Writing Tips for Legal Translation

legal translation servicesToday we begin our series focused on tips, tricks and best practices for legal translation services. In this series, we will walk you through some of the steps, and will give guidance as to how to always receive the best translation of your legal materials. Whether you need a contract, agreement, research or discovery documents, interviews, depositions, employment paperwork, marketing materials, website or any other legal materials translated, you need to make sure your message is correct and consistent in EVERY language and across ALL materials.  The first step in making sure your translations are the best they can be is to make sure that the English copy is the best it can be. The copy needs to be legally sound, concise, clear, written in proper English and finalized before it goes to your professional translation company.

Clear and Concise

The best legal translation typically comes from copy with very precise language. It’s important that the English documents you submit to your professional translation service be clearly written in proper English to reduce the number of questions from the translator. If the copy is ambiguous, or could have more than one meaning, the translator will not know which meaning is correct and will need to seek clarification.  If it is written in very verbose legalese, a professional translator will seek clarification of meaning rather than trying to guess.  For example, how is a linguist going to translate “I am herewith returning the stipulation to dismiss in the above entitled matter; the same being duly executed by me.”  The translator could change it to "I have signed and enclosed the stipulation to dismiss the case."   That seems clearer – but is it what the writer meant? Phrases and words that are vague, hard to understand, or have more than one meaning can lead to bad translations and inconsistent messaging.  Even the best translation company can’t fix bad writing. Bad writing always equals bad translation.

Some Words Don’t Translate

There are words, in every language, that don’t have an equivalent word in another language – especially when it comes to legal terms. When a professional translator runs across an “untranslatable” term they may attempt to translate the term’s meaning into the target language, or they might leave the term in the source language, or they will ask the client for clarification as to the best course of action for the situation.  An example of a legal term that is used in the English language but is actually an untranslated foreign term is “quid pro quo”.  Quid pro quo is a Latin term that originally referred to substituting one medicine for another. In the 17th century, “quid pro quo” took on the meaning “one good turn deserves another.” Today this term is often used in legal documents and proceedings of sexual harassment cases in both the U. S. and the U. K.

A reputable legal translation agency like Rapport International will catch these types of potential issues, and help you translate appropriately, BEFORE a mistake happens. Here at Rapport International we get to know each client’s needs and wants, and will deliver your translations on-time and how you want them EVERY TIME. 

Please join us next time for More Writing Tips for Legal Translation.

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Categories: Project Planning & Management, Quality


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