Category: Legal Translation

In the legal translation sector, Greek is a highly under-resourced language, in the sense that there are, as yet, few reliable bilingual legal texts that legal translators can consult to help them produce high-quality, accurate translations[1]. Greek is not alone in its isolation. As Fuglinsky and Somissich put it:

Legal systems, the legislation of which is drafted and enacted in a language, which is less widely used and understood, suffer from isolation as they cannot be directly accessed by legal practitioners or scholars from other countries …

For that—and if these legal systems with “exotic” languages do not want to drop out of the international academic community—they must be explained in the legal literature in another language and/or translated into a lingua franca. The most efficient way is most probably to have a combination of both. The lingua franca of law and of any other sciences today is definitely English[2].”

Of course, there are also practical reasons why translations of legal texts are necessary, such as facilitating mutual understanding in cross-border business, especially important as Greece seeks to attract more foreign direct investment after years in crisis.

One work designed to fill that gap is “Greek Corporate Legislation”, which was published earlier this year (2020) by Nomiki Vivliothiki Press (ISBN: 978-960-654-099-8, 544 pages, Cost: € 50).

Greek corporate translation:  Greek text and English translation
(c) Nomiki Vivliothiki

Covering the three main texts on company forms which exist in Greece, it features the Greek text of Law 4548/2018 on Sociétés Anonymes (AE), Law 4072/2012 on Private Companies (ΙΚΕ) and Law 3190/1955 on Limited Liability Companies (ΕΠΕ), along with their English translations. The translations of Laws 4548/2018 and 3190/1955 include the whole law, whereas only Articles 43-120 and 330 of Law 4072/2012 have been translated into English, since this is an omnibus law, addressing a wide range of topics, but only those specific articles are relevant to private companies.

To make it easier for users to identify the legal provisions concerned, the Greek text appears on the left-hand page, the English translation on the right-hand page. The texts have been carefully aligned and paginated to ensure that the same information appears on each page.

The translations have been prepared by the team at Lambadarios Law Firm, though the translators who obviously devoted considerable time and effort to this work have not been named. This book is the third updated version of translations of corporate legislation that have come out over the years (previous ones dating to 2011 and 2007). In any future edition it would be great to see the translators involved being named.

The publisher conceived of the book as a useful tool for academics, investors, foreign court judges, arbitrators or mediators and everyday lawyers and legal advisors. We would argue that it would also be useful to accountants and tax planners.

Interestingly, the publishers also mention that the book could be a useful tool to legal translators translating into English. It is increasingly common that publishers of law books are recognising that legal translators could be potential users of their works. For example, the recently published German Civil Code Vol. I & Commentary states in its advertising blurb that, “… the commentary meets the expectations both of German and foreign lawyers by providing the proper terminology and explanation in English to lawyers and translators and by offering a systematic overview on the BGB to lawyers who are not very familiar with the German civil law”. 

Why might it be useful to translators?

  • Legal translators are key players in making legal knowledge and legal information accessible, in promoting justice and building mutual trust across national and linguistic boundaries. By having a single, correct text that everyone can turn to, it promotes consistency in their translations and thereby ensures consistency in transactions for clients, while improving legal certainty.
  • One of the most commonly assigned categories of texts is those that have to do with company law. Think foreign shareholders acquiring holdings in Greek companies, mergers and acquisitions, international investments, due diligence … all requiring company legal documentation (articles of associations, board minutes, etc.) to be translated. The book provides a valuable reference tool that can be consulted if legislation is directly quoted within a text being translated, or alternatively it can be consulted in order to find terminology.
  • Company law in Greece has undergone considerable reform in recent years, first with the introduction of private companies and then in 2018, the radical overhauling of the law on sociétés anonymes by Law 4548/2018 which replaced Codified Law 2190/1920. Both these developments introduced new terms and concepts to the field of company law in Greece, and this English translation now provides a useful go-to resource for inspiration on how to translate them. Take for example the new concept of “μονομελές διοικητικό όργανο (σύμβουλος-διαχειριστής)”/“single-member administrative body (director-administrator)” which can be found in Article 115 of Law 4548/2018. Prior to the publication of this EN translation, any online search for the concept would have turned up implausible translations for this term such as “consultant-manager”, which are apt to cause confusion among end users of the translated text. Reliable, elegant translation solutions, such as those which can be found in abundance in this work, remove such confusion.
  • Register is largely consistent across all the translated texts included in this work. Although the source text of Law 3190/1955 is a mix of purist and demotic Greek, the EN translation maintains a consistent register in simple, straightforward English, providing translators with some useful insights into how to handle these two distinct styles of Greek in any texts they may have to translate. Seen in this light, the book has some indirect educational value.

First impressions

Having read the translated texts in Greek Corporate Legislation, the impression is that they are generally good. Broadly speaking the translations flow well, are easy to read, are immediately comprehensible and are in an appropriate register. What appear to be neat translation solutions have been provided. For example “αντιτάσσεται στους τρίτους” has been rendered as “generates effects erga omnes” (Article 11(4) of Law 4548/2018). However, reading on (Article 84 of the same Law) we find that the same phrase has been rendered as “may not be invoked against third parties”.  And it was around this point that we began to notice other inconsistencies and annoying issues with the book.

Let’s look at these and how they impact its usefulness from a translator’s perspective.

Consistency

(a) Citation

There are problems with the citations of articles and paragraphs in the translated texts. In one sentence you’ll find “paragraph 1 of Article 1” (which would not be how one would typically cite such a thing in English) but then you’ll find “Article 1(1)” (which would be the correct way to do it) in the very next. For example:

Page 93, Law 4548, Article 49(4)(d): “without prejudice to Article 75(4) of Codified Law 2190/1920”
Page 93, Law 4548, Article 49(4) [two paragraphs down]: “set in paragraph (1) of Article 159”.

Moreover, not all European legislation is cited consistently or correctly. You will find the correct “Regulation (EU) No 909/2014” in one sentence but a bit further down “Regulation (EU) 909/2014” (which reflects the citational standard for Regulations issued from 1.1.2015 onwards). For example:

Page 5, Law 4548, Article 2(f) = “Regulation (EU) No 909/2014”

Page 77, Law 4548, Article 40(5) = “Regulation (EU) 909/2014”

(b) Terms

There are also a couple of instances of inconsistent use of terms. For example, in one law you will find “σύγκληση” translated as convocation, but elsewhere it is translated as “calling of meetings”.  Also “λύση εταιρείας” is translated as both dissolution and winding up of a company in different sections of the book, or you may find the title of the article using the word “dissolution” but the text of the article using “winding up”. Other examples are the phrase “Entry into force” used in the title of the Article, but “entry into effect” used in the body of the Article, or the phrase “causa mortis” use in Law 4072/2012 but “mortis causae” in Law 3190/1955. As to this issue, we are advised by a Classics Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki that the correct term is “mortis causa”, similar to “honoris causa”, causa being in the ablative and mortis being in the genitive to show cause, and that “causae” (in the genitive or dative) would be incorrect usage. Yet another example is “criminal law provisions” in Law 4548/2018 but “penal provisions” in both the other two laws.

All this very much gives the impression that different people translated the different laws, or that there was no overall editorial oversight. 

(c) Syntax

Certain formulaic phrases are not always translated in the same way. For example “Προβεί σε” is sometimes rendered as “proceed to” or “proceed with” + verb whereas in other cases it is just rendered by directly translating the relevant verb.

Certain formulations also stick rather too closely to the syntax of the source, and little attempt has been made to reformulate the phrase to make it sound syntactically more English. There is of course a certain tendency in translations done for comparative law purposes to take this approach. If it had been done everywhere, one might take the view that it was an editorial choice, and clunky though it may sound, resign oneself to accepting it. But again there is no consistency. In most instances the syntax flows properly as it should in EN, then suddenly one is confronted with what is unquestionably Greek syntax in English words.

(d) Spelling

Spelling conventions are also not consistently observed (‘iz’ and ‘is’ spelling forms can be found throughout the book). Even with the same law (for instance, Law 4548/2018) one finds both “authorisation” and “authorization”.  In Law 4548/2018, we also counted 2 instances of “in favour” but 7 instances of “in favor”.

(e) Numbering

Most instances of numbers have the number written in full followed by the number in brackets: “one (1) month”. Again, that isn’t consistently followed everywhere in the translations. There are also some instances where there are obvious errors. For example, Article 141(5) of Law 4548/2018 has a “thirty (20)” in English whereas the Greek indicates that it should be “twenty (20)”.

(f) Variations in style

A good 80% of the translations use “shall” to express legislative obligation and then out of nowhere the simple present is used even though an obligation is implied. 

Omissions

In Article 149 of Law 4548/2018, the Greek text refers to “περίπτωσης 1 της υποπαραραγράφου Α1 της παρ. Α΄ του άρθρου 2” but in the English translation we have “Article 2(A1)(1) – no mention is made of paragraph (A) despite it clearly being there in the source text.

Article 19 of Law 3190/1955 is entitled “Ανάκληση και παραίτηση διαχειριστών” (i.e. revocation and resignation of administrators) but the translation omits any reference to “resignation” in the title of the Article (“Revocation of administrators”).

Translation errors

We also identified some errors in translation throughout the text (thankfully few in number).

(a) Terminology errors

For example, the word “ονομαστικοί” has been wrongly translated in Article 56(8) of Law 4548/2018. 

GR: Οι τίτλοι κτήσης μετοχών είναι ονομαστικοί.

EN: Share warrants shall be nominal.

This should be “Share warrants shall be registered”.

(b) Wrong numbers

Another category of error identified was discrepancies between the numbers used in the source and target text. For example:

GR: όπως ο τίτλος τροποποιήθηκε με το άρθρο 5 του Π.Δ. 419/1986 (Α` 197).

EN: as the title of the Article was replaced by Article 4 of Presidential Decree 419/1986.

Here of course, this error is compounded by an error of omission. The reference to the Government Gazette issue in the original text is missing in the translation. The verb has also been wrongly translated (the title was “amended” and not “replaced” as the translation suggests).

Over-translation

Explicitation means adding something into a text to better convey the meaning, even though it was not in the source text. A fine line divides explicitation from over-translation.

While explicitation is a well-established strategy in legal translation, it does not appear to have been adopted in these translations, and on the few occasions where extra information is added in, the impression is more of over-translation.

GR: Ο θάνατος, η πτώχευση ή η απαγόρευση εταίρου

EN: Instances of death, bankruptcy or interdiction of a partner

This particular example also sounds somewhat awkward; the awkwardness concerns “instances of death”, as if it’s a regular occurrence in a company or a recurrent experience for the deceased person.

Miscellaneous

(a) Quotation marks

For some reason, Greek quotation marks are used considerably throughout the book instead of English ones.  For example, we find the phrase:

On the same day or at the latest on the following working day and after completion of the actions provided for in paragraph (1), the «One Stop Shop» shall:

or

The valuation of the contributions in kind during the incorporation of the company as well as in any capital increase shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions of Law 2190 «on Sociétés Anonymes», as amended, which apply mutatis mutandis.

In keeping with the general inconsistencies one encounters throughout the book, we also have the correct use of quotation marks, as here:

In the company’s international transactions, the aforementioned words shall be translated as “Limited Liability Company” and the abbreviation as “LLC” or “LTD”.

(b) Repeat words

There are quite a few instances of “by by” and “with with” and similar through the text. We also have “shall shall”. Take for example, Article 37(2), first line of Law 3190/1955: “The sale shall shall be carried out”.

While not a repetition of words, Article 40(4) of Law 3190-1955 contains “the this”:

“Within ten days from the lapse of the time period provided in paragraph (2) of the this Article…”.

General Conclusion

All in all, after having picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Mr Constantinos Lambadarios in the foreword, so to speak, asking for “comments or suggestions which could be used for the next edition of the book”, and after having exhaustively read and compared the texts against their Greek counterparts, the impression we garner is that the translations were not edited to the fullest extent (or at all). In fact, it appears that at no stage of the process, from translation to proofreading to editing to publishing, was a cursory spellcheck carried out, which would have immediately identified many of the errors highlighted above. Additionally, one gets the feeling the laws were translated by different people and while this is not a bad thing per se, coordination between the team of translators is required in order to avoid errors and inconsistencies; sadly, such coordination appears to have been lacking here.

Do these oversights and inconsistencies seriously affect the book’s reliability as a work of reference for translators? 

On balance, we would say no. Professional legal translators are the closest and most scrupulous readers of any text. They are likely to spot the errors and any possible mistranslation, recognise them as inconveniences and correct them in their own translations. What they are though is seriously annoying for the translator using this work, especially given the cost of the book,  but they are not fatal flaws. One would like to hope that any in future edition these points would be rectified and we remain at the disposal of Lambadarios and the publishers to correct the proofs of any second edition of this version or any future version.

A further recommendation for a future edition would be the inclusion of a glossary. Legal terms are highly context-bound. How a term is translated in the context of company law might not be how it would be translated in another context. A context-specific glossary would again promote accuracy in translated documents and improve legal certainty for the users of those documents.

So, would we recommend it to Greek-English legal translators? Probably yes, but …

Caveat interpres.

to be taken with a pinch of salt - the general conclusion about Greek Corporate Legislation
credit: Shutterstock

John O’Shea LL.B (Hons.) LL.M

Legal translator


Daniel Webber

Legal translator


[1] https://legaltranslationhub.org/articles/tools-of-the-legal-translators-trade/

[2] Ádám Fuglinszky – Réka Somssich, Language‑bound terms—term‑bound languages: the difficulties of translating a national civil code into a lingua franca, , Int J Semiot Law https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-020-09704-x

The call for proposals for “Jurilinguistics III: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Language and Law” has been extended to 18 March.

If you work in the fields of legal translation/interpreting, and have something interesting to say about them, the training of legal translators, or terminology resources in those fields, do consider submitting a paper. The last two editions in Seville were great. The third edition will be in Cambridge later this year (1-2 October 2020). Jurtrans will be there, and hopefully I’ll be presenting a paper.

For the second in our series of interviews with legal translators and experts in the field of legal translation, we have an interview with Daniel Webber, legal translator, who talks about the challenges he faces in his day-to-day work, how he overcomes them and the tools of his trade.

Continue Reading..

Ius et Translatum: English-Greek / Greek-English Legal Glossary – A review

Marta Chromá has written that “legal translation implies both a comparative study of different legal systems and an awareness of the problems created by the absence of equivalent concepts, legal institutions, terms and other linguistic units. As pointed out by Kischel … ‘the question in legal translation is not which translation is right, but more modestly, which one is less wrong’”[1].Continue Reading..

Launching a new series of interviews with legal translators and experts in the field of legal translation, we have an interview with Eleni Nanaki, Attorney at Law LL.M – author and publisher of the bilingual legal glossaries in the ius et translatum series who talks to us about challenges in legal translation as seen by an international lawyer…Continue Reading..

A couple of interesting talks on legal translation and court interpreting are coming up in the next few days and weeks…Continue Reading..

EULETA, the European Legal English Teachers’ Association, is hosting its annual conference on Legal English. The event takes place on 27-29 September, 2018 at the University of Split Law Faculty, in Croatia.

Featuring talks from many experienced legal translators and experts on legal language, the programme for the Legal English Conference can be found here. While the event may not be specifically focused on legal translation, the talks do cover various issues that are typically of concern to legal translators such as deontic modality, dictionaries and terminology, as well as collocations and fixed phrases. Could be an interesting event for anyone who translates legal documents into English.

According to the organisers, registration for the conference is open until the day of the event (€ 155 for members / € 195 for non-member). The conference fee includes a year’s membership of EULETA and covers all the conference meals.

The challenges and pitfalls of legal translation: an interview with John O’Shea

photoforwtodconfcopy

John is an experienced legal translator with a background in law. We asked him how he ventured into translation, how he deals with the specific challenges of his specialisation and what are some of the best ways to specialise in this field.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How and where did you first learn Greek and how did you decide to venture into legal translation?

Hi, I’m originally from Ireland. I lived in Greece for 15 years and now live in London. I’m a legal translator and have been doing this job for 21 years now. I was also recently elected to the Board of FIT Europe.

I started learning Greek when I was at university, doing some research about environmental law; the idea was to compare the legal systems in two peripheries of the European Union. From early on I had an interest in comparative law, which is an essential tool for any legal translator. I used to teach law too; and law –as you know- is all about language anyway. So it was easy for me to combine my knowledge of law with my interest in language.  The perfect combination for a legal translator.

What are the main challenges and “traps” when translating legal texts, especially between two different legal systems?

I studied law in Northern Ireland which has its own legal system within the UK, but of course it is based on the common law. The Greek legal system comes from a completely different tradition, based on Roman and civil law, so it can be very hard to describe the way things are done in the Greek context through the medium of English. Lots of things don’t match up, there are often no simple equivalents for terms, ideas or concepts. Plus with Greek you have a couple of added layers of difficulty and complexity: firstly, the switch from purist Greek to the demotic form; the purist form is still very evident in legal documents even today, and secondly the Greek in Cyprus, especially in a legal setting, is completely different from that in Greece: different terms, different concepts, different ways of seeing the world, different ways of presenting information. So translating from Greek to English can be a real challenge.

You need to have a very strong grasp of the two legal systems you are translating between; and a decent understanding of comparative law. Sometimes concepts may appear to be the same at a superficial level but when you take a comparative law approach, and peel back the layers you realise that what you thought was an easy equivalent, isn’t in fact equivalent at all because the concept in each legal system has a slightly different focus. I remember a paper given at a legal translation conference in early 2017 which talked about negligence in 3 different legal systems; but in each system the losses which were being compensated were radically different. Can we really say that negligence in system A is the same as in system B when it is rectifying a different sort of wrong? As a legal translator you really need to be attuned to that sort of detail which means that in-depth research needs to be a core part of what you do.

How do you approach legal terms that have no precise equivalent in the target language?

Let’s take the example of antiparochi; it became common in Greece in the 50s, 60s and 70s as the country experienced a building boom as people flooded into the cities and anyone with land found it tempting to hand the land over to a contractor who would build an apartment building and give the landowner a couple of flats in return. There isn’t anything like it in the UK that I am aware of. If you check the legal dictionaries they will give various terms that don’t really reflect what the term is really about. That tends to be a major problem with legal dictionaries; often they provide no context for when the suggested terms should be used, and offer no clues as to how to decide between the choices available.

That’s where some knowledge of translation theory can be very useful. It suggests that there are various tools and techniques available to the translator; you can’t just rely on a dictionary. These include the use of calques, loan words or neologisms, even translator’s notes to provide an explanation about what the term means. Which approach you use will often depend on who your client is. If you know the document is intended to be read by lawyers and filed in court you need to be as precise as possible; if the client is someone buying an apartment then you can a bit more lax because their primary concern is to understand what they are agreeing to. So how you translate a term, especially one for which there is no easy equivalent, will vary depending on context. You hear a lot of suggestions about what antiparochi should be in English, but my personal favourite is land-for-flats system.  Simple, easy-to-understand, and to the point.

Sometimes concepts may appear to be the same at a superficial level but when you take a comparative law approach and peel back the layers you realise that what you thought was an easy equivalent, isn’t in fact equivalent at all because the concept in each legal system has a slightly different focus.

What would you advise colleagues who wish to specialise in legal translation? How should they go about it?

There’s a massive debate in the legal translation literature about whether someone who has studied law or someone who has studied translation makes the best legal translator. I can’t answer that definitively but from my experience someone without a background in law is at more of a disadvantage because they need to learn the law of two countries, of two legal systems. Someone with a background in law already has a foot on the ladder, and simply needs to become an expert in the other system.

Legal training equips your mind with certain tools that make it much easier to figure out things in the second legal system. I’m not saying it is impossible for someone without legal training to become a legal translator, it just requires a lot more hard work, study and effort; plus the risks of errors being made is definitely higher. That’s not to say that you will never make errors if you’ve studied law then come to translation. To err is human after all.

If you come to legal translation from a translation background, areas you really need to focus on are comparative law, to be able to distinguish between different conceptualisations of the world by different legal systems; procedural law in both systems (how the courts work, how legal proceedings are filed, and so on); the substantive areas of law you are interested in working in -say contract law or land law-; and, strange as it may sound, legal philosophy. A legal translator needs to be able to understand how a lawyer reasons, how he or she thinks, how he or she conceptualises things, put arguments, uses hypothetical reasoning and so on. A firm grounding in legal philosophy can help with that. And of course, legal philosophy in the common law and civil law is very different, so you need to read up on both.

You asked me how to go about specialising in legal translation.

If you come from a translation background, get a law degree ideally. In Greece there are no degree courses in legal translation, you’d have to go abroad to do that. The University of London will be offering one from autumn this year. Other European countries offer great degree courses in legal translation for their own languages.  University of Trieste has great expertise in the field for Italian, for example.

If doing another degree is prohibitive, read as widely as possible about the two legal systems you are interested in.

If you come from a legal background, either study translation or read widely about translation theory before diving straight into translation, and of course make sure your language skills in both languages are strong.

Continuous professional development is also vital. You can’t possibly know all areas of law but you can acquire expertise in certain areas, just like lawyers do. So regularly attending conferences on law and on legal translation is important; especially conferences on law because the law is always developing and changing and it pays to keep up to date.

What are some good resources in the Greek to English / English to Greek language combination?

This is one of the major problems with languages of limited diffusion. A major lack of resources targeted at translators. Basically there are few resources in the field. There are some books in Greek, like Prof. Krimpas’ excellent book on legal terminology, but they can be counted on one hand. A couple of the Greek legal codes have been translated into English; the quality varies a lot from below average to ok; plus lots of the key texts have never been properly translated. What you tend to end up with is everyone translating laws / codes differently, whereas with major languages like French and German, official translations of key legislation and codes are easily available.

But the major problem is a lack of decent dictionaries. I’ve already said that dictionaries won’t solve all the problems or answer all the questions but they are good starting point. The problem with GR-EN / EN-GR is that there is paucity of good legal dictionaries. There are in fact quite a few legal dictionaries in that combination, they just tend to be problematic: mere word lists in effect, or a massive choice of potential things to choose from, but no explanation of how to differentiate between them.  In other languages like French, academics or even individual translators have prepared legal dictionaries designed to overcome those problems. In Greece, we haven’t quite got to that stage.

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The Crépeau Centre, in collaboration with the Network of Jurilinguistics Centres, has just announced the programme for the 12th Summer Institute of Jurilinguistics to be held at McGill University’s Faculty of Law on  15 June 2018.

summer institute of jurilinguistics

Continue Reading..

Excellent news as the LLM in Legal Translation is relaunched as a blended learning degree.Continue Reading..


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