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Legal Translation: Importance, Risks, and Consequences!

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Key Points:

  • What is Legal Translation?
  • What Are the Most Translated Types of Legal Documents?
  • Importance of Legal Translation
  • Risks of Inaccurate Legal Translation
  • How to Choose Your Legal Translation Provider?

Every living person has at least one legal document, starting from his Birth Certificate, ID, Marriage Certificate, and Driving License to other types of documents like Employment Records, Contracts, Financial Records, etc. These documents may need to be translated into another language for many purposes, including official, educational, employment, commercial, or traveling, which puts legal translation in high demand.

What is Legal Translation?

Legal translation is the process of translating legal documents and materials from one language to another. It is a specialized field that requires a deep understanding of both legal terminology and the cultural and legal differences between the source and target languages, to accurately convey the meaning of the original text while taking into consideration the legal implications of the translations.

Most Translated Legal Documents

Legal translation services  involve a wide range of documents, such as:

  • Contracts, including business contracts, employment contracts, sales contracts, etc.
  • Patents, technical specifications, claims, and abstracts.
  • Birth certificates, marriage certificates, educational certificates, etc.
  • Agreements, regulations, and others.
  • Financial and banking statements.
  • Employment records.
  • Legal forms like powers of attorney, wills, trusts, and deeds.
  • Court orders, such as judgments, verdicts, and subpoenas.
  • Case summaries, legal briefs, Witness statements, and court depositions.

Why Is Legal Translation Incontestably Important?

Legal translation is essential in facilitating cross-border transactions and ensuring that parties involved in a legal process are able to communicate effectively and understand the legal agreements and documents involved. 

Additionally, legal translation ensures:

  • Accurate Communication: Legal documents often have complex language and technical terms, which is why legal translation ensures that the meaning of these documents is accurately conveyed from one language to another.
  • Compliance with Legal Requirements: Legal translation ensures that documents meet the language requirements of the relevant jurisdiction, allowing parties to comply with legal requirements and avoid potential penalties.
  • Facilitation of Cross-border Transactions: Translation enables parties from different countries to understand and enter into legal agreements, facilitating international trade and business.
  • Protection of Rights and Interests: Accurate legal translation helps protect the rights and interests of parties involved in a legal process, ensuring that their agreements and contracts are legally binding and enforceable.
  • Building Trust and Confidence: Translation helps build trust and confidence between parties by reducing the risk of misunderstandings and disputes.

Impacts and Risks of Mistranslation

In the context of legal translation, the impact, risks, and consequences refer to the effects that a translated document can have on the legal process and the parties involved. Some potential risks may include:

  • Miscommunication: Translation may not accurately convey the meaning of the original document, leading to misunderstandings and disputes.
  • Legal Implications: Poor translation can result in legal implications, such as contracts being voidable or misinterpreted.
  • Financial Consequences: Incorrectly translated legal documents can lead to financial losses or penalties.
  • Reputational Risks: Wrong translations can damage the reputation of the parties involved, especially if they are parties to an international transaction.
  • Affecting People’s Lives: Registering a child’s birth, confirming a divorce of a couple abroad, death certificate, etc.

Real Cases of Costly Mistranslation

In addition to the cases and disputes in the courtrooms, legal translation errors shall cause severe consequences and losses outside it as well.

The cases below prove that mistranslation can never do good for any party:

  • The 1878 treaty between the Sultanate of Sulu and a British commercial syndicate was a legal agreement that resulted in a mistranslation. The Sultanate agreed to a rental of the territory, but the English version of the treaty stated that it was a sale. This mistranslation caused confusion and conflict, as the Sultanate believed they had only agreed to a rental, while the British commercial syndicate believed they had acquired ownership of the territory. 
  • The most famous legal mistranslation example is the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. In this case, the translation of the German word “Verbrechen” was mistranslated as “crimes” instead of “offenses.” This mistranslation had significant consequences for the defendants as “crimes” carried a much stronger connotation and were more likely to result in a conviction. 
  • Signing the Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the European Union in 2011 was delayed because the Korean version of the documents had 207 translation errors. Those errors led to losses from European and Korean companies during the months that the agreement was not in place.

How to Choose your Legal Translation Provider

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a legal translation provider:

  • Expertise: Look for a provider that specializes in legal translation and has experience translating the specific type of legal document you need.
  • Language Proficiency: Make sure the provider has translators who are native speakers of the target language and have a strong command of legal terminology.
  • Accreditation: Consider providers who are accredited by professional organizations such as the American Translators Association, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, etc.
  • Quality Control Processes: Make sure the provider has established quality control processes, such as proofreading and editing, to ensure the accuracy of the translation.
  • Turnaround Time: Consider the provider’s ability to deliver the translation within your desired timeframe.
  • Pricing: Compare prices and services offered by different providers to find the best value for your budget.
  • References and Reviews: Read online reviews and ask for references to get a sense of the provider’s reputation and the quality of their work.

Because legal mistranslation is always costly on all sides, it is therefore important to ensure that your legal document translation services are carried out by professional and qualified translators to minimize the risks and consequences and ensure the accuracy and integrity of your legal documents.

Contentech prides itself on having the most experienced team in the field of legal translation, who are native speakers with proven language proficiency and a strong command of legal terminology, using advanced technologies and tools for maximum efficiency, and delivering the best quality as per our clients’ testimonies.

Translate with us NOW and Be SAFE!

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