Category: Legal Translation

Does reputation matter?

What happens when a supreme court plugs MT into its website?

Check out the images below:

errors in translated name of supreme court errors in translated name of supreme court errors in translated name of supreme court

Remember we are talking about Greece’s most important court. Not just any old court.

Note that the court’s full and proper name already appears on its website in English.

It’s the MT plug-in that consistently gets it wrong.

The versions that appear in the reel are just some of the many different variants that it comes up with.

Words in law matter – even translated words

Critics will say, he’s going on again about MT, and that the translation is provided for information purposes only so there’s nothing to worry about.

Critics will also say that the court is offering the public a service, doing us a favour.

Are they?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact I’d say it’s a disservice. To reiterate: Words in law matter – even translated words

If the name of the court (something simple and straightforward) can’t be got consistently right, what does that say about the rest of the content generated?

Can anyone reading the machine-generated output think this is useful or helpful to them in any way?

When is a “service” not a service?

Let’s delve a little deeper into the idea that this is a service.

If you boil things down, a service is something you seek out, you pay for (typically) and which adds value.

A service involves doing something for someone that is valued.

It involves applying skill, competence and expertise for the benefit of another.

Providing automatically-translated versions of court judgments, while well-intentioned, hardly meets those requirements.

Broader considerations

It also raises several important legal policy and access to justice considerations.

Even if such translations are labelled as “for information purposes only” (often disclaimers like that are missing) and are viewed by some as better than no translation at all, there are valid counterarguments to consider:

Legal and Ethical Responsibility: Courts have a responsibility to ensure that their communications are clear, accurate, and accessible in the language of the court.

Why should that be any different if the court opts to provide translations?

Offering substandard translations could be seen as neglecting this responsibility, potentially undermining public trust in the judicial system.

Reliance and Legal Consequences:  Relying on machine translations for legal decision-making, even when they are marked as “for information purposes only,” poses significant risks, especially for those without access to professional translation services.

Court judgments, like other legal documents, are filled with complex terminology and nuanced language that machine translation often fails to accurately capture.

This can lead to misinterpretations about legal rights, obligations, and the judgment’s implications, resulting in incorrect decisions or unnecessary time and expense spent consulting legal advisors to correct misunderstandings.

Equal Access to Justice: Access to justice implies that everyone, regardless of language proficiency, should have equal access to legal information.

By providing low-quality translations, non-native speakers are disadvantaged, potentially violating the principle of equality before the law.

Recommendations

To address these issues, several recommendations could be considered:

Clear Disclaimers and Guidance: Provide clear disclaimers about the limitations of machine translations and guiding individuals to seek professional translation or legal advice for critical matters. 

Improving Translation Quality: Invest in higher-quality translation services, potentially combining machine translation with human review and editing, to ensure accuracy.

Consult with experts in legal translation: Develop a policy for your legal translations that helps reduce your exposure to reputational risk

… following on from yesterday’s post about AI essentials for lawyers with some thoughts on how that relates to legal translation

1. Generative AI in the Legal Sector: Legal translators have a head start here. They’ve been using neural machine translation (NMT) for several years now.

While it can be helpful in some instances, it may not fully grasp the nuances of legal language or be suitable for all legal documents.

Expert human translators remain indispensable. Without them the risks are high.

2. AI’s long-term impact: Legal translators are no strangers to technological developments. They monitor those developments and integrate tools into their workflow when appropriate. They’ve been doing this for a long time and will continue to do so.

3. Opportunities and risks: Legal translations generated without any human involvement put you at risk of having a document in which legal terms and concepts have been misinterpreted.

This can lead to significant legal repercussions.

Cost reduction may be a legitimate objective but when the price is someone’s freedom, rights, money, etc.

4. Intellectual property and data risks: Legal translators are well aware of the data risks of free MT and AI platforms.

Client confidentiality is a key concern for the profession.

NDAs and codes of professional codes of ethics covering these matters are common.

Sensitive legal documents should not be put through free MT or AI systems

5. Cybersecurity risks: GDPR awareness among legal translators is high.

6. Integrity of output and ethical concerns: Legal translators are familiar with NMT, a form of AI, its uses, and shortcomings.

Omissions, inconsistent renderings of key legal terms, are common in such systems. All these affect integrity of the legal words being translated.

The output suffers from an “illusion of fluidity”. Your clients need accuracy not something that appears accurate.

Can you guarantee that?

7. Reputational risks: Poor translations resulting from over-reliance on AI can damage a law firm’s reputation in the eyes of its clients.

Lawyers should be wary of trusting the machine too much given the complex nature of legal language.

Do you have policies in place to manage these risks?

8. Regulatory and professional responsibilities: Consider your professional duty to act diligently and safeguard your client’s interests.

Is providing a free / fast translation actually serving your client’s bests interests?

Think about how this ties into your own professional code of conduct

9. Risk management strategies: Lawyers are risk managers.

Legal translators are risk managers.

Expert translators exercise judgment and make informed decisions on the appropriateness of certain renderings of translated terms in a legal context, a skill that AI lacks.

They can also spot errors in the source document and point them out saving egg on your face.

10. Considerations for use in legal practice: Work closely with your legal translator.

Let them decide what tool is appropriate for the translation.

It may involve MT / AI.

It may not.

Trust in their expert knowledge.

Words matter in law – even translated words.

 

If you want to learn more, check out some research into this topic:

https://shorturl.at/nCL17

 In mid-November 2023 the Law Society of England and Wales released a short guide on the essentials of Generative AI for lawyers.

Check out our short 10-point summary …

Generative AI in the Legal Sector:

The emergence of generative AI in the legal sector offers new possibilities for increased technology adoption but also introduces various risks.

AI’s Long-term Impact: The long-term impact of generative AI on the legal profession is uncertain, though some law firms are already using and investing in these tools.
Opportunities and Risks: Generative AI may present opportunities for improved service, cost reduction, and meeting new client demands, but also comes with risks such as data and technology risks.
Intellectual Property and Data Risks: Concerns include potential copyright infringement, misuse or disclosure of confidential information, and data protection risks.
Cybersecurity Risks: Vulnerabilities to hacking, data breaches, and corruption of data sources are significant concerns.
Integrity of Outputs and Ethical Concerns: Generative AI could produce misleading or inaccurate outputs, and reflect societal biases present in training data, leading to unfair results.
Reputational Risks: Negative consequences for clients could lead to reputational and brand damage.
Regulatory and Professional Responsibilities: Ensure a comprehensive understanding of, and strict adherence to, regulatory and professional responsibilities, especially in relation to the use of generative AI within your legal practice.
Risk Management Strategies:  Conduct meticulous risk management by rigorously fact-checking all information. Perform due diligence in your practice. Always ensure compliance with all legal and ethical standards.
Considerations for use in Legal Practice: Examine the use of generative AI tools in your legal practice thoroughly, focusing on data management and client communication. Regularly assess the tool’s relevance and the added value it provides, while weighing these benefits against the potential risks involved.

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up post on how all this relates to legal translation

For legal translators the links are clear but our next post will spell them out for lawyers and law firms

I’m very happy to be able to share a post about machine translation, its use in professional settings and related questions of  liability, written by Wojciech Woloszyk,  a Polish lawyer linguist. Much obliged to him for drawing my attention to it and for allowing me to share it.

It concerns a recent case before the Polish courts that looked at liability for the improper use of machine translation. While the case did not involve legal translation (it involved translation of a book), it raises interesting points about how translation services are provided.

The original post in English can be accessed here but is also reproduced in full below with Wojciech’s kind permission.

LSP’s responsibility for the process of translation and the rules of using machine translation

THE PRECEDENT-SETTING RULING OF THE POLISH COURT IN A CASE ON THE USE OF MACHINE TRANSLATION IN THE PROCESS OF PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATION AND QUALITY SUPERVISION OVER SUCH PROCESS EXERCISED BY A TRANSLATION COMPANY

The use of ‘free’ applications and services provided by global technology giants, known collectively as GAFAM or BIG TECH, for the purpose of professional activities invariably spark many controversies, disputes, and doubts. On the one hand, we all understand that, in fact, there are no free services or goods. When we are offered any type of ‘free’ and ‘gratuitous’ products, a question should be asked: ‘With what have I paid for this, if not with money? If somebody else has paid, why is that and what will they want from me?’.

It should be noted that these observations concern business entities, as we may encounter real disinterestedness and gratuitousness, for instance, in the case of philanthropy or charity.

If, however, we do not belong to a group of people who are actually in need, but we use services offered by third parties for gainful employment or business activity purposes, we should seriously ask ourselves where the catch is. Because there always is a catch… Unfortunately, for some mysterious reasons, many professionals are still in denial when it comes to the acknowledgement of this simple truth. The same happens to translators using the Google Translate service for the purpose of providing specialised translation service.

Usually, the currency we pay for ‘free-of-charge’ solutions and applications is our privacy and data on our shopping behaviours and preferences. If we accept this deal in our private life, this is basically our own choice. However, if we use such solutions and applications as part of our professional activity, these are data, content, and intellectual property rights owned by our clients and third parties that become the currency. We are not entitled to make such choices on their behalf and this type of conduct should be regarded as falling into the category of ‘unlawful act’ and ‘breach of contract’.

This issue has proved to become one of key aspects examined by the District Court for Poznań-Stare Miasto in Poznań, 12th Economic Division, in Case No. XII GC 669/17. The proceedings led to the delivery, on 13 August 2020, of a precedent-setting ruling (with the statement of reasons available HERE), which – according to my best knowledge supported by research done in commercial legal information databases and the common court case-law database held by the Polish Ministry of Justice – is the first Polish judgment referring to the use of free-of-charge machine translation tools in the context of confidentiality obligation and intellectual property rights, proper organisation of translation process, the liability of a translation company for quality supervision of a translator’s work, as well as lack of grounds to rely on a low price to justify the fact of falling short of quality requirements. The ruling also attempted to define the notion of a ‘professional translator’.

This article will discuss the most important theses included in the statement of reasons. As a preliminary remark, however, it is worth recapitulating the factual circumstances of the case to take a bigger picture.

The proceedings were initiated by a translation company (hereinafter referred to as the ‘TC’ or the ‘claimant’) which brought legal action against its client to seek the payment of remuneration for the translation of a book from Polish into English. The translation service at issue was provided in 2013. The client refused to pay and challenged the quality of the translation of its book, being a specialised handbook on the C programming of microcontrollers, provided by the TC. The translation was also very delayed. In spite of a complaint submitted and several attempts to correct the translation, the quality of the final output, according to the client, was so low (‘tragic’) that the client decided to withdraw from the agreement and ordered the translation from another entity. Against this background, a dispute arose regarding the payment of remuneration to the TC.

It should be noted that the client of the TC had a say in choosing a translator to translate the book as several translation samples prepared by different translators were presented to the client and the client chose the translation that satisfied its expectations to the largest extent. The TC assigned the translation of the book to the author of this version. The translator in question was a student of the 5th year of a Computer Science university programme and a laureate of the national competition in English language for high school students.

During the hearing, the translator stated that he had done 92% of the translation with the use of the Google Translate tool and had corrected this translation afterwards. The remaining 8% were translated with the translator tool without any verification of the output. One of the reasons for using the Google Translate tool was a delay in translating the text.

The TC and the client entered into an agreement on the translation in so-called STANDARD option, which included a reservation that the translation did not need to comply with PN-EN 15038:2006 standard (a predecessor of ISO 17100:2015), but the service would be performed by a professional translator and edited by a native speaker possessing specialised knowledge in the field of the translated text. The translation output was supposed to be fit for professional use.

An expert witness has been called. The expert witness stated that the service had been performed inconsistently with the agreement entered into and that the rules of art had been violated. The translation assessed by the expert witness included numerous linguistic errors, with some parts left untranslated, while the register of the text was far from the register expected in the case of any text intended for publication.

Having heard the case, the District Court for Poznań-Stare Miasto delivered a ruling in which it dismissed the claim and ordered the claimant to pay the cost of proceedings. The section below presents the main findings and arguments presented by the Court in the statement of reasons as well as my commentary.

Principal theses of the ruling:

  • The Court decided that the translation provided by the TC, being the claimant party, was defective to such an extent that it could not be deemed ‘fit for professional use’, contrary to what had been promised by the scope of the ‘standard’ service.
  • The translation was entrusted to a person without relevant qualifications, professional skills and experience.
  • Editing work was incomplete and negligent.
  • Additionally, the Google Translate tool was used, which constitutes a gross violation of the rules of art and contractual provisions, while the fact that the use of the tool was allowed is, at least, a flagrant example illustrating the lack of supervision of the translation process and lack of applying any quality control procedures. The use of the Google Translate tool leads to violating confidentiality obligation and intellectual property rights to the source text owned by the client or third parties.
  • The fact of leaving, in the edited text, some untranslated words, obvious linguistic and spelling errors, as well as the presence of excerpts that are entirely incomprehensible, is equivalent to the occurrence of critical errors that make it impossible to use the translation for professional purposes.
  • ‘Comprehensibility’ of the text is a minimum criterion in the case of ‘budget’ translations offered for informative (indicative) and client’s internal purposes. In the case of translations that are supposed to be used for professional purposes, the very fact that the text is ‘comprehensible’, while at the same time being unreadable, incomplete and abundant in linguistic defects, do not justify considering the translation as performed properly. The translation output in the ‘standard’ option, even after taking into account all reservations made by the TC (the claimant), should be still fit for professional use, and this quality criterion has not been met by the text in question.
  • The TC cannot rely on the contractual limitation of liability for improper performance of the agreement as the high degree of defectiveness makes the translation unfit for its intended purpose, and this, in turn, means that what we face here is not improper performance, but failure to perform the agreement (non-performance of the agreement).
  • The Court also noted that it was the claimant party itself that had quoted the price for the translation. Therefore, the claim that the price for the service justified the lower quality of the translation is groundless. The TC voluntarily agreed to provide a ‘standard’ translation service and set the remuneration itself, and therefore, it should perform the agreement in accordance with its provisions.
  • The Court found that the work provided by the TC, being the claimant party, had undoubtedly included material defects, i.e. defects that prevented its intended use or constituted an express breach of the agreement. The translation provided by the TC was useless for the defendant. This uselessness is further confirmed by the fact that the defendant was forced to re-order the translation from a third party, which did the work from scratch.
  • As a result of establishing that the work provided by the TC included material defects, the TC’s claim for payment was considered unenforceable on the ground that the agreement had not been performed, and therefore, the claim was dismissed.

Contractual limitation of the translation company’s liability for improper performance of a translation service

An extremely interesting aspect of the case was the Court’s examination of whether the contractual limitation of the TC’s liability is effective in the context of the material defectiveness of the work. The Court emphasised that, pursuant to their terms of service, the TC bears no liability for improper performance of the translation service if the client orders the translation for publication or distribution purposes within ‘standard’ and ‘econo’ options. At the same time, the Court held that the limitation of liability covered exclusively the cases of improper performance of the agreement. Given the gravity of the breach of obligations on the part of the claimant in this case, its conduct should be seen not as an improper performance but rather as non-performance of the agreement. The work provided by the claimant included material defects and, therefore, was not delivered by the TC in line with its obligations. The client refused to accept the work from the TC, which it was entitled to do. Therefore, the TC did not perform the agreement improperly but failed to perform the agreement (non‑performance). As a result, the limitation of the TC’s liability provided for in the terms of service would not apply.

Even if we assume that the claimant performed its obligation, but in an improper manner, it should be considered that such limitation of its liability would be unacceptable under Article 473(2) of the Polish Civil Code. The provision states that a stipulation that a debtor will not be liable for damage which the debtor may cause to a creditor intentionally is invalid. The intention, in turn, occurs where a debtor, contrary to an obligation imposed on it, acts or fails to act with the intention to cause damage to a creditor, and therefore it wants such damage to occur or accepts it when it anticipates that it may occur. Having regard to the scale of the breach of obligations on the part of the TC, the professional nature of their activity, the claimant’s knowledge on the subject matter of the agreement and its purpose, as well as the information provided to the client before the agreement was entered into, the Court decided that the TC had anticipated the possibility of causing damage to the client and it had accepted it. The correspondence between the parties clearly showed that the claimant was aware that it was the client’s intention to publish the translated book. The employees of the TC assured the client that the translation in the ‘standard’ option would be of high quality. For these reasons, the limitation of liability provided for in the terms of service was declared invalid by the Court for the purpose of this case.

In my opinion, a conclusion may be drawn from the above that making false declarations, at the stage of quoting, on the professionalism of the persons involved in the translation process and high quality of the translation output in the context of the lack of proper supervision of the translation process by the TC should be regarded as intentionally causing damage to the client.

 

Violation of the rules of the art of translation and the concept of a ‘professional translator’

Even though the profession of a translator (who is not a certified/sworn translator) has not been regulated by Polish law-makers, this does not mean, however, that each person who does a translation in exchange for money may be called a professional translator. The fact that there is no legal definition does not open the way to unrestricted discretion in construing a given concept.

In the case in question, the Court held that the assignment had been entrusted to a person who had not been a professional translator with adequate language qualifications or basic knowledge of using language-related technologies. The fact that a free-of-charge machine translation tool, namely the Google Translate tool, was used was also a proof of insufficient competence and knowledge in the area of the rules of the translation art, illustrated further, among others, by the lack of post-editing skills and ignorance of the terms and conditions of the service. Using a free-of-charge machine translation tool may constitute a ground for asserting the claimant’s infringement of intellectual property rights owned by the defendant.

The method of work applied by the translator was inconsistent with the rules of the translation art as the confidentiality of the transferred data was not ensured and intellectual property rights owned by the client/the author of the source text were infringed. Machine translation with the use of the Google Translate tool does not satisfy the condition of ‘keeping strict confidentiality’ and leads to infringing third parties’ intellectual property rights.

In my opinion, any entity providing professional specialised translation services should be aware of the risks arising from the use of tools that are not intended for professional and commercial purposes. Reading of the terms of service (in this case the Google Terms of Service for Google Translate) specified by the service provider should be considered as the absolute minimum of diligence is this regard. Far-reaching rights enjoyed by the machine translation service provider under the Terms of Service in question should result in the prohibition of using this service for translating any specialised texts protected by copyright owned by the clients.

On the professional translation market, a strong emphasis is placed on a clear indication that translations were done with the use of machine translation tools. For this reason, the two processes are covered by two different quality standards. ISO 17100:2015, which specifies procedural and quality requirements for translation services, explicitly excludes any machine translation with further post-editing from its scope. Translations done within such procedure are considered as not compliant with the quality requirements provided for by this quality standard. Machine translation and post-editing are covered by a separate quality standard – ISO 18587:2017.

The introduction to ISO 18587:2017 states:

‘(…) there is no MT system with an output which can be qualified as equal to the output of human translation and, therefore, the final quality of the translation output still depends on human translators and, for this purpose, their competence in post‑editing.’

 Importantly, the quality standard on machine translation makes a clear distinction between a ‘translator’ and a ‘post-editor’. A person who only verifies the output of the machine translation and introduces corrections is not a translator under the standard. In the case in question, 92% of the translation was the post-edited output of machine translation, while 8% was so-called raw machine translation product.

Post-editing must be agreed with the client in advance.

It should be clearly stated that the use of machine translation is certainly not entirely excluded from a professional translation process. Quite the opposite, it is a common procedure for non-literary texts of the relatively low level of complexity and difficulty, not intended for highly specialised uses, such as domestic appliance users’ guides, product descriptions at online shops’ sites, simple commercial and informative texts, simple contracts, terms and conditions of services, instructions, etc.

In the case of more complex texts, where quality requirements are higher, machine translation is used only in a supportive function as suggestions or reference materials.

It should be emphasised that in the case in question the main issue was not the very fact of using machine translation but using it in a manner that is extremely unprofessional and in breach of any universally accepted rules of the art of translation and industry best practices.

The use of professional machine translation tools is acceptable only upon the express consent of the client and it constitutes a different type of service than the traditional translation service. The machine translation service is governed by a different quality standard than the translation service (for translation service it is ISO 17100:2015, while for machine translation service it is ISO 18587:2017). In the period in which the translation at issue was done, the Google Translate tool was based on the so‑called statistical machine translation, which resulted in outputs of a significantly lower quality than those produced currently by the neural machine translation.

 As for the violation of the rules of the translation art by using the Google Translate tool, it should be explained that this claim arises from the fact that the use of any services offered by Google is equivalent to the acceptance of their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which raise justified doubts related to confidentiality and intellectual property rights issues. An analysis of the consequences of using Google services for professional translation purposes is included below.

 

Google Terms of Service

The Google Terms of Service[1], as applicable in the relevant period when the translation to which the judgment in question relates was performed, state as follows: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services [own emphasis].

In the context of such terms and conditions: firstly, the translator violated the Google Terms of Service by sending to the Google Translate tool the content it had no right to use for any purpose other than translation. Secondly, by sending the full text of the book to the Google service, the translator granted Google a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute the book of the claimant. It should also be taken into account that Google regulated the matter of using its services in business contexts as well: If you are using our Services on behalf of a business, that business accepts these terms. It will hold harmless and indemnify Google and its affiliates, officers, agents, and employees from any claim, suit or action arising from or related to the use of the Services or violation of these terms , including any liability or expense arising from claims, losses, damages, suits, judgments, litigation costs and attorneys’ fees. Therefore, assuming that the claimant was aware of the manner in which the service was performed, or at least it is fully responsible before the defendant for the tools used by the translator, the claimant accepted the Google Terms of Service and assumed liability for claims arising from the violation of the Google Terms of Service. According to the translator’s statement, the claimant was aware that the text was translated with the use of the Google Translate tool.

Google Privacy Policy

Google Privacy Policy also includes important points related to the use of the Google Translate tool in this case[2]. According to the document: We collect information to provide better services to all of our users – from figuring out basic stuff like which language you speak, to more complex things like which ads you’ll find most useful or the people who matter most to you online. There are two manners of collecting data. The first one is to collect data provided by the user, while the second is to collect information received while Google services are used. Google may collect data on services used by the user and on the manner in which they are used (e.g. when the user visits a site with an ad tool or when the user displays and clicks on ads and materials made available by them). Google collects information, among others, in logs: When you use our services or view content provided by Google, we may automatically collect and store certain information in server logs. Such information may include details on the manner in which the service was used, e.g. searched expressions, phone call log data, IP address, data on the functioning of the device, cookie files, etc. We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.

 According to its Privacy Policy, Google is, therefore, entitled to collect and record in server logs any information collected from the use of Google services by the user, and in particular, it is entitled to automatically save on its servers any phrases searched by the user. When using the Google Translate service, the translator entered into the machine translation tool almost the entire content of the book, thus allowing Google to save it on its servers and to use it for its own purposes.

Finally, I would like to make several observations inspired by the ruling discussed, which may prove interesting from the perspective of daily translation and localization industry practice.

  • The fact of leaving in the edited text some untranslated words, obvious linguistic and spelling errors, as well as the presence of excerpts that are entirely incomprehensible, is equivalent to the occurrence of critical errors that make it impossible to use the translation for professional purposes.
  • In the case in question, the TC claimed that even though certain parts of the text were found to be defective in terms of language style or too literal, and their register was not appropriate for the specialised translation, the text was comprehensible, which should be regarded as enough to satisfy the quality requirement under the ‘standard’ service option provided by the TC. ‘Comprehensibility’ of the text is a minimum criterion in the case of ‘budget’ translations (with low prices and short deadlines) offered for informative (indicative) and client’s internal purposes. In such circumstances, aspects such as style, word order, vocabulary or register may indeed be seen as matters of secondary importance. In the case of translations that are supposed to be used for professional purposes, however, the fact that the text is ‘comprehensible’, while at the same time being unreadable, incomplete and abundant in linguistic defects, do not justify recognising the translation as performed properly.
  • The text intended for professional purposes must encourage the trust of the reader, also on a linguistic level. A literal approach and the use of informal expressions may result in the reader’s questioning substantive aspects of the translation, which excludes its further use or quoting. Errors being typical consequences of improper use of machine translation disqualify the text in the eyes of a professional reader.
  • It is the translation company as a party to the agreement entered into with the client that is responsible for choosing a translator. Any potential selection based on clients’ preferences should be made from the group of people properly verified by the translation company in terms of their translation competence and their ability to ensure an adequate level of translation in a given domain. The translator in this case did not satisfy such standards.
  • As for the involvement of the client in the process of translating book publications, when referring to this issue in general and without any specific reference to the case in question, it may be said that cooperation between the client/the author and the translation company/translator is highly desirable and has a positive influence on the output of the translation process. This condition, however, is not a sine qua non for the service to be provided correctly, but it is rather a good industry practice. When such cooperation is established, it is possible to agree on terminological choices, clarify potential ambiguities of the source text, and obtain reference materials and additional materials that may prove useful in the process of translating the text.
  • Bad quality of the source text has an impact on the quality of the translation. However, due diligence expected of any professional means that a client ordering the translation should be notified that the material provided is not suitable for the purpose of providing the work properly (see Article 634 of the Polish Civil Code). In this legal relationship, it is a translation company that acts as a professional that accepts an order and it should assess the material provided in terms of its suitability for the proper performance of the work. The client usually does not possess knowledge and expertise to adequately assess whether or not the material provided is suitable for translation.
  • The translation company has an obligation to provide the ongoing quality supervision and organisational supervision of the translation process and it is responsible for the selection of tools used by the translator. Similarly, the translation company must ensure quality control before the translation is handed over to the client. The fact that the service ordered did not include verification, but only editing by a native speaker, does not justify the translation falling short of basic quality standards respected in the translation industry.

The ruling described above is subject to appeal. An appeal has been filed indeed and the case will be heard by the second-instance court – the Regional Court in Poznań. I will continue to follow the case closely to share with you information on the final decision in this extremely interesting case.

[1] Google Terms of Service applicable between 1 March 2012 and 11 November 2013, available at: https://policies.google.com/terms/archive/20120301?hl=en&gl=en

[2] Google Privacy Policy applicable between 24 June 2013 and 20 December 2013 available at: https://policies.google.com/terms/archive/20120301?hl=en&gl=en

 

I think this deserves to be shared far and wide. Please give Wojciech a follow on Linkedin to get updates on the case.

 

As a follow up to the post from the other day, here are the details of how to access the event on the Quality of Law-making in Greece:

“The link to the IAL Athens conference on the new Greek model for law-making (including transposition), organised by the General Secretariat for Legal and Constitutional Affairs led by GS Dr Koutnatzis, and with contributions from the Prime Minister, and The Minister for the State Prof. Gerapetritis is:
https://lnkd.in/dy6if_Y
Please press on the icon “Virtual Room ARISTOTLE”. This opens the webpage with the video player. The direct link is:
https://lnkd.in/dRB5dYc
You may select the English or Greek version of the webpage by clicking on the flag at the top of the page. The conference will be in English.
Attendance is free worldwide.
The conference will be recorded and the recording will be available for three months”.

Thanks to Prof. Helen Xanthaki, one of the organisers, for sharing the details.

You can access the full programme here.

One of next week’s highlights plans to be the 2-day conference hosted by the International Association of Legislation and the Greek Secretariat for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (11-12 February 2021). To my mind, it’s relevant to all of us who translate legal documents.

Given the COVID-19 restrictions, the event will be online.

It’s completely in English, so open to a broad international audience. While the focus may be on the Greek model, the aim is to explore how that model could be used by other countries.

It’s free to attend and the zoom link will be available in a couple of days. I’ll update the blogpost when the link becomes available.

Key themes that will be explored at the conference which I think are particularly relevant for those of us who translate legal documents are:

  • better law-making processes and better legislative drafting, which are/should be topics of interest to legal translators who have to regularly translate legislation;
  • how transposition of EU legislation into national legal orders can be improved. Again that’s a topic relevant to legal translators because it can add another layer of complication to the already complicated task of translating legislation;
  • how civil law systems like Greece can learn from common law systems (and vice versa), because we have to bridge those divides all day every day as translators of legal texts; and
  • how important it is for citizens/businesses to have access to the law in language they understand (and by extension how important it is for foreigners interacting with legal systems to have access to translated law), which is part of our core mission as legal translators.

Promises to be an interesting couple of days.

You can access the full programme here.

Last year I spoke at the ELIA Together 2020 conference, exploring the question of whether legal translators are liable for the translations they do. The results presented were based on a survey carried out among around 260 professional legal translators. The main finding is that liability appears to lie elsewhere.

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The presentation can be found here.

So the search for liability in the legal translation sector goes on.

This year I’ll be talking at ELIA Together 2021 about whether language service companies (LSCs) that offer legal translation services are ever found liable for the legal translations they do. Again it’s based on a survey of LSCs.

If you’re an LSC or know an LSC that provides legal translation, consider encouraging them to fill out the survey. It can be found here.

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.

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