Category: Legal Translation

Straight off the press, a great new article on “What exactly is legal translation?” by Dr. Juliette Scott has just been published on the IALS/IMLR Legal Translation Hub looking at “what it involves, where it happens, why professionals are needed, how to get into the profession, and what the future holds”.

Click here to read the article.

 

 

Following on from the previous post about upcoming conferences relevant to legal translation, language and law, a few more conferences on the topic have been drawn to my attention by colleagues. Many thanks!

So adding these 2, that makes a total of 7 more conferences on legal translation this year.Continue Reading..

Hard on the heels of the very interesting event “Legal translation to the next level” held on 4 February here in London come a series of other events and conferences all relating to the topic.  The tagline for the London conference was that legal translators should ‘roar to the world’ about their existence.  Another 5 conferences happening this year will certainly help get the message out there about what legal translators do and the important role they play. So here’s a quick round-up of forthcoming legal translation events:Continue Reading..

Thankfully more and more legal translation events are being organised, as yesterday’s post pointed out.

In fact next week there are two legal translation events coming up which look to be interesting:

What exactly is legal translation?

Next week (8/12/2016) IALS/SOAS are jointly hosting a seminar entitled ‘What exactly is legal translation?’ presented by Dr. Juliette Scott of wordstodeeds fame and a key advocate of the importance of professionalising legal translation and improving quality in the sector. The seminar will be  looking at “what [legal translation] is, where it happens and the risks involved”.

This legal translation event will take place in central London and admission is free, though you do need to book in advance.

5th annual Lawyer-Linguists virtual event

Next Thursday (8/12) also happens to be the date of the 5th annual Lawyer-Linguists virtual event, an online legal translation event aimed at those utilising their professional qualifications in law and translation to provide legal translation and interpreting services. According to the event’s website some of the topics to be discussed are:

  • Pro Bono Opportunities for Lawyer-Linguists
  • Working as a Lawyer-Linguist for the European Court of Justice (Freelancers and In-House)
  • The Lawyer-Linguist as CEO
  • Maintaining a Law Practice as a Lawyer-Linguist
  • The Lawyer-Linguist as Interpreter
  • Foreign Language Document Review: The State of the Industry
  • Training for Lawyer-Linguists

Registration for the event is free.

Words to Deeds Conference 2017: Legal translation to the next level

February 2017 also sees the Words to Deeds Conference 2017: Legal translation to the next level, which will be hosted in central London.

As a complement to the conference itself, there will also be a series of pre- and post-conference events by leading practitioners and academics in the field of legal translation, covering corpus linguistics and its relationship to legal translation, bijuralism and bilingual drafting, and legal translation of EU texts. More information about this conference and the side events can be found on the Words to Deeds blog and conference website.

 

The role of legal translators, and of legal translation as an activity, is attracting increasing attention, with a host of conferences having been organised on the subject or closely related topics in recent years.

I’ve recently returned from a very interesting and productive conference in Seville entitled, “From Legal Translation to Jurilinguistics: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Language and Law” held at the Universidad Pablo   de Olavide in late October.

The recent conference in Seville emphasised the important role legal translators have to play

The recent conference in Seville emphasised the important role legal translators have to play

Some of the key themes that emerged at the conference for me were:

  • The vital communicative role that legal translators have to play

Prof. Jan Engberg, an expert in knowledge communication, stressed that legal translation is all about the translator being able to communicate specialised knowledge so that people (typically but not always lawyers) in one knowledge community can understand what is being said by people in another knowledge community. Legal translators mediate and broker the transfer of that knowledge and are interested in solving the linguistic problems that emerge in conveying knowledge. Their primary goal should be to create a text in the target situation that can be read in the right way by its audience. He stressed the importance of comparative law in this regard; which brings us to the next major theme at the conference.

  • The importance of comparative law skills for legal translators

Another broad theme at the conference was the importance of comparative law, and the importance of a transystemic approach to the study of law to enable legal translation to occur more easily because of greater understanding on the part of legal translators of what the concepts involved mean in, and across, legal systems; a topic addressed by Prof. Emerich in her keynote address.

  • How important it is for legal translators to correctly position themselves in the market

Building on the vital communicative role legal translators play, Juliette Scott, emphasised in her presentation the importance of legal translators correctly positioning themselves in the market, and stressed how important it is for legal translators to choose the correct terms when referring to themselves, primarily because of the impact this has on how the market perceives them as professionals.

  • The growing importance of corpuses for identifying language patterns and for aiding consistency and improving quality in legal translation

In her keynote speech Prof. L. Biel examined the historical development of corpuses in translation and discussed the importance of corpuses so far as a research tool. Since legal language is highly patterned and formulaic, corpuses are proving useful in identifying these patterns; though some translation studies have indicated that despite such high formulaicity, translators often have a tendency to use their own phrases rather than the patterns that would typically be used in corresponding target language texts. Somehow “translation as a process” is interfering. It is to be hoped that corpuses can be operationalised to ensure greater consistency across languages to improve translation quality. Gianluca Pontrandolfo also presented interesting corpus-based research on judicial phraseology, and several other speakers provided practical examples of how corpuses can promote better quality legal translations.

  • The need for better quality legal dictionaries

On a related point, several speakers analysed the difficulties one often encounters with legal dictionaries and presented projects aimed at creating better quality legal dictionaries or glossaries, presenting some interesting methodologies such as the ‘least bad possible equivalents’ for terms when two legal systems do not have the same concepts (Frison & Gavrilova) or a participative, interactive glossary-development process (Fiola).

  • The role of the EU’s directive on translation and interpreting in criminal settings

Several other papers addressed the progress made so far in adapting the law in various EU countries to the requirements of the recent directive on translation and interpreting in criminal settings, revealing that transposition has not always been a smooth process.

 

 

Legal dictionaries, legal lexicography and legal translation

Over the years academics in the field of legal translation such as Marta Chroma and Coen Van Laer have been highly vocal about the need for good quality legal dictionaries to assist legal translators in their task. Of course, legal dictionaries can’t provide all the answers but are still an essential tool.

I’ve written extensively about the quality of Greek-English legal dictionaries in the past, indicating that the quality of these essential tools for getting legal translations done is affected by a great many factors. Sadly, existing dictionaries out there tend to score very poorly when judged by their fitness for purpose. Most are mere word lists and lack the sort of information that legal translators need to navigate the difficult seas from source to target language, culture and legal system. That is especially true for the Greek-English language combination.

Academic articles are regularly published on legal lexicography but a relatively new, comprehensive book on the subject is a welcome addition. Prof. Łucja Biel, University of Warsaw, recently published a review of Legal Lexicography. A Comparative Perspective. Law, Language and Communication which was published in 2014 by Ashgate Press and edited by Máirtín Mac Aodha. She said, “Definitely, it is a must-read for legal translation and legal language researchers”. With that in mind, I’ve ordered a copy.

Legal lexicography, legal dictionaries and legal translation

Legal Lexicography. A Comparative Perspective. Law, Language and Communication

Overview of the book

Until the book arrives, let’s take a quick look at Prof. Biel’s review and see what her overview can tell us about state of play.

Firstly, legal lexicography is a complicated field with many aspects, encompassing terminology and translation. It also covers both mono- and bi-lingual dictionaries, as well as printed and online versions of these language resources. It’s a field where technology is important and thankfully technology is starting to play an ever increasing role. Two chapters of the book (by Sandrini and Nielsen) look at the importance of shifting towards digital solutions and how this could improve the quality of legal dictionaries. Prof. Biel concurs, arguing that, “Digital technology makes it possible to better structure masses of data and to retrieve information adapted to user needs (communicative and cognitive functions) as regards its content and quantity”. In my older review of GR-EN legal dictionaries, the dictionary which was also available in electronic format also scored highest.

Secondly, the way in which a legal dictionary is prepared, decisions about the sort of dictionary it will be, and questions of the  intended audience (lawyers? judges? translators? the public?) all affect the quality of the final dictionary and determine how the dictionary should be judged and its fitness for purpose.

Thirdly, a point I’ve raised before about the need for GR-EN legal dictionaries to be more descriptive is also raised by Coen Van Laer in his chapter in the book. He argues that bilingual legal dictionaries for translators could be improved by including an optimal amount of encyclopaedic information. Van Laer argues that dictionaries should assess the degree of equivalence between concepts in the source and target language; to do that, he stresses, entries should include source and target legislative definitions to allow for their comparison, especially for core and incongruous concepts. Prof. Biel makes the following comments on this point, “Indisputably, this solution would be of valuable help to translators; however, I have doubts as to its feasibility due to the following constraints: legal systems differ in their reliance on legislative definitions; there are not that many terms that have legislative definitions; legislative definitions of a term may differ across statutes and branches of law and, finally, in the case of languages which are used in various jurisdictions, how many definitions do we place in an entry …? It should be admitted though that this solution offers an ideal to strive towards.”

To sum up, the book appears to offer an extensive overview of the field of legal lexicography, and its importance in legal translation. It will certainly make for interesting reading when it arrives.

TRANSIUS, the University of Geneva’s Centre for Legal and Institutional Translation Studies regularly hosts talks about important aspects of legal translation given by leading figures in the field. The next talk is scheduled for Wednesday 9 November 2016. The announcement reads as follows: “Mr Noureddine AHMIDOUCH (WIPO & FTI): “Translation and Legal (Un)Certainty in Emerging Intellectual Property Issues”. The lecture, which is part of the Transius Talk Series, will be held on Wednesday 9 November at 12.15pm in room 6020 of the Uni Mail building.”

 

 

Source: http://transius.unige.ch/en/news/latest-news/seminar/

There can be dire consequences from not translating legal content.

The Siemens bribery trial was characterised by many this past summer as a trial ‘lost in translation’. For those who don’t remember or know the topic, this case is about public contract No. 8002 which the German company Siemens secured and signed in 1997 with the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) which was then publicly owned in order to digitise its network. The investigation of the case was launched by Greek judicial authorities about a decade ago and, as a result, 64 suspects were brought to trial. Amongst them were 13 German nationals, executives of the German company, as well as a French-Swiss banker. According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly bribed Greek politicians and public officials to secure the above mentioned public contract.

On the 12th of July the three-member Court of Appeals in Athens suspended proceedings in the Siemens scandal case for an indefinite period, because the subpoena and the bill of indictment hadn’t been translated into the defendants’ native language. The Court accepted the plea filed by the non-Greek defendants and suspended proceedings until the translation could be completed, even though this suspension could lead to the crimes being prescribed under the statute of limitations. Of course, that is the only decision the Court could have reached, since the right to interpretation and translation for those who do not speak or understand the language of the proceedings is enshrined in Article 6 of the ECHR, as interpreted in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and is further specified by the Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council. According to the Directive the Member States should ensure that there is free and adequate linguistic assistance, allowing suspected or accused persons who do not speak or understand the language of the criminal proceedings fully to exercise their right of defence and safeguarding the fairness of the proceedings. Article 3 of the Directive also makes it quite clear that, “Safeguarding the fairness of the proceedings requires that essential documents, or at least the relevant passages of such documents, be translated for the benefit of suspected or accused persons in accordance with this Directive.  Certain documents should always be considered essential for that purpose and should therefore be translated, such as any decision depriving a person of his liberty, any charge or indictment, and any judgment.”

So quite rightly not translating legal content essential for the case was characterised as an even bigger scandal than the Siemens scandal.  The Translation Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which the translation of those documents was assigned, initially stated that all the documents sent to it by the Prosecution Service at the Court of Appeals were translated in time, while the Prosecution Service denied that that was so. After a number of further denials of each side’s claims by the other side, as well as disciplinary actions against State Prosecutors, the Translation Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered the translation of the bill of indictment in the German language on the 15th of September.

But what can we learn from this case about the consequences of not translating legal content?

  1. What happened confirms that legal translation is still considered as an unnecessary and trivial service in Greece, even by some legal professionals themselves. It is worth noting that in the preparatory stage of the proceedings a State Prosecutor didn’t grant the request for the translation of the bill of indictment made by the non-Greek nationals, on the grounds that the defendants had already provided a statement of defence and had been apprised of the charge sheet, therefore the translation of the bill of indictment was not necessary. The content of legal documents though is what determines the outcome of a court case. In criminal matters, by issuing a bill of indictment the Judicial Council is in effect deciding to bring the defendant to trial, if it finds that there is sufficient evidence to support the charges against him. The content of that document will shape the defendant’s defence and will determine a number of other rights that he has under Greek law, such as =his right to appeal the decision of the Judicial Council. Let’s hope that the Siemens story doesn’t need to be repeated, before we can realise how important the translation of legal documents is, both in and out of the courtroom, and what consequences not translating legal content can have.
  1. The services of legal translators should be engaged from the outset in legal cases where it is anticipated that there will be a need for legal content to be translated, in order for delays of this kind to be avoided. Legal translators are not only valuable, but also necessary aides in cases where there are foreign elements.  So choose your translators from the outset and keep them updated about any developments or changes in your case. How much faster would the Siemens case have progressed from one stage to the next, if the services of legal translators had been engaged from the beginning and if the translation of every essential legal document had been secured right after it was drafted?
  1. Assign the translation of your legal documents to specialised translators, who know the legal system of the country in which the documents are being drafted, as well as the legal system of the country into whose language they are translating. Let’s not forget that the essential aim of the translation in the Siemens case was to provide the foreign defendants with the opportunity to exercise their right to defend themselves. No matter how good the German language skills of the translators are, if they are not familiar with the legal system of Greece, they won’t be able to grasp the meaning of the terms found in legal documents. No matter how well they know the Greek legal system, if they are not familiar with German legal terminology as well, they won’t be able to choose the most suitable term, in order to fulfil the aim of the translation for its final recipient.

Besides the Siemens case, there are also other cases where not translating legal content had adverse consequences and often incurred extra costs. A recent excellent example we have already highlighted was the WhatsApp

Sources: http://www.cnn.gr/news/ellada/story/42369/areios-pagos-peitharxiki-dioxi-kata-trion-eisaggeleon-gia-tin-ypothesi-siemens

 

By Eva Angelopoulou

Eva is an English / German to Greek legal translator. She holds a Master’s in Law and a Postgraduate Degree in Specialised Translation. She worked as a legal practitioner in Greece for 7 years and has been bringing her expertise and knowledge to the translation industry for the last 3 years. She is an SDL-certified translator and is obsessed with languages. Besides working with language, she also really enjoys travelling. She has lived in Greece, Germany and Belgium and is now based in Ireland.

It is not just legal language that can be difficult to comprehend for the layman and legal translator alike. Often, it is the very content of legal texts that is strange. And the UK has no shortage of bizarre British laws if authors and journalists are to be believed.

From time to time books are published about England’s weird and wonderful laws. Nigel Crawthorne’s The Strange Laws of Old England (2004) is a hilarious case in point. And today the Guardian published a short story about a study commissioned by an insurance company that looks at whether obscure legislation is really needed. It offers a list of the 10 most bizarre British laws “to highlight the complexity and antiquity of statutes that remain in force”. The study has been prepared by a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge and -as is normally the case with lists or compilations of this type- contains some truly odd stuff.

Here are some short excerpts from the article:

“Section 12 of the 1872 Licensing Act declares that “every person found drunk … on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty”. It was enacted to reduce consumption of alcohol and to encourage sobriety among the poor. It remains in force within England and Wales as a rule prohibiting public drunkenness.

The Metropolitan Police Act 1839 makes it an offence for any person to carry any cask, tub, hoop, wheels, ladders, planks or poles on a footway “except for the purpose of loading or unloading any cart or carriage”. It was passed to ensure people could move freely along public thoroughfares without obstruction.

MPs are prohibited from wearing armour in parliament by the Bearing of Armour Act which dates back to 1313. It was an attempt by Edward II to prevent nobles from threatening to use force when parliament was called. The Earl of Lancaster, it was reported, still attended parliament carrying weapons until at least 1319.

… a different part of the 1872 Licensing Act … outlaws being drunk in charge of cattle; the 1986 Salmon Act – intended to ban poaching – makes it illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances; a 19th-century law bans the beating of carpets after 8am on streets in London.”

To read the full article about these bizarre British laws, click here.

 

 

Over recent years there has been increasing interest in ‘professionalizing’ legal translation and court interpreting, with a series of academic papers on the subject, many of which are of interest to legal translators and court interpreters. Much of this has been as a direct result of  Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to translation and interpretation in criminal proceedings, which has stimulated debate across Europe on the need for better court interpreters and highlighted the importance of getting legal translation right. Against this background, this November Cambridge Scholars Publishing will release a book on legal translation entitled “Towards the Professionalization of Legal Translators & Court Interpreters in the EU”, edited by Martina Bajčić and Katja Dobrić Basaneže, both of whom teach at the Faculty of Law in Rijeka, Croatia.

The description of the forthcoming book provided by the publisher is as follows:

“The profession of legal translators and interpreters has been unjustly neglected despite its relevant role in international and multilingual legal settings. In order to bridge this gap, this volume brings together contributions from some of the leading experts in the field, including not only scholars, but also internationally acclaimed professional legal translators and interpreters. Coming from different EU Member States, the contributors address the status quo of the profession of legal translators and interpreters within their respective states, while proposing ways to raise the standards of the profession. In particular, effort is made to make the profession more uniform Union-wide in terms of training and accreditation of legal translators and interpreters and quality of their services. Topics covered include ISO standards for interpreting services in judicial settings, EULITA, Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to translation and interpretation in criminal proceedings, legal translation, translation of multilingual EU legislation, document translation, whispered interpreting, and the need to introduce uniform programmes for the education and training of legal translators and interpreters. Offering a mix of theory and practice, the book will appeal to scholars, practitioners and students with a special interest in legal translation and interpretation in the EU.”

Certainly sounds like it will make an interesting read for legal translators and court interpreters, though the book is set to retail at £ 61.99, which may mean it has a small audience.


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