January 4, 2021

The world of legal translating

As international trade continues to expand and offer new, untapped possibilities, more organisations are beginning to rethink the way they work. Everything takes on a global slant, with more and more companies wising up to the fact that there are plenty more opportunities to be found overseas.
But while a borderless approach allows enterprises to grow and diversify their product or service offerings – as well as boost revenue streams – it also forces them to rethink existing practices and introduce new ones, such as legal translation.
At the very least, certain documentation needs to be multilingual as well as legally relevant to other territories. Given the complexity nature of this against the backdrop of globalisation, legal translation has become an extremely specialised field.

The backdrop
The fact is, cross-border legal disputes are a common and growing trend. In some respects, given the inherent complexity of the law – more so within an international framework – this isn’t entirely surprising. There’s a lot to take on board, many channels and stakeholders to go through and therefore more chances for things to go wrong.
Which makes legal translation all the more important. Because just when you think everything has gone to plan, even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant mistake in a document (or ambiguous turn of phrase) can have a devastating impact.
It can, for example, delay deals, damage relationships and render documents invalid. When you’ve spent a lot of time and money negotiating an important contract, any one of these setbacks can be damaging.
If organisations want to minimise exposure to risk, it’s vital they invest in a specialist with a multifaceted approach to legal translation.

Working between legal systems
There are marked differences between the legal systems of different countries. So it makes sense that any legal translator must know the systems they’re working with inside out. Although there is some common ground, it’s about knowing the nuances too – which help ensure documents are both appropriately translated into the target language and in respect of its laws.
But perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of translating between legal systems is around conceptual differences, namely the absence of an equivalent concept in the target language. 
Navigating this maze takes real skill, highlighting both the value and inherent need for specialists in legal translation.
What’s more, developing a long-term relationship with a translation partner is especially advantageous. The more trust is built, the more confident everyone is in the quality and accuracy of the translation between legal systems.

The uniqueness of legal language
The late David Mellinkoff, a notable lawyer who was described by the New York Times as “the enemy of legalese”, was a fierce critic of lawyerly language. He argued that by its very nature, it’s extremely difficult to understand, arcane and ultimately confusing.
He had a point. Legal terminology is certainly distinct – often only understood by lawyers themselves. Even translators more than capable of translating the unique vocabulary of one legal language into the lexicon of another, will have their work cut out.
Again, this underscores their value to organisations in need of legal translation. Being fluent, for instance, in at least two languages, understanding the particulars of two legal systems and being able to comprehend with skill and authority types of legal language, is exceptional to say the least.
Consider also the particulars of lexical (idioms, phrases), structural (grammatical particles) and cultural considerations, and again – you can begin to understand how delivering language-relevant legal text is a remarkable feat.
Translation, as a whole, is demanding. But add to that a legal element, and it’s an entirely different ball game. And one with some dire consequences if not done correctly. 
Approaching legal translation should therefore be done with the right resources and expertise so that when it comes to the end of any given project, you can be confident that the multilingual document you have in your hand is one you can rely on.
At THG Fluently, we’ve been providing translation services to businesses for more than 17 years, and are specialists in services to the legal sector. We’ve learned what it takes to give organisation the linguistic and localisation support they need to communicate on an international scale and do it well. So if you’d like to learn more about how we can support your business with its multilingual legal needs, feel free to get in touch.

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