legal translators deal with on a regular basis. Dealing with lawyers, law judges and even clients who can’t communicate with their lawyers because they can’t speak the same language are all issues every legal translator has dealt with.

So if you think dealing with difficult clients is hard, then get a load of legal translation. Translating in the field of law can get pretty culture specific and therefore hard to translate. Also, one slip up could lead to a lawsuit being rejected or even have you get sued.

However, in spite of these challenges, legal translation is not as troublesome as it seems once you get the hang of it, especially knowing how to deal with the common challenges that legal translators face in their field.

The Challenges Legal Translators Face

1) The Terminologies Between the Two Languages Are Too Different

The legal terminologies between the source and target languages often vary widely and this is the most common difficulty faced by legal translators.

How to Overcome: Familiarize yourself with the legal texts in both target and source languages, you’ll actually notice that a lot of them are repetitive. Another thing you should consider is to ask! If you know someone who speaks the language you’re translating into then maybe they could help you, the same applies if you’re not sure of a certain term in your own native language.

2) Different Legal Styles in Each Language

Legal Translation

Every country has its own legal system and therefore, its own style of writing legal documents and contracts. Just translating legal terms won’t help you compensate for the lack of legal style, so special syntax plays a huge roll here.

How to Overcome: As mentioned before, read different legal texts and contracts. Another useful tip – if you have some time on your hands – is to open up the law book of that country and start skimming through it or even reading it just so you could at least get an idea of what kind of legal style is being used here.

3) Different Cultures

Just because you found a translation of a specific legal term in one language doesn’t mean you get to use it for every contract issued in every country that speaks the language. Let’s take Arabic as an example, when you find that one Arab-speaking country uses this kind of ‘date format’ in legal texts, it does not mean you go ahead and use it in another contract issued in another Arab-speaking country.

How to Overcome: Be specific and clear about which country the client you’re translating for is from. Remember, the law of a country reflects its culture, so make sure you’re familiar with the cultural norms and traditions of that country. Even if two countries speak the same language as each other doesn’t mean they have the same exact culture. Some are similar to each other while others could be entirely different.

Legal translation can be a challenging career to take on, but as you start translating more and gaining more experience, you’ll actually start to realize that most contracts follow the same format. Don’t be discouraged, every great career has its own set of challenges, so do what you love and have no fear!