What Legal Translation Requires from Translators


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What Legal Translation Requires from Translators

December 09, 2012

By Ofer Tirosh

 English to Hebrew Translation for Legal and Financial Documents

A good example of a legal translation is one we recently provided to a client of ours - a UK law firm. The document was a 1465 word bank lien letter request sent from our client to a bank in Israel. Not only was the language of the document highly technical, but the English to Hebrew translation also had to comply to both of the different legal systems of both the sender and the receiver, and consequently adhere to private international law.

The bank lien letter required professional Hebrew translation service, as is the case for about half of all our legal translation services, as well as Hebrew to English translation. However, our legal translation services do not stop there -far from it. Just a glimpse of some past legal document translations we've provided include:

  • English to Greek translation of a legal letter

  • Russian to English translation of real estate documents

  • French translation of a legal business contract

  • Professional Swedish translation of a legal financial agreement

 

Translation Services and Conformity to International Legal Systems

Legal translation services are some of the most sought after in the language services industry, because legal proceedings, law, regulation and legal processes are internationally part of all societies and cultures, despite how they differ in their written, implied and enforced applications.  Legal documents exist in nearly every language that has at least a few thousand speakers. So, naturally, the more rarely spoken the language, the more difficult it can be to find qualified legal translators. For instance, one may not very often need legal English to Inuktitut translation, or even legal Albanian translation very often - but when it is needed, finding a professional translation service that can provide them can be difficult.

Professional legal translation is frequently sought out, not because of the rarity or commonness of a particular language pair, but because of the technical jargon and legal knowledge it requires. Legal translations cannot, and should not, be translated by any general, run-of-the-mill language translator with no legal training or legal translation experience. Legal translators must have two very important parts to their translation skills:

1. They must have mastery over two languages on a fluent level.  Usually translators translate into their mother tongue from the foreign language spoken fluently, but can also translate into their non-native language if they have been immersed and assimilated into the target language culture.

2. They must have a commanding knowledge of the legal systems of both cultures of the languages being translated.

The quality of a legal translation depends entirely upon the above mentioned factors, and how well developed they are within any given translator.

Legal Translations: Municipal Law vs. International Law

While this sounds more than obvious, it gets much, much more complex when legal translations become divided under their legal categories. The two primary general legal sectors are Municipal Law and International Law.  International Law governs laws between nations, while Municipal Law governs the laws of individual nations.

International Law is then divided into two main branches:

  • Public international law

  • Private international law

Public international law

Public international law governs the world from the outside, such as nation-to-nation relationships, human rights, law of war, law of the seas and so forth. Organizations like the UN, NATO and other regional international organizations have dominion over public international law. Legal translations that would fall under public international law would be extremely important documents, such as regional peace treaties, statements and reports, convened meetings, and other documentation from the UN and similar organizations.

 Private International Law and Legal Business Translations

The private international law sector governs relations between two or more foreign groups, organizations, and individuals, as well as relations between the government of one country and a foreign individual or group. This is the form of law under which international business is governed. Private international law is the legal sector under which the majority of legal translation services are provided. Some examples include foreign financial transactions and payments, overseas shipping, international sales and contract translations.

Taking all the above into consideration, as well as the particular legal document translation recently provided to our client - it is all but a fraction of everything that a legal translation can entail, and it's exactly why it is so important that legal translators be adequately educated and experienced before tackling any kind of legal translation service.

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