Eva Angelopoulou provides her overview of events for legal translators and interpreters held earlier this year by EULITA:Continue Reading..
Eva Angelopoulou provides her overview of events for legal translators and interpreters held earlier this year by EULITA:Continue Reading..
On Thursday, 21 September, the University of Birmingham will host a seminar on ” Law, translation and migration: an enlightening relationship”. The event is free but requires pre-registration. The announcement about the event and the full programme are reproduced below:
“Challenges of legal translation have existed for a long time in international law and international relations. However, the intense process of globalization since the latter half of the 20th century has led to a rapid increase of international treaties and agreements, regional governance, international organizations, NGOs and courts as well as growing reliance on international arbitration.
Much of this globalized legal work is performed through translation. In spite of its long history and recent proliferation, legal translation remains underexplored, particularly from a socio-legal perspective. In fact, research on the intersection of law and translation has tended to concentrate on a rather limited agenda with broader issues being neglected. Therefore, migration is an appropriate and innovative lens to pursue this broader investigation and to tackle the following key issues: what are the various effects of globalisation on this intersection? What is the impact of legal translation on the acceptance of concepts and ideas into other (legal) cultures? What are the effects of the ‘translated’ word on the perception of the very phenomena it portrays?
This seminar will not only further our understanding of the intersection of law and translation, but it will advance knowledge and analysis on migration, an issue central to our times. By addressing the intersection of law and translation in this way, it will reveal novel questions, effects or links to migration, thus advancing the intellectual agenda of the socio-legal community.”
Professor Ann-Marie Fortier – University of Lancaster (Department of sociology):
‘On (not) speaking English: colonial legacies in language requirements for British citizenship’
Professor Eleanor Spaventa – University of Durham (School of Law):
“Language and the internal market”
Professor François Grin – Université de Genève (Faculty of translation and interpreting)
“Language, mobility and inclusion in the EU: the MIME project”
Professor Lucja Biel – University of Warsaw (Faculty of applied linguistics):
‘Translation and the law: A case study of a corpus of (legal) translation on migration’
Professor Loredana Polezzi – University of Cardiff (School of Modern Languages):
‘The portrayal in contemporary literary texts of the relationship between migration, translation and the law”
Professor Angela Creese & Professor Adrian Blackledge – University of Birmingham (School of Education):
‘Translation in everyday practice”
Dr Frances Rock – University of Cardiff (School of English, communication and philosophy)
“Just because she’s a solicitor that doesn’t make her any better than you”: Law, translation and migration in confronting disadvantage through enlightened relationships in legal advice”
Dr Elpida Loupaki – Aristotle University of Thessalonika (Department of French studies and literature):
‘Translating migration – beyond terminology’
Piotr Wegorowski – University of Cardiff (School of English, communication and philosophy)
“Translating institutional procedures: the case of community policing”
Tools of the legal translator’s trade, a new blog by me published today on the IALS Legal Translation hub looking at the various tools legal translators use in their profession. Click here to read more:
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?
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
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.
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.
In one of our previous posts we talked about the cultural inconsistencies in legal translation that often come up and specifically about inconsistencies in the realia. In this post, we are going to talk about the ways in which the legal translator can tackle these inconsistencies.
We gave an example using the term “fiduciary” and its Greek translation, but we concluded that there isn’t an equivalent term that has the exact same meaning and an identical content in the Greek legal system. What needs to be stressed here is the fact that the legal translator is able to reach this conclusion only if he is familiar with the law of both the legal systems involved: the legal system from which the source text comes and the legal system from which the target text comes. Familiarity with the first will enable the translator to have a clear grasp of the meaning, the content and the function of the concept, the term or the realia that he needs to translate. Familiarity with the second will enable him to look for the respective concept, term or realia in the target language.
As in the example that we used in our previous post, in the case where there isn’t an equivalent concept, term or realia, the translator should embrace the interpretative approach, aiming at the same time to ensure that the final recipient of the text will be able to understand it. The target text will be used in the context of a different legal system by people familiar only with their own legal system. The translator’s aim should be to clearly present the foreign legal system, without altering the structure and the legal effect of the text and of course without adding to or subtracting from the amount of information that the final recipient will draw from his translated text.
Hard? Yes. Impossible? No.
In any case, the legal translator should contact his client and advise him about the implications that arise from the inconsistencies of the two cultures involved, as well as about the ways in which he is planning to tackle those cultural inconsistencies in legal translation.
In our example I chose to translate the term “fiduciary” as “διαχειριστής αλλότριας περιουσίας” (administrator of another’s affairs), drawing my inspiration from the concept of “management of another’s affairs/voluntary agency” (διοίκηση αλλοτρίων) in Article 730 of the Hellenic Civil Code. The reason that the English term couldn’t have been translated as “διοικητής αλλοτρίων” (manager of another’s affairs/voluntary agent) is because there is a crucial difference between those two concepts: the agent mentioned in Article 730 of the Greek Civil Code manages the affairs of another person, but acts without authority, while the fiduciary acts under a mandate.
Just like any translator, the legal translator should also cultivate his multiculturalism, as this is a necessary professional tool. Since any form of cross-language communication is also cross-cultural communication (Vlachopoulos, p. 36) and every legal system is created within a specific culture, it is more than necessary for the legal translator to be aware of and be exposed to his own, as well as the foreign culture. This is the very heart of the role of the professional legal translator, as he is the person responsible for transferring the message and the content of the legal text from one culture to the other and finding solutions to the legal inconsistencies in his legal translation.
According to Vlachopoulos, who in turn refers to the research of Maddux & Galinsky in the field of business administration (Vlachopoulos, p. 37), simply knowing the language, as a sum of finite linguistic units and syntactical mechanisms, without being aware of the cultural elements reflected in the usage of a specific word or in the usage of a specific syntactical mechanism and without being conscious of the significance these elements bear in the foreign culture, dooms every effort of cross-cultural communication to failure. In other words, lack of awareness of the cultural parameters defeats creative understanding and leads to a linear and uncritical transfer of structures of the source language to the target language. It leads, above all, to an uncritical transfer of the thought structures of the source culture to the target culture. Vlachopoulos then he goes on to say that it is necessary for the translator to be familiar with the cultures with which he is working, so that, firstly, he can possess the knowledge and the experience that will support his understanding of the target culture and secondly, to be able to assess the acceptance criteria and in this way be able to converge to the highest possible extent with the communication standards that he is required to respect.
In the context of cross-cultural communication, therefore, the skilled legal translator should possess an awareness of the legal culture of both countries and keep himself constantly informed about new legislation, new case-law and the changes taking place in his own, as well as in the foreign legal system.
By Eva Angelopoulou
Translation of legal documents and complicated legal language
On 29 June, I attended an interesting afternoon about the drafting of legislation and some of the difficulties it poses, with some discussion of the translation of legal documents thrown in too and a lot of interesting input from the audience from legal interpreters who often have to deal with the complexities of legal language and explain them to the ordinary man.
6 speakers presented different issues relating to law and language (and raised the topic of legal translation). Brief summaries are set out below that highlight the key issues of interest in the translation of legal documents.
Hayley Rogers, a UK legislative drafter, outlined the UK legislative drafting process and some of the difficulties it presents. She argued that legislative drafters tend to see themselves as ‘architects’ but often the practicalities of the drafting process mean they are actually more akin to ‘cowboy builders’ creating chaotic-looking legislation because of a series of constraints (primarily political and policy-related) imposed on the drafters. So instead of striving for perfection they often just have to cope with the world ‘as it is’. This may resonate with legal translators who face demands for perfection from clients, but are constrained by real world factors like short delivery deadlines.
Prof. Maria De Benedetto spoke about how the language of the law is often incomprehensible to the layman, how it is a language of the elite, and outlined some of the techniques those who speak the language of the law utilise to maintain their elite status, such as reliance on Latin when ordinary people are unlikely to comprehend it.
James Hadley is new to legal translation as a discipline but comes from a strong background in translation theory. He is currently involved in a project being run by the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) exploring some of these key questions that arise when laws and legal documents need to be translated from one language to another. His presentation looked at equivalence and legal translation and his working hypothesis is that equivalence (defined as “the notion that a translated text produces the same effect for its readers as the source text did for its own” may be demonstrable in legal language.
He posited that those who are capable of doing legal translations properly will need to have a very specific skill set, represented by the following Venn diagram:
Nothing original here, but it is always good that key issues in the discipline are presented to new audiences and that more people become educated about legal translation and what it entails, who can do it, and so on.
It will be interesting to hear more about his research as it becomes available. According to the School of Advanced Studies website, the larger project that Hadley’s research relates to will look at who legal translators should be, how to assess the quality of their work, and what issues reading a legal document may raise from a language / law viewpoint. Legal translation is taking place all the time, and may entail the translation of laws that have the same effect as the original language version in bi- and multi-lingual jurisdictions. Outside of an institutional context, that sort of legal translation is a rarity. Much more common is the translation of legal documents for other reasons: international commerce, the purchase of land, employees working in other countries needing to know their rights. Legal language is complicated though; often dubbed negatively as ‘legalese’ which is difficult to understand even for native speakers of the source language. To quote the School’s announcement about the upcoming project, “That being the case, and legal traditions around the world being so variable, it is easy to see how translating legal documents from one language to another would be no mean feat. Even if you do happen to speak both languages, you also need to understand, and be able to reproduce the respective forms of legalese with an extremely high degree of technical accuracy.”
William Robinson, Associate Research Fellow at IALS, spoke about the complexities of the EU drafting process, highlighting the important role of translators in the overall process.
Stephen Neale, Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics, examined the question of ‘interpreting’ the meaning of words and highlighted the importance of context in coming up with good and bad faith interpretations of what legal words actually mean. He pointed out that judges, often considered to be the final arbiters of what the law ‘means’ often don’t have a strong grasp of linguistics, and gave some examples of ‘weird’ outcomes in cases where the judges appeared to go against the ‘common sense’ meaning of the words. His assertion is that there is a set of heuristics we use all the time to figure out the common sense meaning intended by others and that intrinsically we all know when an ‘interpretation’ is in bad faith.
Jerome Tessuto provided a data-driven analysis of how writing styles and language conventions from one country can influence those of another, by looking at the impact of English arbitration legislation on Singapore’s arbitration legislation. He pointed out that while deontic modality, and the use of shall in particular, is on the decline in English legislation because of the impact of the Plain Language movement, his data revealed that it was still important in Singaporean legislation, though an audience member who was a legislative drafter from Singapore pointed out that recently that has begun to change.