December 10, 2012

By Ofer Tirosh

 How Do You Know if Your Legal Translator is Qualified?

Most legal professionals, businesses, law enforcers, medical facilities and other institutions and professionals who regularly need legal translation services have established service providers, and are quite comfortable with their professional translation company or translators' capabilities, experience and services. However, there are those who rarely need legal services, or who may need to hire legal translators for the first time. So how does one tell if a particular service has the right experience to provide an accurate, professional legal translation? Can a criminal defense attorney provide legal translation for a real estate settlement document? Can a lawyer accurately provide legal translation from Arabic to English if his native language is Arabic- or should he only provide English to Arabic translation?

5 Tips About Legal Translation Service for Clients and Translators

For both legal translators and clients, the following list is meant to be an outlining guide to both legal translation services, as well as gauging the qualifications of a potential translator or translation company:

  1. Always have an important translated legal document proofread by a second translator. Some translation companies offer document translation, and then optional proofreading services by a different translator or set of translators. If your translation service provider does not offer proofreading, or you feel more comfortable with another provider, a second translation service can proofread the legal translation.

  2. In order to acquire some insight about your legal translator's experience, you can ask which legal translation resources he or she has.

    Two of the highest recommended English legal dictionaries, which contain every legal definition that exists, are "Black's Law Dictionary" and "Ballentine's Law Dictionary." While it doesn't mean your translator or translator service isn't qualified if they do not answer with one of the aforementioned dictionaries, if they DO answer with one or both, it is a very good indication. Every professional legal translator should have a legal dictionary in their own language, as well as a few bilingual legal dictionaries pertaining to the pair of languages he or she offers translations services for, such English and Spanish, German and French or English and Italian.

    Why is this so important? Because legal terms, concepts, phrases, and legal language do not equally exists in all languages and legal systems. It is impossible to provide legal translation service without ever needing to reference a legal dictionary or some other source. Therefore, an easy way to check the experience of your legal translator is to ask what kind of legal reference materials they own. Try to ask at a time when they must answer immediately, such as over the phone or via instant messaging.

  3. Legal translators should also have reference materials that include legal translation documents, whether it be court cases, testimonies, legal consult or opinion documents, and so forth. However, it is imperative to have available primary reference materials which have been translated, such as codes, regulations, bills of law, amendments, tax codes and so on.

  4. The most important materials for a legal translation will be each country's constitution and codes for civil and commercial law, as well as the codes for criminal and civil procedures. This is because it provides the terms for key legal concepts for each language. For example, the criminal code for Greece will tell a translator the Greek equivalent for "aggravated assault," or "involuntary manslaughter," and the commercial code will provide the Greek translation for even more technical concepts and terms, such as "bank lien" or "contractual indemnity."

  5. A legal translator should thoroughly understand the document he or she is translating before beginning the translation process. How can translator translate something he or she does not understand? In this case, an under-qualified translator will usually attempt to translate word by word, which results in a poor translation, and something that is not coherent to legal professionals. This is why it is important to always have a legal document translation proofread, especially when working with a translator or translation service for the first time.

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