Category: Legal Translation

“Legal texts are translated in vaster quantities than books and in more varied directions. Dreary as it may seem to all but legal eagles, the translation of law is a prerequisite for the construction and maintenance of a global society. Without it, business and diplomacy would come to a stop. But there’s something important to learn from it. Law is the very model of an untranslatable text, because the language of the law is self-enclosed, and refers to nothing outside of itself. In practice however, laws do get translated, because they must.”


David Bellos, Is that a fish in your ear? Translation and the meaning of everything, p. 224

In the field of legal translation, “the challenge is to show the ‘courage of creativity’ within the restraints of the law. This demonstrates the need for a flexible methodology offering creative techniques to translate legal texts and ultimately improve the quality of legal translations. In the age of increasing employment of computer programs also in the legal translation process, the creativity debate is a unique incentive to further strengthen a transdisciplinary approach to the translation task and to develop creative strategies to adequately meet the many and difficult problems arising in legal translation. Concretising the novel understanding of creative freedom in translating legal texts will make the modern legal translator increasingly aware of his creative potential and show him how to make the most of his opportunities to be creative.”


Source: S. Pommer, No Creativity in legal translation? Babel 54/2008, 355-368, 367,

A ‘Forum on Quality in Legal Translation’ is being organised on 6 June 2016 by the Institute of Applied Linguistics, University of Warsaw and the DGT Field Office in Poland as part of the #TranslatingEurope project and is one of a series of Translating Europe Workshops taking place in all EU Member States. The forum will look at quality in legal translation from three perspectives: the academic, market and training perspectives, with panels moderated by experts in the field of legal translation.

The draft programme is available at:


The Institute of Applied Linguistics, University of Warsaw

The DGT Field Office in Poland

Keynote speakers:

Prof. Fernando Prieto Ramos, University of Geneva

Prof. Hendrik Kockaert, KU Leuven.

Quality in Legal Translation

The Academic Perspective moderated by Dr Anna Jopek-Bosiacka

The Market Perspective moderated by Dr Agnieszka Biernacka

The Training Perspective moderated by Dr hab. Łucja Biel



The Transius Centre will hold a Symposium on Corpus Analysis in Legal Research and Legal Translation Studies on 3 June 2016.

As part of this symposium, speakers will discuss how to make corpus analysis more accessible and fruitful in applied research. The advantages and challenges of using different types of corpora and analytical methods will be examined from various interdisciplinary angles.

The symposium will be preceded by a seminar on corpus querying and statistics for corpus linguistics led by Dr Aleksandar TRKLJA (University of Birmingham) in the afternoon of Thursday 2 June. The aim of this seminar is to introduce participants to basic principles and methods of corpus linguistics for the study of interdisciplinary issues in monolingual and multilingual contexts.

For more details please visit the following website:

Registration is now open. Please note that there is a limited number of places to participate, and that they will be attributed on a first-come, first-served basis.




I was recently reading this interesting article by Andrew Nickels about the clauses “subject to”, “notwithstanding” and “without prejudice” and it got me thinking how useful the clarification of these terms would be for the purposes of legal translation.

Every legal translator has encountered one or all of these terms in a contract or some other legal document they had to translate, either to or from English. These shorthand expressions prove to be useful tools in saving time when it comes to drafting a contract and that’s why lawyers and legal practitioners use them often.

What do they really mean though in plain English? Are they always used correctly? Continue Reading..

Considering the time legal translators spend on researching terminology for legal translations, it’s always useful to have helpful tools for the job.

MagicSearch is a new multilingual metasearch engine which allows users to look-up terms in multiple sources with a single click, meaning immense savings in terms of time and effort.

Users can customize the sources by changing the order the results appear in, or by adding or removing sources.

MagicSearch supports over 10,000 language pairs, including all 24 languages of the European Union. The engine searches in IATE, the terminology database of the European Institutions, but also in TAUS, ProZ, Linguee or Glosbe among others, meaning it could well prove to be a useful tool for finding the terminology that appears in legal translations.




By Eva Angelopoulou

Some interesting comments in this interview published in the Guardian about the ECJ, how the common law approach helped the workings of the Court, and some brief mentions of legal translation in the context of the Court.

Continue Reading..

A legal text always reflects a specific national legal system, in the sense that it is based on the laws, rules and regulations of that legal system. Any national legal system is, in turn, culture-based, since it is created in accordance with the needs of a specific culture and aims to ensure harmonious co-existence between the members of that culture. In this sense, law is an integral component of culture. Since no two cultures are identical, no national legal system can be identical to another, even if both of them belong to the same legal family. The logical consequence of this simple fact, and one that is of course anticipated by professional legal translators, is that difficulties and challenges are bound to come up while transferring a legal text’s message from one national legal system to another, due to the differences and non-equivalences between the respective legal systems. These differences and inconsistencies are, of course, also reflected in the legal language, which is the means of expressing the national law.

The differences therefore between the source culture and the target culture create inconsistencies in legal texts. There are different kinds of inconsistencies, but in this post we are going to talk about what is perhaps the most common kind of inconsistency that can be found in legal texts, one that arises due to the non-existence of a culture’s realia (institutions, concepts and systems) in another culture. This type of inconsistency is called factual inconsistency. I wonder if there is a professional legal translator who hasn’t encountered terms, phrases or concepts in legal texts that refer to realia that exist in the source culture, while no equivalent realia exist in the target culture. An example of a factual inconsistency that I recently encountered while translating an English legal text into Greek is the term “fiduciary”. This general term, that can be found in Common Law systems, refers to the person that somebody entrusted with the management of their affairs. The individual who acts as fiduciary is someone who undertakes to act for the benefit of and on behalf of the person who trusted them in relation to a particular affair. In bilingual English to Greek legal dictionaries the term fiduciary is usually translated as θεματοφύλακας (thematofylakas). The term θεματοφύλακας (thematofylakas) however refers to the contract of deposit under Article 822 of the Greek Civil Code, according to which “the depositary takes delivery from another person of a moveable thing with a view to keeping it subject to the undertaking of restitution upon demand”. It doesn’t take long for a professional legal translator, who is familiar with the Greek law of obligations, to realise not only that the term fiduciary cannot be translated as θεματοφύλακας (thematofylakas) in Greek, since a fiduciary relationship does not include only guarding a moveable thing, but also that there isn’t really an equivalent term or concept in the Greek legal system with exactly the same meaning and an identical content.

The next question that logically comes up is how should a legal translator tackle these inconsistencies?

We will try and give an answer to this question in a future post. In the meantime, you can read more about inconsistencies in legal texts and the legal translator’s approach in this article by Stefanos Vlachopoulos  in Greek or in this one  by Radegundis Stolze in English.


by Eva Angelopoulou

TransLaw 2016, Tampere, Finland – preliminary programme

Last year we reported on the announcement of a conference to be held in Tampere, Finland, entitled “Translation and Interpreting as a Means of Guaranteeing Equality under Law”.

You can read our post about the conference here.

The conference’s preliminary programme has now been released and there are a few talks that look really worthwhile from the viewpoint of legal translation.

For example, it might be interesting to find out how legal translators are certified in different countries (“Certifying legal translators – a comparative approach”). On the second day there is a talk entitled “Background knowledge of the legal systems involved as a precondition for successful translation”, which refers (i) to teaching methods for legal translation in Norway and (ii) to JurDist, an online course on legal translation for legal translators who translate from Norwegian into English, French, Spanish or German. Later the same day there’s another talk entitled “Translating deontic modality in legal texts”. Given current general trend in English towards simplifying the language of the law, this talk should provide an up-to-date picture of the subject of how the verb ‘shall’ can and should be used to express an obligation. The majority of other talks refer to legal interpreting in police and courtroom settings.

Registration for this conference closes on Monday, 4 April. For further details, including fees and accommodation, visit their website.


By: Eva Angelopoulou

The German Society for Forensic Linguistics (GSFL) has just announced an event indirectly relevant to legal translation which explores issues of language, evidence, multilingualism and the law, and court interpreting.
Continue Reading..


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